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Jade Davenport

Jade Davenport

Davenport is a freelance journalist and mining historian - jade@engineeringnews.co.za

Columnist - Digging Deep

Kudos to De Beers

By: Jade Davenport Last month I had the pleasure of being hosted by De Beers while on a visit to South Africa’s historic city of diamonds. For a historian interested in South Africa’s mining sector, a company such as De Beers, as well as its home town of Kimberley, is pure gold – or glittering diamonds, as the case... 

Museum paying tribute to Natal’s coal mining heritage

By: Jade Davenport I was recently  invited to attend a friend’s wedding at the Thendele Camp of the Royal Natal National Park, overlooking the magnificent amphitheatre of the Drakensberg mountain range. I had been meaning to take a trip to Natal for quite some time if only to visit the Talana museum, in Dundee, a... 

Merensky’s discovery of platinum

By: Jade Davenport In the grand scheme of things, a ninetieth anniversary of a mineral discovery should not be worth much fanfare. However, given the fact that South Africa’s commercial mining sector is relatively young, dating back only 162 years, and taking into account the somewhat negative light in which the... 

Merensky – the prisoner of war

By: Jade Davenport Ninety years ago, almost to the day, South Africa’s pre-eminent geologist, Dr Hans Merensky, made one of the most important and phenomenal mineral discoveries anywhere in the world when he identified a section of the platinum-group-metal-rich Bushveld Igneous Complex near the town of Lydenburg,... 

South Africa’s WWI golden bullets

By: Jade Davenport The centennial commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War on August, 4, the date that Great Britain officially declared war on a belligerent Germany, was a significant occasion that was largely sidelined and, dare I say, somewhat ignored by the South African government, the press and... 

AngloGold and Africa’s goldsmithing heritage

By: Jade Davenport Many kudos must be given to Johannesburg-based gold miner AngloGold Ashanti for its concerted efforts to preserve and promote the cultural and artistic heritage of African goldsmithing design and techniques. This is particularly noteworthy, given the strain and challenges South African mining... 

Rhodes memorial debate

By: Jade Davenport From time to time, a debate flares up among the University of Cape Town’s student body about whether or not the statue of pioneering mining magnate and British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes should be removed from the university’s Groote Schuur estate. The statue in question is a rather prominent... 

A modern wine tradition built on diamond wealth

By: Jade Davenport The theme of the last instalment of this column explored the historical association between mining capital and three of South Africa’s most prestigious wine estates. Continuing on that theme, it is interesting to note that a further two of the country’s premier wine estates also boast a link to... 

Mining capital that infiltrated the Cape wine industry

By: Jade Davenport It is inevitable that in an economy that has been so completely dominated by the extraction of mineral resources that mining capital would have, at some stage or another, infiltrated other sectors. Perhaps one of the most interesting sectors where it has permeated, albeit in a rather subtle... 

Wine estate celebrates Cape’s tin mining heritage

By: Jade Davenport The vineyard-dominated landscape between Cape Town’s northern suburbs and the wine-producing town of Stellenbosch, particularly along the R102 and M12 routes, is both beautiful and tranquil and it is difficult to imagine that this land was ever used for any industry other than agriculture.... 

Wining and mining in the early Cape Colony

By: Jade Davenport One thing you would not associate with mining is the craft of winemaking. However, in a country that has been so completely dominated by that extractive industry, it is not entirely surprising that even certain South African wine-producing regions and a few wine estates have some kind of... 

Ancient site under threat from gold-hungry miner

By: Jade Davenport A few weeks ago, the highly controversial story that the government of Georgia hds given Russian-backed Rich Metals Group (RMG) approval to continue its mining project at a site believed to host the world’s oldest gold mine made headlines and provoked an outburst of moral indignation in... 

SA’s little-known defunct manganese mine

By: Jade Davenport The century-old Hout Bay manganese mine Manganese is a commodity that barely features in the popular historical narrative of South Africa’s mining industry. This is slightly odd, considering that the country, specifically the Kalahari manganese field, in the Northern Cape, is host to more than... 

There’s gold in them thar mountains

By: Jade Davenport Capetonians have a tendency to condescendingly regard mining as a dirty and dangerous, although vaguely necessary, activity that is pursued somewhere in the northern reaches of South Africa. Much to their relief, it is an occupation far removed from their somewhat idyllic way of life and... 

