Vaal Triangle History


1889 - 1902


Klip Power Station

William Stow


Vaal Dam

Vereeniging Estates

1939 - 1945

Peace Negotiations




Coal is formed when peat, or some other accumulation of partially decayed vegetable matter, is compacted and slightly heated during burial.  Coal is currently the principal energy source in South Africa and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.  As South Africa evolved into a mining giant, coal was used more and more to generate steam, compressed air and then electricity.  In modern times the coal consuming industry has diversified, with coal providing the primary energy needs for electricity generation, petro-chemicals and steel production, as well as a host of other industries, from brick making to cement and lime calcining.

Today, environmental concerns pose the main challenge to coal as an energy source.  Not only does the burning of coal result in serious environmental problems, including global warming and acid rain, the mining activities to extract the coal also have a severe impact on the environment.  Air pollution and acid rain, which originate from the power stations, can be reduced with the fitting of scrubbers.  These remove the oxides of sulphur and nitrogen from the gases emitted when coal is burnt.  Unfortunately, the practical aspect of fitting these scrubbers would result in an increase in electricity costs of 25 to 35 percent.


It is important to realise that although South Africa produces half of the electricity on the African continent, two thirds of the people living in this country do not, at present, have access to electricity and therefore rely on wood and polluting fuels such as coal, paraffin and gas.



The discovery of coal in the Vaal Triangle was the most significant factor in the development of Vereeniging into a major industrial powerhouse.  The history dates back to the discovery of coal by George Stow the geologist in 1878, and the meeting in 1880 between Stow and Sammy Marks a diamond magnate.  Marks realised the importance of Stow’s discovery, as coal was in great demand in the diamond fields of Kimberley.  He formed the company ‘de Zuid Afrikaansche en Oranje Vrijstaatsche Kolen en Mineralen Vereeniging’ with the sole aim of exploiting the coal fields and authorised Stow to purchase all the farms on which he considered coal to exist.  Stow purchased the 5675 morgen farm Leeuwkuil (meaning Lion’s pit) which lay on the northern bank of the river.  This was the first mine to produce coal and was later to become known as the Bedworth Colliery.


During 1980 to 1982, Marks purchased 126 000 acres of land on both sides of the river, of which 75% proved to be coal bearing.  It was Stow who proposed a series of weirs to ‘float’ the coal downstream to the diamond fields of Kimberley but this scheme was abandoned.  Marks then attracted transport riders to carry the coal down to Kimberley by offering them free grazing and water.  By 1884, the company was dispatching 720 ton of coal a year to the Kimberley diamond mines, each wagon carrying 4 ton of coal.


Donald McKay, who had seen an outcropping of coal on the farms Kookfontein and Waldrift before Marks had registered his company, persuaded Cecil Rhodes to purchase the farms (totaling 5600 morgen) and in 1881, they became equal partners in the mine which

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