Diamond Mines - The Jagersfontein
( Originally Published 1911 )
This mine is in the Orange River Colony, formerly the Orange Free State, near Fauresmith and the Riet river, and about eighty miles south and a little east of Kimberley. It was discovered about the same time as the Kimberley mines, and a controlling interest in it was secured by the De Beers Consolidated Mines shortly after the establishment of that company. Jagersfontein was owned by a widow named Visser and the farm was worked by her overseer, De Klerk. He, noticing garnets in the dry bed of a spruit, and having heard that the Vaal diggers considered them an indication of diamonds, sieved some of the gravel and in Au-gust, 1870, found a diamond weighing fifty carats. This led to the discovery of the Jagersfontein mine by the diggers who flocked there and worked allotted areas of 20 feet square on a royalty of £2 per month to the widow. In 1888 the New Jagersfontein Exploration Company was incorporated and gradually absorbed the various interests. The New Jagersfontein Company, as it is known since the Boer war, is capitalized at £1,-000,000, divided into 500,000 each of ordinary and deferred shares. The shape of the mine is a rough oval, and the size of it about 1,500 by 2,000 feet, and it contains 1,124 claims. It has been skillfully and methodically worked as an open mine to depths, which in all the others entailed most disastrous consequences. It is worked down in concentric terraces. The three lowest are carried down 360, 410 and 450 feet, with a small area below, 480 feet deep, and late reports claim that a depth of 700 feet in the open has been reached. So well has this been done that the system serves as a model to mines discovered later, in their open working.
At the beginning of the Boer war, this mine had been producing about 250,000 carats yearly. In 1898, 232,-433 carats; in 1899, 288,937 carats. In 1900 the production fell to 183,399 carats, and in 1901, while the war was on, to 18,002 carats. Work was then abandoned until July, 1902, when the English company again took possession of the mine. Some months were occupied in getting the water out of the mine, repairing and re-placing machinery, etc. ; after which, work was resumed and 29,302 carats won for the year ending March 31, 1903. For the year ending March 31, 1904, the yield was 167,5973A. carats. In 1905 the output was back to the old figures, being 266,225 carats. The year 1906 gave 255,841 carats and 1907, 219,275 carats.
The yield of diamonds to the load in this mine is very small. Before the war it was o.112 of a carat to the load. In 1904 it was only .0968. The management attributed the decline to reef and mixed material having fallen in. 1905 showed an increase to .1049 and further betterment in 1906 to .1089, but 1907 fell to .0911. The quality of the diamonds, however, is very fine, combining great purity of color and brilliancy, similar to the Indian goods. Consequently they have always brought high prices. From 1887, when they realized about thirty shillings per carat, the price rose steadily to over sixty-six shillings in 1904. In 1905 the price dropped to 61s. 5d., but in 1906 advanced to 63s. 4d., and at the time of putting out the report for that year, the price had advanced again to seventy shillings, and the yield for the year to March 31, 1907, realized 71s. 6d. The yield being so small, the cost of production per carat compared with some other mines is very high, running in the neighborhood of thirty shillings per carat. It was 2s. 10.79d. per load in 1904, which equals 30s. per carat.
The profitable nature of African mining, once a true pipe is obtained, and the mine is worked under a single and capable management, is forcibly illustrated in the Jagersfontein. With a yield of about one-tenth of a carat to the load, two dividends of £100,000 each were paid in 1904, and a balance of £85,297.10.10 was carried over. In 1905 £362,500, and for the year ending March 31, 1906, £425,000 was paid. The profits of the year to March 31, 1905, were £437,355 ; of the next year, £437,293, and to March 31, 1907, £429,373.
The mine employs from two to three thousand natives. 2800 are needed for the capacity of the mine, but as many of the natives go to their kraals in planting time, there, is sometimes a shortage of labor.