A recent archaeological discovery has pointed to the possibility that black Africans were the first set of humans to engage in the art and science of mining. Evidence places this era as far back as some 43,000 years ago. 42,000 years ago, before this present day, deposits of minerals at Ngwenya Mine, located on the northwestern border of Swaziland in southern Africa, were worked on. The key minerals discovered were likely red haematite and specularite (sparkling ores).
The century and time in which these mines were used were of Middle Stone Age. The glorious African civilizations were recognized and spread in southern Africa for almost 100,000 years, much until around 20,000 years ago. Later, more of the red ochre was later used by the present San (bushman) people of these age Swaziland for their paintings.
During 400AD, Bantu-speaking people visited from north of the Limpopo River, the majority of whom were agro-pastoralists who smelted iron ore. They went ahead to extract the ore using heaving iron hammers and then traded the iron widely across the region.
In recent times, there is an open cast mine that was developed in 1964, where iron ore is mined. It signaled and was used as a catalyst for the industrial and economic development of Swaziland. Most of the infrastructure, including the railway lines and electrical wiring, were open on the backbone of the open cast mining system.
Termed as one of the oldest mines on the molds planet, charcoal and lumps from the mine site were sent for radiocarbon dating in 1940. The report shown could be dated back to 43,000BC. Howbeit, there is a strong possibility the mine itself could be older than the stated date. There is growing evidence the ores were mined as early as 23,000BC.
Evidence gotten from ancient mining tools discovered at the site indicates they were more specialized and foreign to those found at the Stone Age sites. These were choppers, picks and hammers cut from dolerite. The tools found showed clear evidence of early mining activities that were widely found even in rock paintings.
While the mine is of historical significance to the Swazi people, it’s also embedded in a history of early industrial development for the Southern African region. The mining of iron ore, which was also supplied to other parts of the nation, led to a gradual change of tools in the region from stone to iron over time.
These mines serve as a testimonial to a culture of mining that has all but faded into the air in the modern age.
This proves that long before the Europeans came with state-of-the-art mining tools, black Africans have also experimented with the art and science of mining. Meanwhile, earlier miners used such tools as shovels, while the mines at Ngwenya made wide use of hammers, choppers and picks made from dolerite.