Archive | Global Mining History

HARRY OPPENHEIMER: 110 YEARS AGO, A LEGEND WAS BORN – by Iris Hortman (Israeli Diamond Industry – December 30, 2018)

Israeli Diamond Industry

More than anyone else, Oppenheimer is responsible for associating diamonds with romantic love

Harry Frederick Oppenheimer (1908-2000), born 110 years ago in South Africa, was one of the most prominent figures in the global diamond industry; more than anyone else, Oppenheimer is responsible for associating diamonds with romantic love, and the transformation of diamonds into a symbol of marriage.

Harry was the son of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, founder of the multinational mining company Anglo American Corporation of South Africa, which took over De Beers after WWI. In 1929, Ernest Oppenheimer became Chairman of De Beers. Over the years his son took over, and under his leadership De Beers became a global leader in diamond mining.

Diamonds are Forever

More than anything else, Harry Oppenheimer is remembered for his contribution to the promotion and marketing of polished diamonds. In the mid-1930s, he persuaded his father and the company that they should advertise their polished stones – an innovative suggestion that was initially met with opposition. While some argued that advertising would degrade the image of diamonds, young Oppenheimer initiated a revolutionary marketing concept: Diamonds as a symbol of romantic love. Continue Reading →

The father of modern geology – by Kylie Williams (CIM Magazine – November 26, 2018)

http://magazine.cim.org/en/

James Hutton, a failed lawyer and doctor, was the first person to suggest that Earth was millions, rather than thousands, of years old and established geology as a true science

Looking back, James Hutton was in the right place at precisely the right time. Hutton was born in 1726, the son of a prosperous merchant and city officeholder in Edinburgh, just a few years before the Scottish capital became a “hotbed of genius” as the epicentre of the Scottish Enlightenment between 1730 and 1820. The environment was primed for big ideas, and Hutton’s concept of uniformitarianism shaped an entire scientific discipline.

Hutton’s big idea was that the earth is millions of years old rather than 6,000 years old, which was based on the literal interpretation of the Bible commonly accepted at the time. His theory of uniformitarianism proposed that rocks and landforms observed at the Earth’s surface today record evidence of past changes and are the result of uniform processes acting over long periods of time.

Hutton’s idea challenged the belief that the natural world was static and unchanging, and disrupted the fundamental principle of geology, but it was not easy to convince others and he did not become known as the Father of Modern Geology until well after his death in 1797. Continue Reading →

Coal queen Rita and the lost world of the ‘Pit Brow Lasses’ (Manchester Evening News – December 1, 2018)

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/

Rita Culshaw has lost none of the speed in her nimble fingers. Today they are zipping around the screen of her tablet computer as she keeps in touch with relatives and researches local history.

But turn the clocks back seven decades and the dexterous digits are working away at one of Wigan borough’s many coal mines. As a pit brow lass – pronounced ‘pit brew’ if you’re from Wigan – it was her responsibility to pick the dirt and stones from freshly mined coal. Kitted out in clogs, shawls and head-scarves, Rita and colleagues formed a coal cleaning production line, building a camaraderie forged through silent communication during shifts.

Now referred to as unsung heroines of the collieries, their contribution to the borough and its rich mining heritage – in addition to being heralded as pioneers for gender equality – has been marked this month by the local authority. Continue Reading →

Why ‘pit brow lasses’ were coal mining’s unsung heroines – by Helen Pidd (The Guardian – October 14, 2018)

https://www.theguardian.com/

It is thought of as the ultimate man’s world, a sooty-faced fraternity deep under ground. But it is a little-known fact that many women also worked in Britain’s coal mines, doing crucial jobs to keep the collieries in operation.

The role of “tip girls” or “pit brow lasses” in the coal industry has largely gone unnoticed in history books, with women portrayed as wives or mothers, sitting at home.

A new exhibition at the Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, challenges this long-accepted view. Breaking Ground: Women of the Northern Coal Fields tells the stories of women in the 19th -century mining industry via paintings and archive material, proving they did far more than wash their husbands’ sooty overalls. Continue Reading →

No shoes or high vis: Dampier’s old boys recall laidback life in remote Pilbara port town – by Kendall O’Connor (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – September 23, 2018)

http://www.abc.net.au/

When Pauline Hill’s husband read about a job going in remote Western Australia offering double his current wage, they thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up. “He was reading the Advertiser one day and saw a job advertised for Hamersley Iron, which we didn’t know anything about,” she said.

They planned to stay in the mystery town for two years, but ended up living there for 14 years. “We just loved it,” she said. Thirty-seven years later, Mrs Hill has returned to the Pilbara port town for the second annual reunion of people who lived in the town between the 1960s and 80s.

