The History of Aggeneys
The social history of the immediate area is closely linked with that of the Pella Mission some 40km to the north east.
The first known references to the area date from the late 1770’s when the farm, now Pella was called Cammas Fonteyn. The grazing rights were granted to Jacobus Bierman, though in 1776 it belonged to Coenraad Feijt.
The name was changed to Pella in 1812, when Christiaan Albrecht of the London Missionary Society settled there after having been driven out of the Warmbad are of South West Africa by the notorious Jager Afrikaner. The name is derived from the ancient town Pella in Macedonia, which became a refuge from the persecuting Romans for the early Christians of Jerusalem. This settlement, however, was short-lived and was abandoned before 1824 after one of the missionaries was killed by Bushmen.
In approximately 1872 the first references are made to a farm at Aggeneys. It had become important with the arrival of the “Trekboere” as the first watering point reached after the Kweekfontein in the Springbok area. The old wells can still be seen in the canyon behind the present farmhouse. A certain Mr Hayes, a Catholic, and his family farmed cattle at Aggeneys. He was also responsible for the first Catholic settlement at Pella – the earlier ill fated mission being Lutheran.
He invited Father Gaudeul to establish the mission after the abandonment of the Copper mine at Springbok and the dispersal of the Father’s former parishioners. The Mission was granted to the Roman Catholic Church in 1875 and the church built in the same year.
Mr Hayes left the Aggeneys farm in 1900 and moved to Pella where he died in 1905 at the age of 85. The farm was taken over by the Harridge or Herridge family. Edward Herridge was a former British soldier. The ruins of the original farmhouse are still there today and the original orchard, started by Mrs Harridge still flourishes. They left the farm after the Boer War for Klein Pella.
The Burger family, who were trekboere, probably from the Williston area, passed through the region immediately prior to the Boer War and while near Aggeneys, some 720 of their cattle were seized by the British troops, at the time camped at Aggeneys. The old fortifications can still be seen on the valley sides. The reasons for the seizure of the cattle may have been – food for the troops, the scorched earth policy or in retaliation for the presence of the trekkers in the Boer forces. Anyway, a Boer unit including some of the Burgers, under the command of Major Froneman, made an attack on the British encampment from the front and rear, but Froneman disappeared and the necessary orders were never given, the attack failed with the loss of two Boer troops.
After the war in 1904, the Burger family returned to Aggeneys and made applications to hire the State ground, at a nominal yearly rental. Barend and Willem were granted Aggeneys East and West respectively, the other brothers (there were 6 brothers and 5 sisters in all) hired grazing from these two.
In 1908 right of property was granted to Barend and Willem. Barend died in 1941 and Wikkie his youngest son inherited the farm. The adjacent portions of Zuurwater and Koeris, purchased by Barend, were left to his sister and another brother and Wikkie bought these out later.
It was from Wikkie Burger that the farms were purchased.
The first known investigation of the mineral potential of the area was in 1928 when a German, Mr Horneman, who appears to have been some sort of local official, asked permission from Barend Burger to prospect in the area.
The following year he hired a qualified blaster, Abraham Maas, to sink a shaft on Swartberg. However, his interpretation of the geology was incorrect and the shaft was sunk in the poorly mineralised area of the ore body and was stopped after 20m, with little mineralisation. Some samples were taken and it is reported that the O’Kiep Copper Company made an offer to Horneman but this was refused.
Several times between then and the late 1960’s a number of companies and individuals looked at the area or at samples and for varying reasons turned it down. Some of them came tantalisingly close to signing options but it never materialised.
This chequered period culminated when a Geologist, Ben Brock, representing Phelps Dodge, decided to recommend the prospect at Swartberg (Black Mountain) to his principals.
While this was being done and an exploration company formed, the mineral rights were obtained from Wikkie Burger by David Graaf Interests.
The Exploration Manager for Phelps Dodge, Dr P Ryan visited the outcrop area of the Black Mountain and realised for the first time the true structure of the outcrop and the localisation of the mineralisation in a synformal fold plunging east north east. Despite the previous unfavourable reports on the economic potential of the ore body, it was decided to reach an agreement on the options with the D.G.I. This was finalised in May 1971 and two months later the first borehole was sited and drilling commenced, intersecting disseminated mineralisation over some 80m. Exploration continued and then spread to Broken Hill and Big Syncline during the next two years.
The Broken Hill ore body on the hill known as Nuniepoort-se-kop was found to be of higher grade and was selected to be the first mining target and emphasis shifted there in 1973, with a comprehensive drilling programme. Followed in 1974 by the development of an adit to take a bulk sample for metallurgical test work. The initial plan had been for an open cast mine but it became increasingly apparent that selective underground mining would be economically more attractive. In 1976 this feasibility study was completed and Phelps Dodge decided to look for a partner in a joint venture. On 11th May 1977 it was announced that Gold Fields of S.A. had reached an agreement in principle and later on that year G.F.S.A. acquired 51% of the interest in Black Mountain Mineral Development Company (Pty) Ltd and would manage the project.
The remoteness of the site required major infrastructure and development and the new village and amenities were introduced over the next few years including the pump station and pipeline from the Orange River near Pella.
The mine came on stream at the end of 1979 and has to date produced some 5,5 million tons of ore. The ore is treated in a metallurgical plant on the site, in a complex sequential-flotation system. The concentrate produced is road hauled to Loop 10 on the Sishen-Saldanha railway line – some 170 km, if for export to Saldanha.