Kolmanskop was a small, but rich, mining village about 10 kilometres inland from the port town of Luderitz. Kolmanskop means ‘Coleman’s hill’ in Afrikaans, and got its name from a transport driver, Johnny Coleman. He abandoned his ox wagon on a small incline opposite the settlement during a sand storm.
The first diamond was found in the area in 1908 by a railway worker. German miners began to settle and eventually exploiting the diamond field. In 1912, the area produced one million carats – or 11.7% of the world’s totally diamond production. The village was built like a German town. Because of this wealth, it had all the amenities – a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, theatre, casino, bowling alley as well as the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere, and the first tram in Africa.
At its peak, Kolmanskop was home to approximately 350 Germans, and 800 Owambo contract workers.
The diamond field started to deplete after World War I, and the town started to decline. About 270km south of the village, the richest diamond-bearing deposits ever know were discovered. This quickened the decline of Kolmanskop, as everyone was moving towards the Orange River.
The last three families left Kolmanskop in 1956. Within the span of 40 years, the village lived, flourished, and died. Today, the crumbling ruins bear little resemblance to its former glory.
The town is now a popular tourist destination. In 1980, the mining company De Beers restored several buildings and established a museum. Because of the geological location, tourists visit houses while walking through knee-deep sand. Since the area is a restricted part of the Namib desert, visitors need to acquire a permit.
After obtaining your permit, you can drive to Kolmanskop and join a guided tour, which not only provides the history of the former mining town but about the diamond industry today as well. After an introduction, and visiting some of the main buildings, visitors can explore on their own.
Diamond mining continues in the region but has mostly moved offshore, with deposits now extracted from the seabed just off the coast. Mining ships, known as crawlers, drag dredging equipment behind them that sucks up gravel from 140m down. One ship can cover 1,000 square metres in an hour and produce 350,000 karats of diamonds a year.
Today, De Beers has launched a state-of-the-art 122m exploration ship that will do as we mentioned above. The vessel has new sonar technology and a drilling device that will probe the ocean floor and take samples quicker than ever before.
Diamond mining is Namibia’s biggest industry. In 2016, 1.2 million karats were produced which delivered 185 million Namibian dollars to the country’s economy.
If diamonds and other stones are where your interest lie, book a night at Kupferquelle and visit the mining town, Tsumeb. Read more about Tsumeb’s mining history here and visit www.kupferquelle.com to book your accommodation!