Mining 

Ancient and Modern

The Ghaap region is a mining treasure-trove ...

Its mineral wealth was laid down billions of years ago, when the Ghaap was the western edge of a prehistoric continent - the Kaapvaal Craton. For aeons, the region was submerged in a shallow shelf of sea water - which enabled valuable minerals to be deposited.

Mining sibilo - a glittering cosmetic powder

There are a few sites near Postmasburg, where sibilo was mined. The most important was known as "Sensavan", or "Tsantsabane", or "Sibiling", or "Blinkklip".

 

Many cultures loved using sibilo, a metallic ore that was ground to a powder, and then mixed with a red-ochre clay (lechoku), and spread on the face and body as a cosmetic. The San, Khoi and Tswana prized this commodity highly, and traded with it, far into the interior, often in exchange for iron and copper that they fashioned into knives and ornaments.

During the mid-1700s, when the Tswana confederation stretched into the Postmasburg area, the mine was under the control of the supreme baThlaping chief, Maswe. By the late 1700s, the Tswana consolidated their chiefdom north of the current town of Kuruman, and so the mine came under the control of the Korana.

 

William Somerville visited the site in 1801, and he described "...the mouth of a vaulted cavern, the entry to which is on the east side of the rocks, immediately contiguous to the bed of the river ...  The parts most exposed to the air are hardest, these are ponderous ironstone, with fissures filled up with brilliant particles. Some pieces sensibly affect the magnet. Its course goes nearly under the hill of ironstone”.

 

John Campbell wrote in 1815:  “Blink Mountain is a kind of Mecca to the nations around, who are constantly making pilgrimages to it, to obtain fresh supplies of the blue shining powder and the red stone”.

 

Investigations at Blinkklipkop established a date of at least AD 800 for the utilization of this particular rich source by hunting and gathering groups. This means that the mine is at least 1200 years old!

 

The London Missionary Society established the Sibiling Mission Station here.  As more Griqua settlers moved into the area, it developed into a rural settlement called Blinkklip, affiliated with the Griqua nation based at Griquatown. All these names were derived from the glittering stones found on the surface.

Specularite is a hematite with dark blue metallic mica flakes. It is usually found in banded iron formations (which are common in the Ghaap Plateau). The word “specularite” is drawn from the Latin “speculo”, a mirror, referring to its shiny quality.

The old mine at Blinkklip, or Tsantsabane, is not open to public visits.

 
Blinkklip in 1812 ...
... sketched by William Burchell
Blinkklip cave today
Specularite ...
... or sibilo
Specular hematite ...
... named after "speculo" - a mirror, in Latin
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Diamonds in the Ghaap

 
The Kaapvaal Craton in southern Africa. Diamonds originate from ancient volcanoes, which form Kimberlite pipes. On the map, Kb refers to Kimberley, 

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