Kimberly, South Africa

Kimberly, South Africa

Throughout the world the name Kimberly is associated with diamonds. It was here that these precious stones were first found in a volcanic magma that geoligists later called kimberlite or Blue Ground.

These are diamond-bearing rock which occurs in vertical 'pipes', sometimes as much as 2 kilometers in diameter, forced up from the earth's core about 80 million years ago. About 150 kimberlite pipes have been found in South Africa, but only 25 are diamond-bearing (most of which of course were found near Kimberly). Today this small provincial city is the capital of the dry Northern Cape and head-office of the famous De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited

When the first South African diamond was discovered in 1866 near Hopetown there was no settlement of any kind on the site of the future Kimberly. For the next few years diamond diggers concentrated their activities on alluvial deposits on the Vaal River some 40 kilometers away (25 miles) in the north east. All this changed in 1869 when the so-called dry diggings were discovered on farms in the vincinity, and 50,000 people flocked there from all corners of the earth to seek thier fortune.

With picks and shovels they began mining Colesberg Kopje in 1871 and over the next fourty years converted the hill into the biggest man-made hole in the world: Kimberly mine, known as the Big Hole. In 1914 when the mine was close, the hole had reached a depth of 1,097 meters and had yielded more than 3 tonnes (14,504,375 carats) of diamonds. In 1873, the sprawling mining camp called New Rush was renamed Kimberly, in honour of the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Kimberly.

During the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 - 1902, when the Transvaal and the Free State went to war with Britain, Kimberly with it's 30,000 inhabitants were beseiged by Boers for 124 days.

Kimbery is a modern city with a great historical background. The reserves of the mine have approached exhaustion, and more productive mines have been found elsewhere. The city will appeal to people with a passion for histroy and diamonds, of course.