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Canteen Koppie

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 09 MARCH

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UPDATED: 09/03/2018

9 March, Nothing found yet on this very day in Kimberley’s history. Research is ongoing.

DID YOU KNOW
Canteen Koppie by Dr Mike de Witt.

Canteen Koppie, a national monument of historical value, occurs next to Barkly West on the north bank of the Vaal River. Diamonds were discovered there in 1869 and it became the first alluvial diamond diggings in South Africa. The digging continued, albeit on and off in the years leading up to 1948 when the site was proclaimed a national monument.PT-Kanteen_Koppie-1869-2

The sediments occur in a structurally controlled and glacially modified depression within the andesitic lavas of the Archaean Ventersdorp Supergroup. The fluvial gravels were deposited, and locally mixed with the colluvium, in the downstream end of a palaeo-loop of the Vaal River as a splay deposit where the channel abruptly widens as it exits this narrow loop.

The gravel accumulation has been described as the 12 m to 16 m terrace package linked to the Younger Gravels of the Vaal Basin and correlated with the Pleistocene Rietputs Formation. There are two gravel facies associations and one sand facies within the splay unit. Colluvial facies are dominant particularly in the upper part and are composed of large andesite fragments which are mostly sub-angular and lacking obvious abrasion features suggesting that these are of local derivation. The gravel of the fluvial facies are crudely cross-bedded and consist of small to medium sized exotic sub-rounded pebbles that have been mixed with the local andesite boulders in the toes of the scree deposits. These facies are more prominent in the lower part of the succession. The red sand facies occurs as thin cover particularly in the distal part of the gravel units and increases in thickness in the lee of the gravel splay. The exotic clasts in the fluvial gravel are derived from the palaeo-Vaal, erosion of nearby Dwyka sediments which can still be found along the north bank of the loop, and by reworking of higher level and older gravels, remnants of which are still present on top of the hill at Canteen Koppie. The input of the coarse andesite clasts is linked to scree slope deposits fed by exfoliation of local bedrock from this hill. The upward coarsening trend of this infill reflects the gradual abandonment of the loop by the palaeo-Vaal and its inability to remove the coarse colluvium during those latter stages of its occupation of this palaeo-loop. A climatic change to more arid periods might have had some influence.

Canteen Koppie has also produced an abundance of Acheulian Stone Age artefacts. These are present in both sedimentary facies suggesting that this splay deposit is at least Late Pliocene to Lower and Middle Pleistocene in age. Recent dating of the overlying sands indicates that these are at least 125 000 years old. Finally an analysis of the mining records suggests that this splay deposit might have produced between 10 000 carats and 15 000 carats of diamonds which would have expressed itself in the region of three to five carats per hundred tonnes. The oversize clasts of the scree deposits would have acted as important traps for the diamonds.

UPDATED: 09/03/2017

Nothing yet recorded for this day in Kimberley’s history. The research continues.

DID YOU KNOW

‘The diamond is the rock upon which the future success of South Africa will be built.” – Richard Southey, Secretary of the Cape Colony, 1867.

The history of modern industrialized South Africa is very much the history of Kimberley and of the forces, personal, political and economic, which radiated therefrom; and the student of history will find much to intrigue him in the records since 1860. The so-called industrial revolution in England produced no more profound or far-reaching consequence on South African character and history than the discovery of diamonds along the Vaal and Orange rivers and on the plateau where Kimberley now stands.

Indeed, the very title to the land on which the world’s most valuable spot was discovered in the late 1860s and early 1870s was a matter of keen dispute. More than that, the question of ownership throws an interesting light on the British policy in the middle of last century and emphasizes the fickleness of politician’s attitudes towards this country at least until 1939. Policy blew hot and cold and there are few more unusual decisions than the surrender of sovereignty over the Free State in 1854, when it had been decided that the Queen’s authority had already been extended too far; that it was impossible to defend constantly moving outposts, not to supply troops to far flung corners. All that Great Britain required was Cape Town and the port of Table Bay. This withdrawal from the Free State has a direct bearing on the original question of ownership of the Diamond Fields.

The very first “owners” of the land were the Khoi-San people, or gatherer-hunters. The second, and more settled owners, were, as the name Griqualand West suggests, the Griqua nation, a mixed (or so-called coloured nation), who originally emanated from the extreme south-west of South Africa. The diamond mines discovered between 1869 and 1871 were in territory that formed part of the Free State sovereignty of 1853. Once diamonds were discovered, however, a claim was made by Great Britain on behalf of Nicholas Waterboer (although it was stated that no Griqua had ever lived on the fields proper) and Mr Arnot offered on Waterboer’s behalf to cede this territory to the British government together with the land to the west actually owned by the Griqua people.

To cut short the long arbitration story, the Keate award gave Waterboer all the land claimed by him west of the Platberg on the Vaal River, and cut off from the Transvaal Republic in favour of different African tribes the entire country west of Mauqassi Spruit. Sir Henry Barkly took over the Griqua nation as British subjects and their country (now including the diamond fields) as British territory on 27 October 1871. In the mid 1870s a number of claimants took legal action to claim some of the land, stating that Waterboer had given land at the time of arbitration, and rested their case on the fact that he had been declared the legitimate owner. Waterboer’s grants were thrown out because he had never owned any land in the region claimed. It is interesting to recall President Brand (of the then OFS) when he was in London: “You took this territory with the diamond mines from me on the grounds that it belonged to Nicholas Waterboer. Now your own Judge has decided that Waterboer has no right to it. Surely equity requires that you restore it to its proper owner.” Interesting. Vested interests had been created, so Britain could not withdraw and rather gave £90 000 as a token gift to the Free State.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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