The 9th International Mining History Congress committee will soon be welcoming you to the wonderful city of Johannesburg – in mining history terms, undoubtedly one of the world's most extraordinary places. Established in response to the great Witwatersrand gold strike of 1886, Johannesburg's exponential growth was one of the early 20th century's most turbulent urban sagas. Fortune seekers from all corners of the world travelled to this remote, inhospitable, plain seeking wealth and opportunity. In those early days people from many remote corners of Africa flocked to the Highveld too, the first of millions to make their way to the great 'city of gold' over its short century or so of history. They formed the nucleus of South Africa's remarkable urban-African communities, which, though burdened by the strictures of apartheid, also became inspirational seedbeds of energetic resilience, ingenuity and, later, vibrant political innovation and leadership.
The Committee has put together a programme of activities that invites delegates to explore when not involved in conference sessions. These activities take a variety of forms, including specially arranged visits to several types of mine (for which numbers are limited), as well as other more conventional style tour excursions. A primary such excursion to consider is the signature city tour that has been especially created for the conference to give an unusual slant on Johannesburg as a destination. This tour, like most of the options we list, takes up half a day and consists of a coach component (taking in some of the lesser known corners and by-ways of the old town centre) combined with a walking tour of Johannesburg's famous Main Street and surrounding areas.
Sites the tour will take in include views of the residual mine dumps that still crowd close around the city; glimpses of Johannesburg's original mining camp streetscape; radical early Johannesburg, Gandhi and the Newtown cultural precinct; the growth of a comfortable and beautiful early 20th century 'garden city', (for whites), with pretty treed suburbs for all; views of some of the grand homes of the city's Edwardian millionaires or 'Randlords'; and a drive past Sandton, the post-apartheid CBD and banking centre, home of the stock exchange, and focus of a hedonistic 21st century pan-African sensibility.
This short half day excursion, which will run twice, sets the scene for exploring further.
Tour and Excursion Schedule – 9th International Mining History Congress Summary of tours on offer:
NOTE: Delegates wanting to book a tour should contact Richard Bailey firstname.lastname@example.org at your soonest as seats are limited.
Bespoke City Tour 'Johannesburg - Golden City' | Self-conducted Walking Excursions from Gold Reef City | Soweto, Pretoria and Wider Gauteng Tours ( half day tours) | Mine Visits | Post-Conference Tours
Bespoke City Tour 'Johannesburg - Golden City'
Our bespoke specially designed conference city tour of Johannesburg entitled 'Johannesburg – Golden City'. This will run twice during the main conference programme, on the following days:
April 17 PM (12h30- 16h30) Half Day Tour – 'Johannesburg - Golden City'
April 20 PM (14h00-18h00) Half Day Tour – (repeat) 'Johannesburg - Golden City'
Practical information: PRICE: R300.00. Please note that bookings will close as follows:
For the tour running on 17 bookings will close on April 15 and for the tour running on 20, bookings and payments will close on April 18. Tours may not run if numbers are insufficient, and payments will be refunded to delegates in this instance. Departures will leave from Gold Reef City Hotel forecourt at times indicated in brackets. Please be at the meeting area ten minutes before departure. Refreshments will be offered on the first tour, since it runs over the lunchtime period. Bottled water will be available on the coach on both tours, as Johannesburg is a dry, high altitude destination where daytime temperatures, even in autumn, can be in the high 20s (C).
Self-conducted Walking Excursions from Gold Reef City
Museum visits that can be done on foot from the hotel
The Gold Reef City hotel venue is extremely convenient for conference attendees as there are two unique and world class visits that can be done independently on foot from the hotel at your discretion in between conference sessions. These are:
A visit to the The Apartheid Museum at Gold Reef City. This internationally acclaimed facility is the entire country's principal museum on the topic of apartheid, and it deals with the topic comprehensively and in detail. Allow a minimum of two hours for this fascinating 'don't miss' excursion. An entrance fee applies and there is an excellent café and bookshop available at the building exit. Practical information: PRICE: R80.00. Like many museums internationally, the Apartheid Museum is closed on Mondays. Its opening hours Tue-Sun are 10.00-17.00.
The second independently accessed tour on the Gold Reef precinct is
A trip underground, also at the theme park itself, to view the tunnels of an original Witwatersrand gold mine. The Gold Reef City theme park and hotel development is located on the site of what was once one of the Witwatersrand's richest gold veins. Although this mine has long been mothballed in terms of active mining, the theme park management has maintained one of the tunnels closer to the surface and fascinating underground tours are run regularly for the public. Practical information: PRICE: R240.00. The Gold Reef City underground tour is offered Wednesday-Sunday inclusive. Advance booking is essential – please call Gold Reef City's own booking line for reservations on 011 248 6896.
