About Jagersfontein Big Hole Open Mine

Few places on this earth can show off their lack of land; even fewer places in this world accept the label 'hole' without a fist fight in the local pub that results in the entire village population (typically pub residents plus sole village woman and her 12 village offspring) locked in a scrum against the naïve town title tossing offender.

Thankfully the town of Jagersfontein is an atypical small town proud of its 'biggest hole' status with no 'village people'. Its charming community shows off the town's impressive lack of land that now sinks into the earth where ground once lay. Even prior to the Jagersfontein Big Hole's visibility on Google Earth the moon would no doubt have suffered some form of 'crater envy' at the sight of this man-made mining monument. It is the World's oldest diamond mine of its kind and the world's biggest hand excavated pit.

The top surface of the hole spans 19.65 Hectares in comparison to Kimberley's famous big hole with a surface size of 17 Hectares. Experts estimate that the hand-dug portion of the Jagersfontein hole reached a depth of 275 meters justifiably securing a title in the Guinness Book of World Records. Furthermore this world's biggest hand dug open hole is vertically sided thereby giving it a greater volume than the Kimberley hole which is funnel shaped becoming vertical at the pit.

The hand dug portion of the mining hole makes its unique as this mammoth portion of earth was conquered by men armed only with shovels and picks. Primitive equipment still resulted in prime discoveries of the ultimate diamonds with the Jagersfontein mine producing two of the world's top ten largest diamonds. Diamond discoveries were so prized that no sophisticated equipment or the assistance of dynamite was permitted due to the impact these artificial earth shufflings would have had on neighbouring diggers claims as well as the risk of injury. Open pit mining ensued for three decades from 1970 followed by underground mining with diamond hunting only being put on hold during World War I, World War II and the Great Depression.

In its mining century this mine extracted an estimated 9.6 million carats (1 600 kg) of jewel quality diamonds. Eventually a mining depth of approximately 1000ft by means of an underground shaft was achieved while Kimberley's big hole which commenced mining three years after Jagersfontein ultimately reached a marginally greater depth.

The mine's working life came to an end in 1971 a hundred years after the discovery of the first diamond in the area. Previously closed to the public until 1992 this mine, and the resident pair of Black (Verreaux) Eagles seen nesting in the hole walls, now welcomes visitors at the small Visitors Centre. Capture the spectacular site of the abandoned mine's nothingness from the overhanging viewing platform that serves as a look-out deck on mining history and diamond digging determination.

Need to Know

WhereFrom Bloemfontein take R706 then take the R704 and travel 108km to Jagersfontein.

WhenBest during daylight hours.

How muchFree

TelephoneNot applicable

OvernightStay nearby in Jagersfontein, in Free State


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