Kimberley Big Hole – The World’s Largest Man-Made Hole

Kimberley is well-known as a diamond mining town. Its greatest attraction, the Big Hole, is also the site from which this town has grown. Those who are interested in the history of mining or want to find out more about mining should make a point of visiting the renowned Kimberley Big Hole and the Kimberley Mine Museum when touring South Africa.

Back in 1866 a man named Erasmus Jacobs came across a white pebble beside the Orange River near Hopetown. After examination it was revealed that the pebble was actually a diamond measuring 21.25 carats. A few years later in 1871 another larger diamond (83.50 carat) was discovered on the slopes of Colesberg Kopje. Thus began the great diamond rush with thousands of miners flooding the area in search of the diamonds of Colesberg Kopje. In a very short period of time the hill disappeared and a massive hole took its place. During this diamond rush, a town began to form around what would become known as the Big Hole. The new town was named Kimberley on 5 June 1873.

Diamonds found in the Kimberley area had been formed in vertical pipes and through years of erosion they came to the surface. During the diamond rush five massive holes were dug along these kimberlite pipes. The biggest of all these holes was the Kimberley Mine. By the time the mine was closed in 1914 it measured an area of 170,000 square meters to a depth of 1,097 m and had yielded some 3 tons of diamonds. The Big Hole of Kimberley is the largest man-made hole on the planet. It was also during this great diamond rush that two of the biggest names in mining came to be – De Beers and Kimberley mines. They were later merged into De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, the most renowned diamond mining company in the world.

Today Kimberley’s Big Hole is an open-air exhibit with well-constructed viewing platforms and surrounded by old buildings dating back to the time of Cecil John Rhodes. Beside the Big Hole is the Kimberley Mine Museum where you will find a house dating back to 1877 as well as Barney Barnato’s boxing academy, an old pub, a skittle alley, a tobacconist shop, mock diamond diggings and a reconstruction of De Beers’ homestead. In the De Beers Hall you will come across an exhibition of jewelry and uncut diamonds including the 616 carat diamond. Be sure to stop by this fascinating historical site when traveling through the area.

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