Just outside Krugersdorp (Mogale City) in a world heritage site better known as the Cradle of Humankind lies the Sterkfontein caves.
Like the Cango caves the Sterkfontein Caves are a well known frequently visited cave yet first time visitors to the cave might be disappointed at the lack of stalactites and Stalagmites or beauty the cave possesses.
This was not always the case and record indicates that the discoverer of the cave – Guglielmo Martinaglia referred to the cave as a wonder cave filled with formations.
Sadly the Sterkfontein area was mined extensively during the 1900’s and the limestone derived from these caves and faults used for the making of amongst other things cement.
Gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand in the 1880s, prompting thousands of prospectors from all over the world to rush to the area in the hope of finding gold.
Lime was an important commodity in the mining of gold. The gold mining industry therefore sparked a second industry in lime mining. Caves like the Sterkfontein cave, had an abundant supply of lime needed by the gold industry.
Gold was first discovered on the Witwatersrand area in 1884, leading to the biggest gold rush the world has ever seen. Many small mines sprang up as prospectors mined surface and shallow deposits, then sank shafts into the ground and blasted out tunnels.
The mines and processing works had a considerable impact on the environment through the appearance of underground and surface workings, spoil heaps, processing plants and mine buildings. The processing works used cyanide and other chemicals which polluted the ground and water.
The Sterkfontein Caves attracted miners because of the extensive deposits of calcium carbonate in the form of stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone. Calcium carbonate is a chemical combination of calcium, carbon and oxygen. When burned, it yields lime – what the miners were really after.
Lime and gold mining changed the landscape in and around the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site forever.
The Sterkfontein cave is however a tourist cave well worth visiting. With well trained guides, a newly layed out tourist route and a wealth of chambers and passages this one hour long tour will not dissapoint.