Kleinzee – part 1

On Monday the 3rd, at the invitation of Gert Klopper – Public and Corporate Affairs Manager, De Beers, Namaqualand, I  spent the the day at the diamond mining town of Kleinzee on  the West Coast.

I am doing 2 posts, this one about the town itself and part 2 about some of the exciting new tourism ventures that are being developed.

Situated about 50 kilometres south of Port Nolloth, Kleinzee was established as a town in 1942. Diamonds had been discovered on the farm Kleyne Zee in about 1927 and in 1930 the first recovery plant was built. Diamond mining went through many ups and downs because of diamond market crashes and also due to the start of World War 2. It was only toward the end of the war that mining started again.

The well maintained Kleinzee Museum

The well maintained Kleinzee Museum

Boulder Heritage Route

Boulder Heritage Route

This is where the mining at Kleinzee began in the late 1920s. The neatly stacked mounds of rocks are kept intact to remind us of days gone by when mining diamonds was hard manual labour. In the foreground  is one of the boulders with the pick and shovel that marks this site as part of the “Boulder Heritage Route” – an easy 5 km walk down the rich history of diamond mining at Kleinzee

Early pick and shovel mining.

Early pick and shovel mining

The Golf Course.

The Golf Course.

The first thing that one notices while driving through the town is how clean and neat everything is. The population of the town has dropped from a high of about 7000 inhabitants to less than 1000 today because of the closing down of much of the mining operation. As Gert explained  diamonds are a finite resource and once an area is mined then that’s it. But the difference that I saw and heard here is that there are plans in operation to keep the town not only going but to increase the population with the establishment of new types of sustainable businesses to take over from the diamonds in the near future.

An area between the beach and town that is being restored.

An area between the beach and town that is being restored.

Abundant birdlife at the Buffels River estuary at Kleinzee.

Abundant bird life at the Buffels River estuary at Kleinzee.

The seal colony.

The seal colony.

The Kleinzee Cape Fur Seal colony just north of Kleinzee is, with its 300 000 to 400 000 animals, the largest on-land colony in South Africa.

The local Angling Club

The local Angling Club

There are many sporting facilities, fishing , golf, rugby, cricket, netball, bowls, squash etc. and from what I saw all the fields and courts are in tip top condition.

The oyster farm of Kleinzee Mariculture

The oyster farm of Kleinzee Mariculture

The current dam is used to grow out oysters to specific sizes before they are passed on to other farmers for growing to market size. This will change in the future when the dam is extended,  see below, and full size oysters will be grown and exported from Kleinzee.

A basketful of the “big ones that got away”.

A basketful of the “big ones that got away”

Looking down from the recently constructed platform of the abalone farm

Looking down from the recently constructed platform of the abalone farm

These dams came about as a more productive way of using mined-out areas to create an industry that has the potential of sustaining itself – and the economy of the region – for a very long time to come. Apart from the Mariculture there are plans to establish wind farms for the generation of electricity.

Bucyrus Erie dragline machine which is powered by electicity.

Bucyrus Erie dragline machine which is powered by electicity.

In previous years, De Beers Namaqualand Mines used this Bucyrus Erie dragline as a cost-effective means of removing millions of tons of overburden to expose diamond bearing gravels. Today, this 3500 ton monster is being used to rehabilitate the disturbed land and move the soil back into the pits it created – ready for reprofiling and restoration.

The Final Recovery plant.

The Final Recovery plant..

The checkpoint building and security offices at the entrance to the Buffels Marine Mining Complex north of Kleinzee.

The checkpoint building and security offices at the entrance to the Buffels Marine Mining Complex north of Kleinzee.

All in all I found Kleinzee to be a great little town and I believe that with all the planning and hard work that is going on that it has a really bright future. If I am still around in 5 years from now I would love to go back and see all the progress that would have been made.

If you want to have a look around Kleinzee make sure you have your ID Book with you. If you plan to spend a night or two there then you must get security clearance at least 5 days prior to arrival. There are caravan parks, guest houses and a backpackers in the town and surrounding area.

2 Comments

  1. Hanlie on August 5th, 2009

    So that’s what Kleinzee looks like! I almost went to live there in the mid-nineties when my first husband applied for a job there. He didn’t get. I was really excited about going there…

  2. pbdphoto on August 9th, 2009

    Really great little place!



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