The Karoo’s mini gold bonanza

By: Jade Davenport It is generally accepted in the historical mining narrative that South Africa’s phenomenal era of gold discovery, rushes and mining started around 1873, when extensive and payable quantities of alluvial gold were discovered in places such as Spitzkop, MacMac and Pilgrim's Rest, in the area then... 

'Pilgrim's Protector' urges heritage compliance

By: Jade Davenport For the last 16 months, a shroud of uncertainty veiled the business community of Pilgrims Rest, as it has waited with bated breath for the outcome of the Public Protector’s investigation into controversial allegations of maladministration and irregularities in the awarding of tenders for shop... 

Mandela and his brief mining career

By: Jade Davenport In the aftermath of the passing of former President Nelson Mandela last month, the world has mourned and reflected, quite rightly, on the enormous contribution he made in liberating South Africa from the suffocating grip of apartheid and for the role he played in leading the country to a... 

Modderfontein museum preserving dynamite history

By: Jade Davenport The use of explosive material, particularly dynamite, has played an integral, although somewhat understated, role in facilitating the development and growth of South Africa’s mighty mining industry for more than a century. Indeed, it is all very well having the richest treasure trove of metals... 

SA’s phenomenal mineral revolution

Before the advent of its great mineral revolution in the latter half of the nineteenth century, South Africa was a sleepy colonial backwater whose unpromising landscape was seemingly devoid of any economic potential. Yet just beneath the dusty surface of the land lay the richest treasure trove of... 

Museum preserving Millwood gold rush history

By: Jade Davenport The Garden Route, stretching from Mossel Bay to the Storms river along the south-eastern coastline, is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s premier and most popular tourist attractions. It is in that coastal corridor that ancient forests, rivers, wetlands, dunes, mountain scenery and indigenous... 

A glimpse into Bronze Age copper mining

By: Martin Zhuwakinyu On a recent trip to the UK, a few very dear and long-suffering family members decided to indulge my obsessive interest in mining history by taking me on a visit to two of Britain’s flagship mining tourist attractions. 

The 1987 mine strike

By: Jade Davenport The Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976, in which, according to official estimates, 176 people were killed, had a profound impact on the trajectory of South Africa’s political history.  

Lest we forget

By: Jade Davenport Last month, South Africans marked the first anniversary of the Marikana Massacre, in which 34 people were shot dead and 78 more injured during a wildcat strike at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.  

When white mineworkers downed tools

By: Jade Davenport In its relatively short history as a unified country, South Africa has been exposed to very few revolutionary incidents led by white citizens. The most serious such incident was undoubtedly the 1922 Rand Revolt, in which the violent protests and armed riots undertaken by 22 000 striking white... 

The lead-up to the 1922 Rand Revolt

By: Jade Davenport During the first three months of 1922, at a time when South Africa was gripped by a severe economic depression, 22 000 white employees working in the Witwatersrand’s coal and gold mines, engineering workshops and power utilities downed their tools and took part in a strike of such magnitude that... 

When black mineworkers downed tools

By: Jade Davenport the immediate wake of the 1913 white miners strike, when roughly 9 000 black workers went on strike for three days over low wages and poor living conditions in mine compounds. 

The miners strike that led to chaos on Joburg’s Market Square

By: Jade Davenport The month of July marks the centennial of the culmination of the 1913 white mineworkers strike on the Rand. Although it was not the first large-scale industrial action to affect South Africa’s mining industry, it certainly was the first strike to erupt in violent clashes between miners and the... 

The Rand’s first strike

By: Jade Davenport South Africa’s trade union movement, which is today the largest on the African continent, has, for more than a century, played one of the most influential roles in determining labour market and industrial relations policies. 

SA's first industrial action

By: Jade Davenport For the last year, South Africa’s mining industry, particularly its flagship platinum-group metals sector, has been wracked by labour unrest and debilitating strike action. Such has been the scale of the violent industrial action that 44 miners lost their lives in Marikana last year and the... 

Gold in the Land Down Under

At the very height of the Californian Gold Rush it is estimated that of the 300,000 fortune hunters that flocked to the west coast of North America about one percent came from the British colony of New South Wales. Among such adventurers was a man by the name of Edward Hargraves. 

‘Gold! Gold! Gold on the American river’

On a fine spring morning in 1848 Samuel Brannan, an American settler, entrepreneur and journalist, paraded through the streets of the tiny village of San Francisco brandishing a small bottle of gold dust shouting, “Gold! Gold! Gold in the American River!”. Such was the flamboyant and calculated... 

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