The above two excursions can conveniently be done independently, on foot and can be slotted in and around the conference programme to suit individual delegates. The Apartheid Museum, in particular, is a visit that delegates are strongly encouraged to fit in. A visit here will provide a good basis for taking in other aspects of the region's socio-political, economic and geological history as the congress unfolds.
Soweto, Pretoria and Wider Gauteng Tours (half day tours)
Other interesting half day excursions in the wider area of Gauteng Province. The following are all half day tours that will usually run daily. However: delegates must book and pay for these excursions at least on the morning PRIOR to the day they wish to take the tour. For some tours, a shuttle will operate to transport delegates to a central tour departure point.
Soweto, Crucible of Resistance
Soweto tours are a fascinating miscellany of sights, sounds and experiences, mixing the energy of a fast-moving, uniquely South African urban phenomenon with the riveting story of Mandela's political coming of age and the later, searing, story of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, a watershed event in the century-long saga of African resistance. Tours last from 3-4 hours, and include a drive through many varied neighbourhoods of the township, including Vilakazi Street, home to a young Nelson and Winnie Mandela, and other intellectual and political luminaries from the 1940s on. Although most tours of the township are conducted in minibus taxis that hold between 8-10 passengers, new tour options include a great escorted cycling tour which immerses one more fully in the vibrancy of township life.
The Cradle of Humankind
The districts to the north of Johannesburg, parts of which are rich in limestone and dolerite, are famous for their great richness of fossil hominid remains. Recent dating places some of these fossils at almost four million years. Southern Africa's ancient landscapes were home to several species of early human, including Australopithecus africanus, the species to which the famous 'Taung Child' fossil skull, discovered in the 1920s, belongs. The Taung discovery was a landmark event in the history of human origins research, as it was the first signpost that human kind had developed in Africa. The Sterkfontein Cave system, some 45 km outside the city, forms part of a large district that has been dubbed 'The Cradle of Humankind', and which has been designated a World Heritage site. Tours to the site also are of a four hour duration. Participants are given an introduction and background to the caves and their famous fossils on the surface, before the tour moves underground to view the cave system itself. Two of the world's most famous fossil 'personalities', 'Mrs Ples' and more recently (in the late 1990s) 'Little Foot', an entire full body australopithecine have been excavated at Sterkfontein. There is a small but excellent museum at the site, which puts the discoveries in context and presents the science in an intelligible, yet suitably in-depth manner.
Premier Diamond Mine, Cullinan
Before the Witwatersrand gold discovery, South Africa was first famous, in the geological sense, for its great richness of diamonds. Some two hours from Johannesburg may be found one of the world's most significant diamond mines – the Premier Mine, which was the site from which, early in the 20th century, the largest-known raw diamond was excavated. Known as the Cullinan, this extraordinary gem was larger than a man's fist in its raw state. Given by the Transvaal Government to the British royal family as a gift, the story of the cutting of the monster diamond and the fate of the large number of smaller, exquisite gems it yielded makes an absorbing excursion. The mine, which has produced other spectacular large stones since, also offers an opportunity to experience a working diamond mine located in an evocative, largely rural setting reminiscent of the pre-industrial landscape of the old Transvaal. Visitors also can buy diamonds at a small factory here, cut in an exclusive style that is only available at the Cullinan.
Pretoria City Tour
South Africa's post-94 dispensation saw a new configuration of provinces come into being. Johannesburg lies in Gauteng Province, the smallest, and economically richest of the 9 post-apartheid provincial divisions. Gauteng is overwhelmingly urban, and contains Johannesburg, Soweto – and Pretoria, a city, once again, with a completely unique atmosphere and raison d'etre. Established in the 1850s, Pretoria was the capital of the old Transvaal Republic (ZAR), and, in the 20th century, was associated with the enforcement of apartheid laws, as it is the administrative capital of the country. Pretoria today is known for its high number of parks and tertiary study institutions, and consequently its rather collegiate air. It is also home to a large number of fascinating museums, both large and small, including the Voortrekker Monument (entrance to which is included in this tour), Freedom Park (a post-apartheid monument commemorating the country's various conflicts and those who died in them), as well as a number of small social history museums.
Information to follow but we are looking Sishen and Rustenberg mine.
Information to follow but we are looking Barberton and Kimberley.
