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Jade Davenport

Jade Davenport

Davenport is a freelance journalist and mining historian -

Columnist - Digging Deep

Tourist for a day in the City of Gold

By: Jade Davenport If you are a resident of Johannesburg and have ever had visitors come to stay, be they local or foreign, you have probably been confronted with the conundrum of what to do and where to take them to get a real feel for the history of the place.  On the surface, it may seem that there is a distinct... 

#RhodesMustFall debate

By: Jade Davenport The contentious debate surrounding the removal of the statue of pioneering mining magnate and British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes has, yet again, flared up. However, this time, given the actions of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Students Representative Council president – throwing human... 

The beginnings of the Thabazimbi mine

By: Jade Davenport The future of one of South Africa’s oldest operating mines, the Thabazimbi iron-ore mine, in the North West, is underscrutiny owing to the drastic slump in iron-ore prices over the past 12 months having rendered the mining of the deposit in the current manner distinctly unprofitable. Kumba Iron... 

The historic goldfields of Nkandla district

By: Jade Davenport Of all the issues marring South African politics, and the state of the nation, for that matter, at this juncture Nkandla, or rather the excessively expensive upgrades made to President Jacob Zuma’s palatial home in that district, ranks as the most controversial. As pre-eminent South African... 

Trendy market gives new lease of life to historic Joburg mining warehouses

By: Jade Davenport Johannesburg is, and has been, many things but 'historically sentimental' is not one of them. From its very establishment, the quintessential city of gold was a dynamic, constantly evolving urban settlement entirely fixated on industrial progress and wealth creation. Indeed, for the most part,... 

The dynamite explosion that devastated a fledgling Joburg

By: Jade Davenport From its establishment Johannesburg has always been a fast-paced and dangerous place to live and work in. Indeed, being a city built on the exploitation of man’s ultimate symbol of wealth and with its economy entirely dominated, at least in its earlier decades, on the most risky of professions, a... 

New booklet on the historic cemetery of Pilgrim’s Rest

By: Martin Zhuwakinyu It will, perhaps, come as little surprise that I have a penchant for historical cemeteries. On a personal level, I find that cemeteries, and the graves in them, provide a unique and fascinating opportunity to learn more about not only one’s ancestors and family heritage but also the communities... 

South Africa’s historical gold nuggets

By: Jade Davenport It is a well-recited fact that South Africa has produced roughly a third of the entire stock of gold on earth. While the country is undoubtedly the most historically prolific producer, there has always been a certain romantic element lacking in the type of gold extracted from the bowels of that... 

Natural treasures of the Gold Rush countries

By: Jade Davenport A buzz of excitement swept through the historic gold mining state of California, US, at the end of October, when a recently discovered 75 oz gold nugget was put on show and sold for about $400 000. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the rare clump of gold, which has been christened the... 

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.  

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