Down the famous N'Chwaning II Mine

Many years ago the proprietor of Cape Minerals had the honour of descending the N'Chwaning II shaft in the Kalahari Manganese Fields, to see and experience first hand the extraction of some of the amazing specimens that have been produced from the mine over the years. Follow along and see what transpired!
 
The N'Chwaning II headgear as seen in 2007,
on the way to the mine portal.
 
Let it never be said that hard rock mineral extraction is easy! 100% humidity, tons of rock hanging above your head, the smell of a blast still fresh in the air and the taste of rock hidden from human view for millions of years coating your tongue - The experience every mineral collector craves!

 

The descent into N'Chwaning II

 
With a the weight of the lamp on the hardhat sitting uncomfortably on your head, the loose fitting overall adding uncomfortable warmth and your hands hanging onto the bar in front of you for dear life, the mine vehicle sets off towards the portal. One thing runs through your mind as the vehicle passes the braking test (A large, steep bump is used to test the integrity of the control systems before entering the mine) - "Down the rabbit hole we go.."
 
The N'Chwaning II mine portal, as seen from the back of the mine vehicle
 
Underground the mine is a city unto itself - A common feature in nearly all large, modern mines. From engineering stations, safe rooms (Used in case of unusual rock activity or rock falls), vehicle maintenance bays to rest areas and sidings (For the large mine equipment to pass safely on the underground "roads"). The humid air is full of the bustle of human life, from every discipline -Geologists and engineers, miners and electricians all working together in the massive ecosystem that is N'Chwaning. 
 
An underground vehicle bay in the N'Chwaning II mine
 
 

The rock face

 
Finally, the vehicle stops and people begin climbing out and grabbing tools - After a second inspection for rock stability and safety. Suddenly it hits you - You're going to be allowed to dig! The rock face shows many small cavities with what looks in the underground light to be specimens, sitting in hard manganese ore. You heft your crowbar, wondering if you'll get anything out. Determined to try, a closer inspection of the possibilities is needed.


 
 
The small pockets of minerals extend deep into the sheer face, requiring heavy equipment and hours of work to extract sucsessfully. The heat hammers down on you, and sweat pours from every pore on your body. Cooling down is next to impossible with the high humidity - Even the rock feels warm to the touch! In this environment, even the fittest of young men struggle to work, yet the highly experienced team that extract mineral specimens from the mine brave these extreme conditions daily.
 

Minerals, minerals.. Minerals everywhere!

 
Finds within the mine are carefully packed using old cloth into plastic containers, to be inspected at the surface. Every specimen that comes out is inspected and evaluated before deciding where it goes - Minerals extracted from N'Chwaning II are done in such a way as to benefit the miners and the local community.

 

The majority of the minerals extracted on this trip were stunning Manganocalcite pieces, often with sprays and tufts of Kutnohorite. In the warm sunlight gasps fill the air - The washed out lighting of the mine makes the minerals seem less than they are. Only in bright daylight, the first time sun has ever shone upon these specimens, does their true beauty become clear. Made even more precious by the sweat and blood that goes into extracting them, it's obvious how one remembers the exact year and pocket, if not the day, a specimen you have found came from - Finding them yourself makes the experience of collecting so much sweeter!
 
 
 
Special thanks to the team at N'Chwaning II that made this once in a lifetime trip possible!
 
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