History of Gold in South Africa – The Witwatersrand 


The Witwatersrand is a word in Afrikaans which means “The Ridge of white waters”. It is a range of hills in the Gauteng province South Africa that contains most of the worlds gold reserves.  These rich gold bearing reefs stretch from 40 miles east of Johannesburg to 90 miles west and even further into the province of the Free State.

In 1852 an Englishman by the name of J.H. Davis was reported to have discovered large quantities of gold near Krugersdorp. He sold the gold he had found to the Transvaal Treasury for an amount of 600 pounds and was then ordered out of the country due to the policy of secrecy in place at the time.  Then in 1853  Pieter Jacob Marais discovered gold on the Jukskei River banks but this was also kept secret.

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It all really began when an Australian miner by the name of George Harrison went out walking on a Sunday in March 1886 and discovered an outcrop of a main gold bearing reef on the farm Langlaagte. He staked his claim with the Government of the time which was the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek and the area was declared open. It is believed that Harrison sold his claim for 10 pounds and was forced to leave. He was never heard of again and it is speculated that he was killed on his journey home.

There is a monument that has been built where the discovery is believed to have been made and a park has been named after George Harrison.  It did not take long for the discovery to create a huge Gold Rush and within 10 years from a small tented town Johannesburg had already become the largest city in South Africa, outstripping the 200 year old Cape Town.

Today although many of the oldest mines are nearing exhaustion, the area still produces much of the total world supplies of gold and Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand area remains the main metropolitan region of South Africa.

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