Douglas Colliery, South Africa

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Douglas is a mine in Nkangala District Municipality, Mpumalanga, South Africa


• The first recorded coal sale in the Transvaal dates back to the Natal colony in 1842. This
coal was mined and transported by wagon to markets in Pietermaritzburg. By the 1850s,
prospectors had gravitated to the Highveld, following reports of “considerable quantities”
of coal in the Middelburg district.43 By 1868, Transvaal coal was described by the
explorer, Thomas Baines, as looking “tolerably well – black, with a moderate gloss, and
clean fracture.”
On one of his treks from the Transvaal to Natal in 1872, Baines witnessed shallow
digging on the farm of Daniel Kruyger, situated along the banks of the Steenkoolspruit.
Despite ready access to water, energy resources were scarce. Baines reported that “the
family was using coal as its only fuel.”
This fossil fuel was cheap, readily available –
and a useful alternative to dried dung or firewood.

Local trade, where it existed, was small-scale and subsistence-oriented. First-hand
accounts reported that wagons were backed into coal seams nine metres thick. The
wagons were loaded with high grade coal with “the same ease that a wagon might be
filled with rock from an ordinary mountain.”48 This coal would be transported and sold to
the dispersed rural community for approximately fifteen shillings per ton.
The first few mines in the Middelburg District included the Crown Douglas and Maggies
Mine

By the mid-1930s, geology, along with chemistry, had become crucial for industrial
development. A geological study of the Witbank Coalfield was published, entitled Coals
of the Witbank District. ... He boasted that “the collieries working in this area alone (were)
capable of producing all the coal required to fulfil the entire demands of the coal
trade.” Thirteen active collieries were recorded, including the Witbank Southern Area,
Witbank Central Area, Transvaal & Delagoa Bay, Landau, Anglo-French Navigation,
Schoongezicht, Middelburg Steam, Douglas (Witbank), Coronation (Kromdraai),
Clydesdale, Tweefontein & Waterpan, Minnaar and Kendal

By the early 1940s, both collieries of the Transvaal and Delagoa Bay Investment Company, including the
Transvaal and Delagoa Bay Colliery and the Douglas Colliery, were worked to their
maximum capacity.186 Increased demand for coal related to the war-time economic
conditions did not always result in accumulated profits for the coal companies.


• Mine workers from Lesotho were against the move to improve
the compounds and allow women in the hostels as they feared
that as foreigners who could not bring along their wives, they
would be separated from their families. Their fears were
justified by periodic prostitution by women from the
neighbouring farms.


Nonetheless, the fears were overcome and a new settlement system was
introduced. Douglas colliery pioneered the move from compounds into houses. The
move from compounds was hastened by the new democratically elected government,
showing that hostels were no longer a viable option for mineworkers. These changes
also affected the miners in Witbank. Mawa Zulu, a recent former MCHRA president
and the organisation’s most prominent executive member aged 41, explained the
changes thus: ‘Then, there was a situation whereby these hostels changed into
community-based houses after 1994 elections

In other mining communities, there are almost similar facilities to those that Matimba
has. Other villages visited include Bank Colliery, Douglas Colliery, Greenside
Colliery, Navigation Colliery, three Goedehoop Collieries, Sasol Colliery, and
Wolvekrans Colliery. In all the villages there are shops that are either owned by
operating companies or rented out to private individuals. Public recreation clubs are
also available. In these communities, there are also schools in the villages, and buses
ferry those who prefer to attend school in other parts of Witbank. Youth organisations,
more specifically LoveLife, have offices in these villages as well. Perhaps the
difference is with Bank Colliery, which has health facilities in the form of a clinic in
the village. Another difference is the fact that in these villages, public recreation clubs
are not duplicated as is the case in Matimba.



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Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017