Ch. 4: The Premier

Ch. 4: The Premier Page of 303 Ch. 4: The Premier Text size:minus plus Restore normal size   Mail page  Print this page
       
     
 
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DIAMOND
 
 

 
 
The mines Tavernier saw were probably in alluvially laid de­posits, or the matrix couldn't have been pounded up after two days' soaking, not even by sixty thousand workers. In South Africa, nobody was able to crush by hand, and so reckoning of a mine's resources in business circles always gave first place to the tonnage of blue ground waiting on the floors. Nowadays, no mine works on this basis. The blue ground is crushed and processed as soon as it is brought out, and the extensive floors have become a memory. When the change-over came to Kimberley it was a great relief, because a lot of acreage was set free for building, and Kimberley is a rather squashed town between its gaping pits. Today at Koffeyfontein, however, about sixty miles away, where another great pit yawns and there is no town waiting for space, the floors still exist, complete with fences and guardrooms at the entrances, simply because nobody wants to use them for anything else. During World War II, however, they came in very handy as a ready-made concentration camp for enemy aliens.
The mechanization of underground mines went slowly, and while it was going on a lot of mine managers found themselves in great difficulty with the compound system. Mines that had not yet come into the prosperous combine of De Beers Consoli­dated encountered particularly tough going. The records of Mr. Walter Stanley Whitworth, who joined that same Koffeyfon­tein in '93, give as good a picture as can be had of what it was like to manage labor in these conditions. For his times, Whit­worth was an enlightened liberal. (Today his daughter is a social worker in South Africa.) Nevertheless he found himself forced to participate in practices that enlightened men do not approve. Koffeyfontein couldn't depend on a steady supply of
 
 

 
       
Ch. 4: The Premier Page of 303 Ch. 4: The Premier
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