Golden Quarry

The tour starts Barberton Private Mining & History Museum and can be done in three hours. All vehicles not attending the tour can be safely parked here. The Golden Quarry discovered by Edwin Bray in 1885, so named because it looked as if the rock was formed entirely of gold, resulted in the mine becoming well known throughout the world. From Barberton we travel about 30kms on a tar road to Sheba Mine, which has been mining gold for over a century from Bray’s famous ‘Golden Quarry’. Considered one of the ‘Mining Wonders of the World’ if you’re going to only visit one gold mine in your life, this is the one to see. As Sheba Mine holds the record of being the richest and oldest working mine in the World. After a quick stop at the Mine’s checkpoint to sign in and have our permits checked, we make our way up the hill to the Quarry’s original entrance. The short hike to the Quarry opening gives you a taste of what getting to work would have been like for the miners. As the route takes you over some of the discarded rock from the original quarry and up an old wooden ladder that oozes nostalgia. You do, however, get a sense of adventure as you make your way forward along paths cut into the rock by men over a century ago. Especially as you pass the metal barricades put up to prevent people from accidently slipping down the numerous exploration tunnels that drop hundreds of metres in search of more gold. Before you can enter the Golden Quarry you have to cross a wooden bridge that looks like it comes straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Your guide will be quick to point out the concrete supports that makes it structurally sound, but crossing the creaking and dilapidated looking bridge feels like a rite of passage into the Quarry. Once over the bridge the small tunnel opens up into an impressive cavern, lit by shards of sunlight streaming in from the original opening at the surface and resembles a medieval cathedral. Nothing can really prepare you for the vastness of the underground Quarry, especially when you consider this was all dug by hand. There was no heavy machinery, dynamite or room for mules. It was purely the blood, sweat, and I expect tears, of men labouring with picks that made this massive hole a reality. The logistics of creating it are simply mind blowing. Unearthing numerous questions like how they got the rock out, how they managed to traverse the steep sides and how Edwin Bray must have felt when he first laid eyes on the rocks that appeared to be cemented in gold! The fact it is still a working mine only adds to the experience, as every now and then you hear the sound of mining happening hundreds of metres below. Still it is hard to imagine what life would have been like for the miners back then, spending days underground digging for someone else’s fortune. The Edwin Bray tunnel (Golden Quarry), which is still in production today is part of the Sheba mine system, the quarry is one of the oldest and richest working gold mines in the world. Fashioned entirely by hand, this vast cavernous mine is considered by many to be one of the mining wonders of the world. On our way back we stop at Diggers Retreat (A Hotel from the gold rush era) for a cold one.