The idea for the Old Boys Reunion came from Dave Randle, who now lives on the Gold Coast. “I went to a Pilbara reunion down in Perth and I just felt that it wasn’t the right place for it,” he said. Continue Reading →

History of mining: Five of the oldest mines still in operation – by Talal Husseini (Mining Technology – September 20, 2018)

https://www.mining-technology.com/

While mining is nothing new, with archeologists finding evidence that the history of mining goes back to the ancient world, it is rare these days to find mines that have continued to produce on a commercial scale. Here are some of the oldest mines still in operation.

Khewra salt mine

Dating back as far as the era of Alexander the Great, Khewra is considered the oldest salt mine in the history of mining and second largest salt deposit in the world. The story of its discovery, according to The Times, goes back to circa 320BC, when some of Alexander’s troops stationed in what is now the Punjab Region of Pakistan found their horses licking the stone ground. Out of curiosity, the soldiers copied their equestrian friends, noticing that it tasted rather salty.

Mining salt as a trading commodity did not commence until the Mughal era in the 16th century, and it wasn’t until 1872 that the main tunnel was developed by British mining engineer Dr H Warth, on behalf of the British colonial powers. During the early years of British rule, the salt mine churned out around 28,000t to 30,000t per year of salt. Continue Reading →

Russian revelation behind nickel boom – by Neil Watkinson (Kalgoorlie Miner – August 10, 2018)

https://thewest.com.au

Legendary mining scientist Roy Woodall used his Kalgoorlie-Boulder Walk of Fame plaque unveiling yesterday to tell the story of how “secret Russian technology” smuggled into Australia helped him discover the Goldfields’ rich nickel deposits.

Dr Woodall told the crowd assembled in blustery conditions outside the Palace Hotel on Hannan Street about how Western Mining Corporation was struggling with its exploration of the Kambalda area in the mid-1960s.

He said he had encountered an immigrant from communist-controlled Yugoslavia, who knew little English but still wanted a job, so he employed the man. Dr Woodall said he discovered the man was a geophysicist, and could get his hands on an induced-polarisation system used behind the Iron Curtain which was not available in the West. Continue Reading →

How gold rushes helped make the modern world – by Benjamin Wilson Mountford and Stephen Tuffnell (The Conversation – April 3, 2018)

https://theconversation.com/

This year is the 170th anniversary of one of the most significant events in world history: the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. On January 24, 1848, while inspecting a mill race for his employer John Sutter, James Marshall glimpsed something glimmering in the cold winter water. “Boys,” he announced, brandishing a nugget to his fellow workers, “I believe I have found a gold mine!”

Marshall had pulled the starting trigger on a global rush that set the world in motion. The impact was sudden – and dramatic. In 1848 California’s non-Indian population was around 14,000; it soared to almost 100,000 by the end of 1849, and to 300,000 by the end of 1853.

Some of these people now stare back at us enigmatically through daguerreotypes and tintypes. From Mexico and the Hawaiian Islands; from South and Central America; from Australia and New Zealand; from Southeastern China; from Western and Eastern Europe, arrivals made their way to the golden state. Continue Reading →

The Untold Story of FDR and the Battle Over Gold – by Sebastian Edwards (Bloomberg News – May 22, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

First of four excerpts from “American Default,” on one of the strangest and most enduring chapters of the Roosevelt era.

During the second half of 1933, George F. Warren was the most influential economist in the world. Almost every morning during November and December, he met with Franklin Roosevelt while the president was still in bed, and helped him decide the price at which the government would buy gold during the next 24 hours.

Henry Morgenthau Jr., who often attended these meetings, confided to his diary that the process had a cabalistic dimension to it. In selecting the daily price, FDR would, jokingly, consider the meaning of numbers, or flip coins.

On one occasion, he decided that the price would go up by 21 cents with respect to the previous day. He then asked the group assembled around his bed if they knew why he had chosen that figure. Continue Reading →

When Franklin Roosevelt Dropped a Bombshell on Gold – by Sebastian Edwards (Bloomberg News – May 23, 2018)

https://www.bloomberg.com/

The global reaction in fall 1933 was calm bewilderment. Second of four excerpts from “American Default.”

On Sunday, Oct. 22, 1933, President Roosevelt delivered the fourth of his fireside chats that year. He opened by summarizing his administration’s accomplishments.

He talked about public works and the legislation passed during his first hundred days; he praised the National Recovery Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act; and he told the American public that things were improving. He asserted that since his inauguration on March 4, four million people had found work.

