Sunday, August 23, 2009

Springbok - Part 4

We wanted to visit another flower zone on this trip so we set our sights on visiting the Atlantic coastal area in the Northern Cape. Initial investigations led us to believe that we needed a 4x4 for the trip. Pricing out that option led us to another – hiring a guide and their car for the day would save us money. It turned out that we didn’t need the 4x4 but we did need the guide.

Leaving Springbok, we drove west toward the Diamond Coast and the company-owned town of Kleinzee. De Beers has been mining there under strict security for 80 years. It didn’t take us long to get into the security zone and we began to feel comfortable with our decision to take a guide.

We drove through a small town whose inhabitants all worked at the mining operations. It was quite some distance from the mines so they were bused to and fro.

The weather toward the coast was cooler than inland so the flowers were not as far along. Nevertheless, there were some spectacular shows.

This compound bloom is about twice the size of your thumbnail.

As we approached the mining area itself, security became tighter. Our guide talked us through this guard and gate into the town of Kleinzee.

The mining operation in this location involves huge machines scooping tons of river deposits into trucks which then drive to the processing facilities.

There are towers, conveyor belts, heavier security and the eventual towering mine dumps.

The glittering diamonds are almost gone and desperate ghost towns are left clinging to the last signs of life. The only customer in a Kleinzee supermarket said the industry had left the area looking as if a nuclear bomb was dropped on it. De Beers has cut operations, reducing staff from about 3,000 to 250.

Schools, recreation centers and houses stand mostly empty. This empty house in Kleinzee is one of many. The town waits for De Beers to “proclaim an end to its life as a privately owned mining town.” Then the individuals will be able to purchase their homes from the mining company and get on with their lives.

De Beers is spending in the area of 60 million dollars in a restoration effort. Grappling with how to leave the town, De Beers is partnering with conservationists who are working to reinvigorate the area through tourism, fish farming, wind turbines and other industries. It is estimated it will take 30 years to get to the point that you can’t see that mining happened in Kleinzee. Isn’t it amazing what we are doing to the earth we have been given?


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