A history of Okiep
Okiep is the oldest mining town in South Africa where copper was first discovered and mined in 1855. Phillips and King was the first mining company to actually start mining in Namaqualand although many so called mining companies were formed during the 1850’s copper mining rush from Cape Town. In the 1860’s Phillips and King were taken over by a London based company known as “The Cape Copper Company” and they continued mining in Namaqualand until the 1919 and continued exploration until 1927 when they were liquidated. In 1927 Newmont Mining / American Metal Company, two American mining houses purchased the Namaqualand Copper Fields from the defunct Cape Copper Company and the Okiep Copper Company was formed in 1937 and started mining in 1928. In 1988 Newmont sold the Okiep Copper Company to Goldfields of SA, who in turn sold to Metorex in 1998 and they are still mining in Namaqualand today.
Okiep was for many years the centre of the Namaqualand copper fileds which was known at the turn of the century as the richest copper mining area in the world. This in turn made Okiep famous during the last phase of the Anglo Boer War when Okiep was besieged by Boer Commandos under the command of General Jan Smuts for a period of two months (April / May 1902). When General Smuts invaded the Cape Colony in September 1901 the Boer Commandos made their way to Namaqualand via Calvinia with the idea of capturing the rich copper fields and therefore forcing the British to send their troops to Okiep. This would have left Cape Town open for attack by the Boer Commandos. Unfortunately for the Boers this did not happen as in late April 1902 General Smuts was called back to Pretoria from Namaqualand for the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging in June 1902.
Okiep therefore has a very rich history and the Hotel has on its doorstep two national monuments, namely a Smoke Stack (1880) which acted as a ventilation shaft and Cornish Pump House (1882). The Cornish Pump House is in fact a steam pump engine which is fully intact and is the only remaining pump house of its sort in the Southern Hemisphere. Many of these pump houses remain in Cornwall, England. Much of the old mining works still remain in Okiep, especially the remains of the old Cornish miners’ workings and stone masonry in the surrounding areas.
The earth works of the old railway line between Okiep and Port Nolloth (91.5 miles) still remain as a reminder the old mule train. The railway line was built under the supervision of Thomas Hall, a Cornish Railway Engineer and was built from 1866 and
completed in 1873. From 1873 to 1894 the only form of power on the railway line were mules and the Namaqualand Mule Train was world famous in its time. In the 1894 steam was introduced (Clara, the steam engine and some carriages are on static display at the mine museum at Nababeep) and the whole railway line was dismantled in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s by the Americans.
We have on our doorstep some unique geological formations, namely the Orbicule Hill (koppie) which is only found in Namaqualand and Scandinavia, Narap Meccabreccia and the “Klondike” steep structure. Other unique geological formations are also found in the area together with beautiful unsploit scenery.