History: One of the national roads from Bloemfontein passes through Brandfort and Theunissen to Welkom, Odendaalsrus and Allanridge in the Orange Free State Gold- fields. Where the road swings suddenly to the right near a large mine dump just south of Allanridge there is a modest little monument to the left of the road. It has the shape of a keyhole and marks the place where the first gold prospecting borehole in this area of vast plains was drilled.
Quite early in the history of the Republic of the Orange Free State it was hoped that minerals might be discovered and thus provide a miraculous cure for the chronic financial ills of the State. On the instructions of the Government, the well-known geologist, George W. Stow, in 1878 undertook a survey of the mineral potentialities of the Orange Free State; his report completely destroyed the high hopes that minerals, and especially gold, might be discovered.
But in the 1890’s two men appeared on the farm Aandenk on which the town of Allanridge and the above mentioned borehole are situated. One of them, Donaldson, was a prospector, and the other, Hind, was an engineer. At that time the farm belonged to Barend Klopper. The two men carefully examined the rock ridges that abounded on the farm and eventually dug a shaft 18 metres deep, barely eighty metres east of the borehole, on the other side of the road. They took samples from the excavation and disappeared from the scene. They went to Johannesburg and tried to interest certain mining companies in their proposition. Failing in this, they left for England where they intended to have the samples analysed and to form a syndicate. The ship foundered in the Bay of Biscay and Donaldson, Hind and all the other passengers lost their lives.
In 1904 another prospector, Archibald Megson, arrived on the farm. Barend Klopper told him about the activities of Donaldson and Hind. Megson cleaned out and deepened their old shaft, and found indications of gold at a depth of 30 metres. He, too, took samples to Johannesburg and tried to obtain the financial backing of the mining magnates for the exploitation of the ‘New Witwatersrand’. But he could not interest anyone in the Orange Free State, so he returned to Aandenk and stuffed the floor of his shaft full of dynamite to prevent anyone else from using this discovery.
The shaft remained untouched for thirty years, but it remained a challenge to Megson. At the end of 1932 he again talked about it to a certain Joseph Freedman of Johannesburg who took him to the offices of Emanuel Jacobson, an attorney, and Allan Roberts, a prospector. Jacobson and Roberts had been friends since their childhood and had taken part in certain coal, gold and asbestos mining operations, but without much success. Megson told them his tale about the ‘new Rand’ 320 kilometres from Johannesburg. The two friends concluded an agreement with Megson and it was decided that Roberts and Megson should go to Aandenk to investigate the position. To do this, they had to borrow R100.
The two prospectors arrived at the farm in March, 1933. Barend Klopper had died, but his son Hendrik Petrus Klopper received them hospitably. Roberts carefully investigated the vicinity and the old shaft in which the dynamite had fortunately become harmless. He concluded, wrongly, that the conglomerate reefs that
The ‘Raid Painting’ before parts were removed to Paris Abbé Christol: Vingt-six ans au Sud de l’Afrique occurred all over the farm, belonged to the upper part of the Witwatersrand Series and returned to Johannes burg full of enthusiasm.
In order to raise money for buying prospecting rights and options, others were interested in the project and a syndicate was formed consisting of Dr. Ephraim Woolf, M.P., F. L. Marx, Roberts, Jacobson, Freedman and Megson. Roberts then returned to the Orange Free State and, with the assistance of the Mayor of Odendaalsrust, Mr. Izak van der Vyver, and the attorney, Mr. Hauptfleisch, obtained options on a large number of farms in the neighbourhood. At the same time the old shaft was cleaned out and the gold values of the reefs were assayed. These activities gave rise to great interest and even excitement amongst the farming community.
More money was needed for further development. The syndicate was converted into a company, Wits. Extensions Limited, with Dr. Woolf as Chairman, and shares were sold. The company appointed W Radcliffe Brown as its engineer. On his advice it was decided to sink a borehole at the spot, eighty metres from the old prospecting shaft, and on 23rd October, 1933, this work commenced. The primitive type of drill used was steam-driven and coal for it had to be brought all the way from Kroonstad.
And so began an undertaking of great importance in the history of the discovery of gold in the Orange Free State. It demanded great faith, patience and perseverance. All who were associated with it deserved greater rewards than they received. Jacobson almost sacrificed his practice in the interests of the company. For Roberts, who was in charge of the fieldwork, the success of the undertaking became an obsession and his unremitting efforts undermined his health. Dr. Woolf tried unceasingly to interest mining companies and the government in the project. Even Mr. Chapman, the drilling contractor, regarded the undertaking as a personal challenge.
The drilling proceeded fairly fast, but the drill soon encountered an amygdaloidal lava formation. This persisted for hundreds of metres and it seemed as if the drill would never get through it. Mining engineers and other experts in Johannesburg regarded the undertaking at its best as rash and at its worst as a swindle, and advised the company to stop drilling. Moreover, the company’s funds were gradually becoming exhausted. Only one voice, that of the famous geologist, Dr. A. L. du Toit, expressed encouragement. At last, at a depth of 829 metres, the drill penetrated through the lava and entered the upper layers of the Witwatersrand System. This caused great excitement and drilling was continued with renewed confidence. Nearly all the conglomerates between 1 066 and 1 158 metres were auriferous and although gold was not present in payable quantities, it justified further investigation.
In February, 1935, when a depth of 1 233 metres had been reached, the company’s funds were completely exhausted and drilling had to be stopped. All Dr. Woolf’s efforts to obtain support from other companies and from the government had failed. Eventually, in January, 1936, Dr. Hans Merensky became convinced of the importance of the discoveries in the Orange Free State. He in turn interested Sir Ernest Oppenheimer in the Aandenk borehole, and through the influence of Sir Ernest an agreement was entered into on 1st February, 1937, between the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa Limited and Wits. Extensions Limited.
Meanwhile, however, several other mining companies including Union Corporation Limited, Western Holdings Limited and African and European Investment Company Limited started prospecting in the Orange Free State. They used modern geophysical and geological methods, as a result of which the Basal Reef with high gold values was discovered on the farms St. Helena and Uitsig in November, 1938.
In 1945 the Anglo-American Corporation decided to deepen the Aandenk borehole. It was necessary to bore only a further 120 metres to strike the Basal Reef with payable gold!
Although the first payable gold deposits to be discovered in the Orange Free State were not found in this borehole, it was the first prospecting borehole in the area and the results obtained from it undoubtedly gave rise to other prospecting and the discovery of the Orange Free State goldfields. The monument erected round the borehole through the generosity of Lorraine Gold Mines Limited, is fittingly designed in the form of a keyhole to symbolise the unlocking of the goldfields of the Orange Free State.
Visual Description: This borehole on the farm Aandenk is 400 feet deep and in extent 4,301 square feet. The monument in
Construction Date: 1933
Catalogue: , No: Nil, Significance Category: