On the west side of South Africa, not far from Cape Town, lies the small city of Oranjemund. Only about 4,000 people live in the mining town, but Oranjemund and Namibia are home to the diamond mining industry.
A Glowing Garden
Diamonds were first found along the Orange River in the late 1800s. The Orange river stretches horizontally across South Africa and received its name from the ruling family at the time, the House of Orange from the Netherlands. But at sunset and sunrise, the gaseous star reflects along the water, mirroring a ball of an orange bursting with warm yellows, lighting all it touches a marvelous orange.
The Orange River and most of Namibia are composed of alluvial dirt, making it the perfect harvesting ground for diamonds. Diamonds can form over several years to a couple of billion. The heat and pressure of the Earth’s deep mantle create the gems and are pushed closer to the surface by shifting tectonic plates and volcanic flumes. Alluvial dirt is a combination of silty-sand sediments commonly found near bodies of water.
The Machine Graveyard
As the mining industry boomed in South Africa, Randlords, also known as European entrepreneurs, ran the business and took over the area. They even fought several wars with governments and battled labor strikes for hazardous working conditions. Eventually, the industry settled as standards fell into place, and companies abided by safety protocols. But that doesn’t mean everyone made it out of Oranjemund safely.
A graveyard of heavy equipment litters the once-booming area. Once a machine was purchased, brought, visited, or used at the mine, it did not leave. Some speculate that the machines don’t leave because they could contain diamonds, making them worth more just sitting in the sand. It’s also possible that the landowners don’t want the vehicles and machines to be used for smuggling. Others argue that workers who know the vehicles don’t leave wouldn’t bother stashing diamonds in them.
No one knows the future of these vehicles since not many pictures exist because people aren’t allowed to visit.
Still Sitting Abandoned Today
The order started in the early 20th century when the area was restricted due to safety concerns. But some wise prospectors thought diamonds would also be available at another location. They pitched their tents, and the tent camp quickly became the town of Oranjemund.
Some of the equipment are vehicles that are still produced by manufacturers today, like graders and scrapers, which are primarily used in the construction industry and sometimes farming. Though these were likely used for surface operations in mining, other equipment like hydraulic shovels, dozers, and drill rigs remain scattered throughout the forgotten site.
The lines of electric rope shovels and rotary attachments rust against the Orange river’s shoreline. These impossibly large machines raise the question of how they were brought in, why aren’t they being salvaged or reused, and who would abandon one of the biggest diamond mining sites in the world?