Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Kimberley, South Africa
In 1866, Erasmus Jacobs found a small white pebble on the banks of the Orange River, on the farm De Kalk, near Hopetown . The pebble turned out to be a 21.25 carat (4.25 g) diamond. In 1871, an even larger 83.50 carat (16.7 g) diamond was found on the slopes of Colesberg Kopje, and led to the first diamond rush into the area. As miners arrived in their thousands, the hill disappeared, and became known as the Big Hole. A town, New Rush, was formed in the area, renamed to Kimberley in 1873, after the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley (1826-1902). The British, who had control of much of South Africa, were prompt to annex the area of the diamond mine. The Boers were upset by this, because they wanted it to be a part of the Orange Free State.
The largest company to operate a diamond mine in South Africa was the DeBeers Company, which was owned by Cecil Rhodes. Very quickly, Kimberley became the largest city in the area. This was because there was a massive African migration to the area from all over the continent. They were accepted with open arms, because the DeBeers company was in search of cheap labour to run the mines.
Five big holes were dug into the earth following the Kimberlite pipes. The largest, The Kimberley mine or "Big Hole" covering 17 hectares, reached a depth of 1,097m and yielded 3 tons of diamonds. The mine was closed in 1914. Three of the holes, Du Toitspan, Wesselton and Bultfontein still operate.
On 14 October 1899, Kimberley was besieged at the beginning of the Second Boer War. The British forces trying to relieve the siege suffered heavy losses. The siege was only lifted on 15 February 1900. The war continued until May 1902 and by that time the British had built a concentration camp at Kimberley to house Boer women and children.
Kimberley became the first town in the southern hemisphere to install electic street lighting and house South Africa's first stock exchange.
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