Ngwenya Mine In Swaziland – The Oldest Mine In History

The name ‘Ngwenya,’ which means Crocodile in Swazi, is the name given to the second-highest mountain in Swaziland (formerly; Eswatini) crocodile-like shape. 

Ngwenya Mine could be located along the Bomvu Ridge, North-west of Mbabane, close to the Northwest border of Swaziland. It was considered the oldest mine in the world, having been dated to have existed for almost 43,000 years old.

Discovered by a team of South African archeologists led by the field research officer, Adrian Boshier, from the Museum of Man and Science, Johannesburg.

 With the Radiocarbon dating method, a charcoal nodule gotten from the Ngwenya Mine is widely believed to be the oldest mine for the past 43,000 years ago. 

 According to Adrian Boshier, stone-age tools used for mining hematite – a reddish-brown to black mineral consisting of ferric oxide, constituting an important iron ore and occurring in crystals or earth red ochre.



Ngwenya Mine In Swaziland - The Oldest Mine In History.
Jamaican man on tour at the Ngwenya Mine – image credit:

The charcoal was sent to two laboratories, one at Groningen, and the other at Yale for Radiocarbon dating tests.

Lion Carven is where the San people’s ancestors got their Libovu (red ochre) and Ludumane (sparkling ochre) for their hair and rock paintings. 

 These Bantu-speaking people also smelt the iron ore with heavy iron hammers, which became a significant business in that region around 400 A.D.

A modern open cast for iron mining was established in 1964 by the Swaziland Iron Ore Development Company (SIODC) owned by the Anglo-American Corporation, started mining of the deposit in 1964. With the mining company’s proceeds, a railway track including an electricity reticulation lines, and the Matsapha Industrial sites were opened.


Ngwenya Mine In Swaziland - The Oldest Mine In History.
Rock paintings with red ochre – image credit:

Between 1964 – 1977, the SIODC signed a contract with a Japanese company. With over 20 million Iron extracted from the mine, a said number of 32 million tonnes are believed to be the soil left since the company abandoned the mine because of the flooding in the region.

A hole along the hillside of the Ngwenya is called the Lion Cavern and by the left is a flooded quarry used by the modern mining cast.

Ngwenya Mine In Swaziland - The Oldest Mine In History.
Lion Cavern memorial – image credit:

A guest center was built to display some minerals extracted in 2005.

 The center consists of an archive – for images from the early mines, a gigantic diorama of a stone-aged smelter working, and a steam engine that came to Eswatini in 1913.

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