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Location: Eastern Transvaal (View location on map)
Minerals Worked: Coal
Principal Mines: Middleburg Colliery.
The history and development of coal mining in and around Middleburg is closely associated with that of its neighbour, Witbank, which is located within the same coalfield. By 1898 coal mining in the area was already well established thanks to an insatiable demand for coal from the Transvaal's gold mines. Today the collieries of Middleburg are still thriving and the area has the distinction to being home to the world's largest opencast strip mine.
One notable Englishman who had a brief association with Middleburg's was the famous miners' union leader and socialist Peter Lee (left) of County Durham.
In 1895 Peter, having already spent time in both the British and American mining industries travelled to South Africa. He was unable to obtain work in the Rand gold mines but subsequently found employment at the Vaalbank Colliery, Middleburg. At £1 per day the mine offered him a source of well-paid, regular and permanent employment. He did so well at the pit that his brother John joined him eight months later. Peter enjoyed his time in South Africa and he felt the time had come to make a major decision in the future of his career. Either he had to make arrangements for his family to join him in Middleburg or he had to return to England. In 1897, at the age of 33, Peter decided to return to his native County Durham having been invited to become the Checkweighman at Wheatley Hill Colliery. He made his decision principally based on the disturbances and Anglo-Boer political situation in South Africa at this time. Once back in Wheatley Hill Peter quickly became Chairman of the Parish Council, Rural District Council and the local Co-operative Society and also became a well known local preacher. He went on to become elected as Chairman of Durham County Water Board and a member (1909) and later Chairman (1919) of Durham County Council. Throughout his career Peter maintained his links with the mining industry ultimately becoming agent of the Durham Miners’ Association and later General Secretary and then President of the Mining Federation of Great Britain.
The webmaster currently knows of only one mining related postcard view from this area.
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1) For further information and enlarged views of each postcard click on any one of the above images.
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