He reiterated that the definite goal of the government was to “restore commodity price levels, [and] to make possible the payment of public and private debts more nearly at the price level at which they were incurred.” Continue Reading →

A piece of Britain lost in Mexico – by Lauren Cocking (BBC.com – May 21, 2018)

http://www.bbc.com/

To understand how a bit of British legacy can be found in Hidalgo, Mexico, we must look back two centuries to the heyday of Cornwall’s mining industry.

As I squeezed my way through the crowd, Marion Symonds was busy crimping one side of a 4.5m-long pasty in the central plaza. All eyes were on this Cornish baker as she held the still-malleable pastry shell in her hands, delicately crimping the edges of the dough with her fingertips to seal in the beef, potato and onion.

Looking at the sloping red roofs and manicured gardens around us, you’d have thought Symonds and I were somewhere in our native England. In fact, we were in the tiny town of Real del Monte in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. At the other end of the oversized snack, a local chef was crimping the Mexican way, slapping the pastry shut with the side of a hand atop a table. Continue Reading →

Mount Isa community reflects on 95 years as Australia’s ‘kindergarten of mining’ – by Harriet Tatham (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – February 22, 2018)

http://www.abc.net.au/

Founded on land belonging to the Kalkadoon people, one of Queensland’s longest-running mining towns has today turned 95. Known for its soaring plumes, spinifex, red dirt and heatwaves, mining is the lifeblood of Mount Isa — a fact the remote community steadfastly defends.

“Mount Isa really was the enduring strength of the mining industry,” long-time resident and former mayor of 18 years Ron McCulloch said. In an era of environmental consciousness, Mr McCulloch said the city could attract some criticism in 2018, but he did not believe the spirit had been lost.

“Nowadays I think people are much more motivated by wealth and looking after themselves more than looking after the city, so I think there’s been a little bit of a downturn in the affection people have for the mining industry and the city itself.” Continue Reading →

[Australia Mining History] French nuclear test tensions threatened Olympic Dam expansion plans, declassified Cabinet documents reveal – by Peter Jean (The Advertiser – December 31, 2017)

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/

IT WAS a government destined to be swept from power at the 1996 election. Prime Minister Paul Keating was focused on the Working Nation program to kickstart the economy and negotiating a defence treaty with Indonesia. Other issues — including public outrage over French nuclear testing in the South Pacific — became thorns in the Government’s side.

THE FRENCH NUCLEAR TESTING

KANGAROO meat and other exports to Europe could be jeopardised if Australia took a hard line against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, the Keating cabinet feared in 1995. A ban on uranium exports to France could also have put at risk a potential $1 billion expansion of South Australia’s Olympic Dam.

The resumption of underground nuclear testing in French Polynesia sparked boycotts of French businesses in Australia and plunged the Labor government into a diplomatic and political crisis. Continue Reading →

Stalin’s legacy lives on in city that slaves built – archive, 1994 – by James Meek (The Guardian – December 29, 2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/

At the end of the second world war, as Europe was preparing to celebrate its victory over fascism, the Soviet authorities arrested an entire school of teenage girls from western Ukraine, named them enemies of the people, took them to an Arctic concentration camp and forced them to expend their youth in slave labour.

Half a century later Galina Skopyuk is still there. She is a prisoner of circumstances now rather than a prisoner of Stalin, but beginning her 49th winter in a land where the winters are nine months long is hard. “I’m always hoping to leave. I don’t want to die here. But I don’t have any chance,” she said.

Mrs Skopyuk is one of the few living links between the present-day city of Norilsk and the dark years of its creation, starting in 1935, when Stalin willed thousands of political prisoners hither to claw a city out of the tundra in a metal-rich volcanic crater. Continue Reading →

Norilsk, Stalin’s Siberian Hell, Thrives in Spite Of Hideous Legacy – by Robert G. Kaiser (Washington Post – August 29, 2001)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Is there any stranger human habitation on Earth than this?

In Norilsk, 200 miles above the Arctic Circle, the sun does not rise for three months a year, the winter temperatures remain under 30 degrees below zero, and the air is, literally, the dirtiest on the globe. Yet there is a full-blown city of 230,000 here, whose citizens are fierce local patriots with a romantic sense of their own uniqueness.

They live in a place created by zeks, political prisoners who populated Joseph Stalin’s gulag — perhaps 100,000, or even 200,000 died in its building; the exact number is lost or buried in still-sealed archives. They were inmates in an unimaginable chamber of horrors, a community of prison camps designed to create nickel and copper industries, and to kill people. It succeeded impressively on both counts.

Modern Norilsk is populated by descendants of those prisoners, among many others, and the city remembers its horrific past. This is unusual in Russia, where forgetting is easier. On the busy streets of Norilsk in August, with pretty women on parade and children chasing each other on bikes and in-line skates, that past seems so remote as to be unreachable. Continue Reading →