The Kimberley diamond mine is a combination open-pit and underground diamond mine in Kimberley, South Africa. At the center of the site lies the ‘Big Hole’, with nearly a half-kilometer wide diameter and a depth of 215 meters.
Before diamonds were discovered at the site of the mine, two Dutch pioneers, Johannes Nicholas and Didrik Arnoldus De Beers had established a farm there. When diamonds were found in 1866, the discovery set off a diamond rush and diamond prospectors from many countries flocked to the area. The De Beers brothers eventually sold their property.
Between 1871 and 1914 some 50,000 miners had excavated 22.5 tons of rock, producing a total weight of 2,722 kilograms of rough diamonds – 14,504,566 carats. In 1888, Cecil John Rhodes and Charles Rudd took over the mines and set up a new company – De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. Today, De Beers remains the dominant company in the diamond market, owning 70% of the mines in South Africa and producing 40% of the world’s rough diamonds.
When the pit mining became dangerous and unprofitable, the kimberlite pipe (named after the city of Kimberley) was bored to a depth of 1,097 meters, and the underground mine operated until 2005.
In later years, some claimed that the Kimberley ‘Big Hole’ was the largest hole ever dug by human hands. But when the claim was investigated, the Big Hole lost out to the Jagersfontein Mine. Originally, the Big Hole had been dug 240 meters deep but was partly filled in, leaving a depth of 215 meters – only 175 of which are still visible due to the fact that water has partially filled the pit. In 2006, De Beers invested some $7.7 million in developing the Big Hole as a tourist site and diamond mining museum.