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Transvaal

witwatersrand, gold, mining, miles, district, country, time and slope

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TRANSVAAL, Gold Mining in the. The Transvaal, prior to 1903, comprised an area of nearly 120,000 square miles, hut in that year, by the transfer of some of the southeastern dis tricts to Natal, this area was reduced to about 112,000 square miles, which nearly equals the size of the territory of Arizona.

Besides the famous Witwatersrand there are two quartz-mining districts of some importance, namely, Lydenburg and De Kaap.

The Lydenburg district first attracted atten tion in 1876, when the alluvial deposits of that section began to be exploited. At a latter period vein-mining was started, and at the present time several companies are operating in that district. The product in 1898 of five com panies, running 137 stamps, was 154,560 tons of ore, yielding 108,884 crude ounces of gold (an average of 14.09 dwt. gold per ton) valued at f314,953.

The De Kaap gold-fields were discovered in 1884. In 1898 seven companies, running 200 stamps, produced 89,760 crude ounces of gold. valued at 1.296,330.

General Features of the Witwatersrand.— This mining district derives its name from the Witwatersrand, or "white-waters range,> of hills immediately north of Johannesburg. These hills rise from 400 to 600 feet above the gen eral level of the surrounding country, have a general east and west trend, and constitute the watershed of this part of South Africa, their northern slope draining into the Limpopo River and thence into the Indian Ocean, and their southern slope into the Orange River and thence into the Atlantic. This ridge can be traced about 40 miles, and consists of quartzites and inter-stratified schists.

The gold-field lies on the high plateau of the southern Transvaal. In its physical aspect the country bears a striking resemblance to certain parts of Wyoming and Nevada. While perhaps somewhat less regular in its undula tions, it is equally destitute of trees other than a sparse growth of shrubs, and in appearance suggests herding and agriculture rather than mining. It is from 4,200 to 6,000 feet above sea-level, to which fact it owes its temperate and mild, indeed salubrious climate, in spite of its semi-tropical latitude. The coastal lands contiguous to the Transvaal are malarial and unhealthful.

The soil of the country is in most localities fertile; but irrigation is generally necessary; and this, to the lack of facilities for storing water, is not feasible at the present time.

The Transvaal has a rainy season of four or five months, the heavy rains beginning usually with November or December and con tinuing until March or April. This is what is known as the summer or warm season, The thermometer rarely reaches 95° in the shade, and the heat is °dry? During the remain ing ((winter)) months (April to September) rain is very exceptional, and there is no ex treme cold. Snow is a rare occurrence in the Witwatersrand district. While the climate is remarkably salubrious and invigorating, the dis trict has had in the past a high rate of mor tality, by reason of the lack of proper sanita tion. Undoubtedly this will be greatly mini mized under better government.

The town of Johannesburg (q.v.) lies upon the southern slope, about midway between the east and west extremities of the "bankee-basin, immediately to the north of what is known as the central section of the Rand. This is by far the most important mining section of the gold field. The Witwatersrand district, in a com prehensive sense, embraces also the outlying districts of Heidelberg and Klerksdorp. Johan nesburg is reached by three railway lines from the ports of Cape Town, Delagoa Bay and Durban, the distance by rail being 1,013, 396 and 487 miles respectively.

Historical.— Mining in the Transvaal was prohibited until 1868, at which time the Boer government, being in dire financial straits, threw open the gold-fields to exploration and exploitation by all corners, and even went so far as to offer a bonus for the discovery of profitable mines in the country. As a result, prospecting in the early '70s led to the discovery of quartz-veins and the inauguration of mining in several parts of the northern Transvaal. In 1885 the conglomerate- or "banket"-beds of the Witwatersrand were discovered. In that year a small stamp-battery was erected to crush the material of a quartz-vein a few miles west of Johannesburg and a crushing of conglomerate was subsequently made in this battery. But it was not until April 1887 that a battery of three stamps was erected to treat the ore of the Witwatersrand "banket." This was followed by the erection of other batteries and the output of gold for that year was 23,000 ounces. The product increased by leaps and bounds, as is shown by the table of production given later.

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