The Bantjes Mines

In 1881, the first significant discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand was made by a descendant of the Bantjes, Jan Gerrit Bantjes (1843 – 1914), at Kromdraai, 21 miles north west of the centre of Johannesburg. It was this find that first attracted to the Witwatersrand a number of prospectors and mining men. Later, accompanied by his brother H. Bantjes, he made another strike in the vicinity of Roodepoort, In March 1886, George and his brother collected 50 ton of conglomerate rock from this mine – which yielded just 18oz of gold, which was not considered economically significant. However, he continued prospecting. In July 1886, Jan Gerritze met the financier F.W. Alexander, and interested him in the potential of the reef he had discovered. Alexander in turn interested Cecil Rhodes and other money men, and the finance needed to develop the mine was secured.

In August 1886, work began on the Bantjes mine on the farm Vogelstruisfontein, carried out by Bantjes himself. What became known as the Bantjes Consolidated Mines closed operations before the First World War, but

. In the Western Johannesburg suburb of Discovery, many streets are named after prominent men in the early years of the gold mines. One of these is Bantjes Avenue.

Source: D.A, Pretorius, Geology of the Central Rand Goldfield, Economic Geology Research Unit, University of Johannesburg, April 1963

Bantjes Avenue

There is also a claim that it was Jan (or Johannes) Bantjes after whom the city of Johannesburg was named. On the other hand, there is a conflicting family story that the city was named after a different Jan Gerrit Bantjes ((1817 -1887)), his father, who had been a teacher of Paul Kruger. According that story, the city was named by Paul Kruger himself, to acknowledge his respect and affection for his former teacher. It is said that the friendship between the two is marked by the situation of Bantjes Avenue, which leads directly off Kruger Avenue.

It should be noted however, that while the information on Bantjes discovery of gold is well documented, the Wikipedia account of the naming of Johannesburg after either Bantjes is not supported by references or sources of any kind. Rather, this is flatly contradicted by the information in well documented standard histories, so should be treated with extreme caution. What can be verified, is the existence of Bantjes Ave, as shown in the image below extracted from Google Maps. (There’s also a Bantjes Street, in Benrose, Johannesburg).

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