On Tuesday we took a bit of time to see some local shops, malls and eateries. It was a nice chill, relaxing day in Pretoria. On Wednesday, we ventured out to start some site seeing interesting places and people – not animal related.
Our first stop, the Cullinan Diamond Mine. This particular diamond mine is rife with historical value for South African and mostly the Pretoria area. We learned about diamonds themselves, as well as the history of the Dutch in South Africa and how diamonds affected the growth of the country.
During our tour, we got to see the dead volcano where the mine is. Cullinan, or Premier, started as an above ground mine and rose to prominence in 1905 upon the discovery of the Cullinan Diamond, the worlds largest diamond by Captain Frederick Wells. This diamond was cut in to what we now know as the Greater Star of Africa and the Lesser Star of Africa, along with 7 additional bigger diamonds and 96 smaller stones. The Greater and Lesser stones were given to the King of England as a “token of loyalty…” Today we see these stones in the Crown Jewels.
We opted to do just the above ground tour and did not get to actually go down INTO the mine, but that is an option for visitors.
We were also shown a replica of what the underground mine looks like and the safety precautions taken to ensure the lives of the workers. The explosion techniques and equipment used. Mining is serious business in this area, and the Cullinan mines is one of the largest in the world.
Some interesting history, De Beers, the original owners of the mine sold it off to Petra Diamonds in 2007 because they hit their 750 meter drill depth. De Beers drilled an additional 50 meters and found no additional stones. After the sale, Petra drilled down to 850 meters and discovered the mine in fact did contain more stones. Petra also started to sift through the waste from De Beers and made quite a few impressive discoveries (a nice sized Yellow Diamond) in the waste as well as their continued drilled below the De Beers line.
All in all, it was quite the interesting and informative attraction. And it’s always fun when we get to wear hard hats!