Gold is part of South Africa’s history, from Johannesburg also called ‘Egoli’ (meaning place of gold) to the quaint town of Pilgrim’s Rest in Mpumalanga and the ancient golden artifacts found in Mapungubwe…
Here are five key places where you can explore South Africa’s fascinating history of gold.
1. GOLD REEF CITY
The Gold Reef City theme park is situated on the site which surrounds the historically significant No 14 Shaft at Crown Mines. It produced around 1,4 million kilograms of gold before it closed down in the 1970s, making this site the world’s richest producer of gold. Gold Reef Shaft No 14 is also the deepest mine on the planet and for a completely worthwhile experience, visitors can travel all the way down to level 5 (226 metres underground) via a large old elevator for a guided tour underground. Walk through tunnels and experience the conditions that the miners had to endure. Once back on the surface, enjoy watching molten gold being poured into shimmering bullion bars and seeing how coins were pressed in the past.
2. PILGRIM’S REST
This quaint old mining town’s history of gold dates back many centuries, when unknown miners worked quartz reefs in the area hoping to discover the precious metal. Proof of these diggings can still be found in this area of Mpumalanga. The village dates back to 1873 when a miner, Alex Patterson, discovered alluvial gold on the farm named Ponieskrantz. He tried to keep the discovery a secret but a second prospector, William Trafford, soon discovered gold close by. This attracted gold panners from all over the country and in fact the world. On 22 September 1873, Pilgrim’s Rest was officially proclaimed a gold field which quickly saw the smattering of tents replaced with a flourishing little village. It was named Pilgrim’s Rest because after so many false trails the miners had finally found their home of gold. Now the charming village offers accommodation, shops and restaurants in authentic old mining houses and you can enjoy the full-on gold experience from panning to visiting the area’s historical golden hotspots.
The quaint little hamlet of Kaapsehoop, located in the mountains en route to Nelspruit, was once a bustling cosmopolitan mining town when gold was discovered there in 1880. In 1885, when better finds were discovered in Barberton and the Witwatersrand, prospectors abandoned the town. All that was left, when the dust settled, were a few mining houses, some race horses – from a race course that was built off the town’s wealth – and the ghost of good times past. Now, Kaapsehoop is something of a holiday town (ideal for weekend and mid-week getaways) with an abundance of accommodation. Its legendary wild horses roam in and around the area, which is surrounded by spectacular mountain views and some of the country’s most stunning nature trails.
Situated in the Limpopo province, Mapungubwe is popularly known as the ‘home of the golden rhino’ because of the exciting discovery of a little gold rhinoceros, which was just one of the items found in the area. Some 1 000 years ago, Mapungubwe was the centre of the largest kingdom in the subcontinent, where a highly sophisticated people traded gold and ivory with China, India and Egypt. In 1932, the Iron Age site was discovered but hidden from public attention until 2003 when it was declared a World Heritage site by Unesco. The golden rhino is now featured in one of South Africa’s new national orders – the Order of Mapungubwe – and symbolises the high culture of the site. If you’re fascinated by gold’s most ancient roots in South Africa, then take a trip to the fascinating World Heritage site of Mapungubwe. For a memorable getaway experience, stay in the rugged Mapungubwe National Park, home to a wide variety of wild animals and birds.
5. BLAAUWBANK HISTORIC GOLD MINE
You’ll step back to a time when South African commercial gold mining began at the end of the 1800s when you visit the Blaauwbank Historic Gold Mine at the foot of the Kashan Mountains in Magaliesberg. This fascinating mine is the oldest of its kind in Gauteng. It was first pegged in 1874, after Australian Henry Lewis found quartzite gold in the area. If it’s a combination of history and adventure that you’re after, you’ll discover it here while panning for gold. You can enjoy a day visit or camp in the mine for an exciting hands-on experience.
Copy supplied by Mr Kruger: a bullion specialist company which offers expert evaluation of gold and other precious metals and stones. The company also deals in Krugerrands and collectable coins, as well as offering jewellery design and manufacturing services. They are specialists in the re-manufacturing of old jewellery pieces. Currently there are two Mr Kruger stores – Moreleta Park and Magalieskruin – both situated in Pretoria, Gauteng. Contact Details: +27 (0)861 111 680.