The Big Hole

The Kimberley Mine - Kimberley Mine Museum

Useful Information

Cecil (John) Rhodes (*1853-✝1902), British financier and politician. Public Domain.
Location: 161 Tucker St, West End, Kimberley 8301.
(-28.738550, 24.754964)
Open: All year daily 8-17.
Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Fee: Adults ZAR 100, Children (4-12) ZAR 60, Students ZAR 80, Families (2+3) ZAR 320.
Classification: MineDiamond mine MineOpen Cast Mining
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: Big Hole: AR=17 ha, L=463 m, VR=175 m visible.
Guided tours: self guided, free tours
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: The Big Hole, 161 Tucker St, West End, Kimberley 8301, Tel: +27-53-839-4600. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1866 first diamond discovered by the 15-year-old shepherd Erasmus Jacobs near the Orange River.
1871 Johannes Nicolaas and Diederik Arnoldus de Beer, two brothers, purchased farmland in South Africa.
16-JUL-1871 Esau Damoense discovered a whole handful of diamonds in Colesberg Kopje.
18-JUL-1871 Diamond rush starts.
1884 diamond mines opened.
1888 De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited formed by Cecil John Rhodes and Charles Rudd.
14-AUG-1914 Big Hole closed.
2005 underground mine closed.
2006 complete redesign of tourist facilities.
25-NOV-2006 opening of a new museum and viewing platform.


A cross-section through the mine.
The Big Hole of Kimberly Mines. Public Domain.

Kimberley is famous for the Big Hole, which is often called the "worlds deepest man made hole". Kimberley is the place where diamonds are found. And the Big Hole is a huge pit, almost circular and 215 m deep, right in the middle of the town. Just for completeness's sake: Kimberley Big Hole is not the biggest hand dug hole, that is MineJagersfontein Mine. And a few modern mines, created with enormous machines, are even bigger.

The diamonds found at Kimberly were formed in a vertical volcanic pipe. Huge layers of rocks eroded, and so it is cut through by today's earth's surface. The almost circular pipe reaches the surface right on the farm, two Dutch settlers bought in 1871. The two brothers called Johannes Nicolaas and Diederik Arnoldus de Beer bought it for farming, and they did not participate in the diamond hunt. In this year, 1871, there had already happened various diamond finds in the area. But it was still unclear if diamonds originated from this area, or were just transported to this place by erosional forces.

The farm had a shallow hill, later called Colesberg Kopje. This was the erosional surface remains of the kimberlite pipe. The so called Red Cap Party lead by Fleetwood Rawstorne was searching the area in 1871. The cook of the party, named Esau Damoense, is said to have found the very first diamonds here. This lead to a diamond rush, which made it impossible for the de Beers to keep their land. The flood of fortune hunters from America, England, Australia, Germany, Russia, Eastern Europe, and from the Southern African hinterland, became soon unmanageable. They were not able to protect the place from the growing tide of intruders, so they sold it.

And although the brothers did not become the owners of the mines, one of the mines inherited their name and until today the diamond trade is connected with their names. First two big mines formed, the De Beers and Kimberley mines. Cecil John Rhodes and Charles Rudd gained control of both mines and merged them, forming De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited in 1888. De Beers is the company which today dominates the market, producing about 40% of all diamonds on earth by value, and owning about 70% of the South African diamond mines. And they have a marketing subsidiary named Diamond Trading Company (DTC) which sells almost half of the world's rough diamonds by value.

But back to history. In the first time the diamonds were mined in an open cast mine, following the pipe. Colesberg Kopje soon disappeared and turned into a pit. The result was the Big Hole, a vast crater dug entirely with picks and shovels. In this open cast 2,722kg of diamonds were mined until it closed in 1914. Approximately 22,5 million tons of earth were moved.

Today the Big Hole is about 215 m deep, but 40 m of groundwater leave only 175 m visible. Originally the hole was 240 m deep, but after it was abandoned it was used to throw debris in. The underground Kimberly Mine was mined to a depth of 1097 m.

The Big Hole is a rather new diamond theme park located at the rim of this hole. It was developed from the former Kimberley Mine Museum, but in 2006 De Beers invested R50 million (about USD 7.7 million) for the renovation and extension of the site. It includes an open air museum, a small village showing the history of diamond mining at Kimberley. A complete little diamond rush town with shops and houses, a church, diggers' tavern, Barney Barnato's Boxing Academy, and the De Beers directors' private railway coach. An exhibition at the Diamond vault in the pulsator shed houses over 3500 real diamonds including the Eureka and the 616. The Eureka is the first diamond discovered in South Africa in 1866, on the banks of the Orange River by Erasmus Jacobs. It had over 21.10 carats uncut and is now 10.73 carats cut. The 616 is the largest uncut diamond in the world, its name is its weight: 616 carats.

The most spectacular addition of the recent renovation is a cantilevered platform above the rim of the Big Hole which was completed in November 2006. The Platform is 30 by 30 Cape feet, which was the size of a 19th Century mining claim. It allows the visitors a vertical view down into the hole, as it protrudes across the rim like a half suspension bridge. But although it is 90 m long, it does not protrude over the central pit with the lake.

The Big Hole, the museum, not the actual hole, was obviously sold by DeBeers some years ago. As a result, it has become a sort of mall or shopping center with at least a dozen different shops and cafes on site. Nevertheless, there is still an entrance fee, which has actualyl doubled. And to complete this set of improvements, their new website neither gives the name or address of the owner nor the location. We are currently not sure if we should still list the site, as it is actually a rip-off without any kind of mine. We decided to do leave this page as a warning. If you are interested in the mine and mining history you probably want to visit the big hole, which is freely accessible, and then move on.