A word about safety in Johannesburg and South Africa in general
In recent decades Johannesburg has acquired a bad reputation for safety. However, as with any destination, provided visitors adhere to the advice of locals and apply common sense to travel decisions, a safe visit is the norm. Here are our safety tips, which incorporate those disseminated by the government's official tourism departments:
In the Gold Reef City precinct
- The hotel, theme park, casino and funfair precinct which makes up Gold Reef City is very safe and may be explored freely;
- Use the safe in your hotel room for valuables and do not leave cash, jewellery or credit cards lying around;
Exploring Johannesburg – and Gauteng – safely
As with any city, there are districts which are not safe and others which are. Part of the official city tour offered incorporates a walk in the downtown area. The route followed here focuses on safe areas of the old city that are part of the city government's Inner City Improvement zones. Delegates are strongly advised not to walk in other areas of the city that have not yet been incorporated into these urban improvement zones. Effectively this means most of the old downtown Jo'burg area, unless on a guided tour.
One of Johannesburg's biggest problems is its transport infrastructure. The principal mass transit method in use in all SA cities remains the privately run mini-bus taxi system. Although their safety record is much improved in recent years, delegates are still advised to avoid using this system as many vehicles are still not maintained adequately. However, for the purposes of getting to service centres and shopping areas, the hotel shuttle or hotel-sourced metered taxi are both safe and convenient options for getting about locally and short distances. Do not use a taxi that has not been sourced by the Gold Ref City front of house manager, or recommended by a member of staff: Key service centres, shopping and entertainment districts include:
- Rosebank – an attractive low rise shopping and entertainment area with treed open squares, good restaurants and two movie houses including an art house complex
- Melrose Arch – a high-glamour development with upmarket shopping and boutique hotels;
- Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square – in the heart of the new CBD, these two giant shopping and entertainment complexes offer comprehensive leisure options
- Parkhurst – Johannesburg's leafy 'Little Chelsea', this district comprises a central street 'hub' lined with excellent restaurants, cafes, boutiques, antique stores and designer home goods
- 44 Stanley – A successful conversion of an old industrial space, 44 Stanley is a trendy design and retail space near the University of Johannesburg
Credit card safety
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. However, do not let the card out of your sight as the practise of 'skimming' occurs in SA (where a hand held device is used to capture your card's information). Restaurants now all use hand held card processors used at the table. The same advice applies in shops.
Hiring a car
Johannesburg is effectively a late 20th century American-style city in terms of general layout, consisting of a low rise sprawl of suburbs connected by freeways as well as local road systems. Many visitors hire a car, with great success, for a few days since the SA road system is generally excellent (though rush hour traffic can be occasionally heavy). Not only does a car allow one to get around the city with notable convenience, a car is also a great option for exploring the country as a whole. When driving, keep doors locked, and do not leave items visible in the car when you park. Car guards operate all over the country, and a small tip of a few rand is appropriate when you return to vehicle. Hiring a car can be cheaper than using meter taxis if you intend exploring widely.
In 2010, just before the soccer world cup, the country's first modern mass transit system opened with routes operating to and from O R Tambo International Airport. This excellent system now has a number of termini and routes, including to Pretoria. Many people use it instead of an airport shuttle, though Gautrain does not operate after around 8.30 pm. The system opens around 5.30 am. There are many airport shuttle companies that offer convenient transport options to and from the province's two main commercial airports: O R Tambo International (the region's principal air hub, situated to the east of the old CBD), and Lanseria Airport, situated between Pretoria and Johannesburg, to the north. Lanseria is increasingly being used for domestic air travel.
And finally a reminder that there will be staff on hand throughout the conference to assist with all general enquiries delegates may have.
South Africa has many excellent private hospitals in the event of illness. Please ensure you have an adequate travel health insurance policy.
DISCLAIMER: All the advice posted on this website is compiled in good faith and to the best of our ability. No responsibility whatsoever for injury, loss, death, damage or inconvenience arising from the advice and suggestions offered here may be accepted by the author of the content, the conference organisers, the Committee, the universities of the Witwatersrand and University of Johannesburg, nor any related agent thereof. Delegates are strongly advised to take out adequate travel and health insurance before travelling, to cover incidental loss or theft, or costs relating to travel delays etc.
The fine print!
i. Please book and pay for your place on the conference's bespoke tour 'Johannesburg – Golden City'. Choose from tour dates 17 or 20 April –
ii. Remember that if you want to do any of the other half day Johannesburg and environs tours to communicate with the Tour Desk timeously;
iii. For all half day tours please use the number assigned to each option when booking;
iv. Watch the website for information about visits to the working mines that are being arranged;
v. With regard to post conference tours – again, watch the website for more information.
vi. Prices are indications only. Tours that are cancelled due to circumstances outside the operators' control will be refunded in full;
We wish you a safe trip and we hope you enjoy your stay!
Early bird registration closes:
15 December 2011
Submission of abstracts deadline:
30 November 2011
Standard Registration closes:
15 February 2012
Submission of full text papers deadline:
31 March 2012
31 March 2012