Few people know, but Cape Town was very nearly a major gold mining town, and the epicentre could have been the much-loved and visited Lion’s Head. Think about that the next time you watch the golden sun set with an ice latte in your hand.
The “dirty” job of mining couldn’t be more far fetched from the laidback, trendy vibe of the Mother City, and yet its history could have been so vastly different after the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand in 1886.
Enamoured by the gold rush up country, prospectors flocked to the the tip of Africa, and the Cape in particularly, to look for signs of the precious metal.
Most prospectors had no luck, until one company, Lion’s Head Gold Syndicate, struck gold in November 1887, although the gold was more like grains. It was enough to set the imagination free and tongues wagging.
PD Hahn, a professor of chemistry and metallurgy declared, “I am of the opinion that the contact zone between the granite and slate from Sea Point to the neck between Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain is auriferous and that gold will be found everywhere in this zone.”
Mining commenced and a shaft was drilled to a depth of about 45m. The site of the company “success” is today the start of the Lion’s Head hiking trail.
Sadly, however, further testing of samples of ore were sent to the UK and found no sign of gold. Mining on Lion’s Head was abandoned, leaving the iconic landmark untouched ever since. Eventually, the city council bought the Lion’s Head farm and it became a protected area, which attracts millions of visitors and locals every year.
Today there is very little evidence of mining ever taking place on Lion’s Head. And we’ll never know if there is a rich, vein of gold running below from Sea Point to Devil’s Peak.