The World’s Oldest Mines in Continuous Operation
Humans have mined materials from the Earth since prehistory. Mines are used to extract both precious metals and gems for decoration and trade, as well as necessary materials such as oil, metal, clay, rock, and ore for building and manufacturing purposes. Although mining equipment, technology, and methods have changed, many of mankind’s earliest mines remain in operation today, producing materials that retain their value in the modern world.
Located in Australia’s Weld Range, Wilgie Mia has been identified as one of the world’s oldest continually-operating mines. This area has been used to mine red and yellow ochre for a period of at least 40,000 years and scientists estimate that 490,000 cubic feet of material has been removed over the mine’s existence. The ochre mined from Wilgie Mia has been used in paintings and rock art throughout the continent of Australia, thanks to the durability and diversity of colors found in the material from this site. This mine was included on Australia’s National Heritage List in 2011.
Williamson Diamond Mine
Although the Williamson Diamond Mine was established as recently as 1940, it is one of the oldest continuously-operating diamond mines in the world. The mine was developed by and named for Canadian geologist Dr. John Williamson and is located in the African country of Tanzania, approximately 100 miles south of the port city of Mwanza. Williamson Diamond Mine produces approximately 300,000 carats of diamonds per year with a staff of just over 1,000 miners. The mine itself is currently 300 feet deep. Williamson’s high rate of diamond production is attributed to the mine’s location on the largest feasibly-exploitable diamond-bearing kimberlite volcanic pipe in the world.
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