The Big Hole in Kimberley, South Africa

The Big Hole in the South African town of Kimberley is a spectacular remnant of a 19th century diamond mine and the largest man-made hole in the earth.

The Big Hole is located in the centre of South Africa in the town of Kimberley and is the largest man-made hole ever. It originates from the former Kimberley mine, from which 14.5 million carats of diamonds were mined until 1914.


Dispute over the biggest

A similarly spectacular open pit hole is located about 100km southwest in Bloemfontein. There is a dispute between these two holes for the title of the largest hole in the world, because Kimberley's is deeper, but Bloemfontein's "Jagersfontein" is more voluminous. In any case, the designation only applies to holes created with dynamite and simple tools, because the open-cast hole dug with machines at Chuquicamata in Chile is even bigger.

Whether or not it is actually the largest, The Big Hole of Kimberley is spectacular to behold. The almost circular hole has a circumference of 1.6km, a diameter of 460m and a depth of 240m.

Creation of the Big Hole in Kimberley

After accidental diamond discoveries in open fields, the region of South Africa was discovered as a diamond mine. By 1870, 500,000 people were working in the diamond fields around Kimberley. Many of the diamond seekers perished due to poor hygiene, poor nutrition, lack of water and extreme heat. In 1871, the brothers Johannes Nicolaas and Diederik Arnoldus de Beer bought farmland in South Africa on which The Big Hole was to be built that same year. 22 million tons of earth were removed from the gigantic hole. They soon had to sell the mines, but the various mines merged into one big one that took their name. The "De Beers" company still controls practically the entire worldwide diamond market today.

The weight of the diamonds mined until 1914 was over 2,700 kilograms, after which work on the diamond mines had to be stopped due to lack of profitability.

The Big Hole today

Today, The Big Hole is partially filled with groundwater, the water level of which reaches 175m below the ground. Guided tours are offered around the hole and from a steel scaffold you can take a cautious look into the yawning abyss. A large mining and open-air museum has been set up on the edge of the spectacular hole, showcasing the history and workings of the diamond industry in Kimberley from mining to onward transportation. Tools, photographs and archival documents from centuries past bring the diamond fever of yesteryear back to life. Even the reconstruction of a mine shaft can be visited. Of course, there are also plenty of the precious sparkling stones on display. In addition to the diamond-related exhibits, life in Kimberley at that time is presented in the open-air museum with original houses. The museum can be reached from the Kimberley Town Hall by a historic tram.

Further links:

Official website of the Big Hole in Kimberley (English)