cddstamps on stamps

my thoughts on stamps, stamp collecting, philately in general and maybe a few other topics !

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Hello, here is a stamp that I found interesting. When you see a stamp what do you see? I see history and hopefully interesting history. Certainly not always just value for being an old stamp. This was issued in 1956, nearly 64 years ago yet it still has a catalogue value of just 10 pence (GBP) Anyway, that be as it may. The history is more interesting It shows the Havelock asbestos mine in Swaziland. The following from a 2015 article in Mining Weekly. All acknowledgement to them for the text. I hope you enjoy reading this and when you next see a stamp you think about what it is representing.

Putting the controversy of living in the shadow of asbestos mine dumps aside, the Havelock mine has quite an interesting history that dates back to the heady gold rush days of the 1880s.

The legendary gold discoveries of 1884, which resulted in the opening of the famous Sheba mine and the establishment of Barberton, ignited an intense wave of prospecting fever that compelled hundreds of fortune seekers to scour the mountains and valleys for miles around for a lucky strike. Owing to the mineral-rich nature of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, gold was discovered in many locations along the extent of the mountain range. One place, in particular, where gold was discovered was a concession of land known as the Havelock concession, in the north-eastern boundary of the newly declared independent State of Swaziland.

While the auriferous reefs did not prove payable in the end and the mining venture proved futile, it was while erecting the processing plant for the Nottingham Peak mine, in 1897, that long mineral fibres, which were identified as chrysotile or white asbestos, were first discovered. However, as there was only a small market for asbestos worldwide at the time and the deposit was in a very remote location, the discovery was largely ignored.

While the deposit was ‘rediscovered’ and marketed by two colonial settlers just before the First World War, the timing was still not right, especially as the industrial use of asbestos had not quite taken off yet. It would only be during the war and, more specifically, the industrial and consumer boom of the ‘Roaring Twenties’, that demand for asbestos would rise exponentially. It was during this period that asbestos began to be used in a wide array of applications – from motor vehicle brake pads to roofing insulation and prefabricated building panels.

In the midst of this asbestos boom, British company Turner & Newall investigated and realised the exceptional richness of the Havelock deposit and began buying out the various claims and concessions. Founded in 1871, Turner & Newall was, for more than a century, the world’s largest asbestos mining company and was, for a time, listed on the London Financial Times FT 30 stock exchange index.

By 1929, the entire area had been bought for £125 000 and the task of serious prospecting got under way. However, just as exploration began, Wall Street crashed – on October 29 – plunging the world economy into the depths of depression. It took years for the asbestos market to recover. It was only in 1937 that mining the Havelock deposit could start in earnest. But such was the rich and extensive nature of the deposit that the mine soon became one of the five largest asbestos mines in the world, producing an average of 30 000 t/y of chrysotile between 1939 and 1998.

Given the remote and mountainous region in which the deposit was situated, logistics proved the single biggest challenge to overcome. This was solved by the construction of a 20.36-km-long cocopan-fitted aerial cableway, which carried asbestos to the Barberton railway station and returned with coal to feed the mine’s power station. With loads of up to 200 kg for each cocopan and moving at a speed of 11 km/h, the cableway had a capacity of 13.5 t/h and was an impressive feat of engineering for its day.

While, by the 1980s, the Havelock mine was still a leading producer, Turner & Newall began to face massive compensation claims as the effects of asbestos exposure became more apparent. Such was the deluge of lawsuits that the company began to fold in the early 1990s. In the midst of this, the company began to sell off its operations and in 1991 local firm HVL Asbestos Swaziland bought the mine. However, such was the drastic decline in the asbestos market that, after only ten years in operation, the company became insolvent and the mine was forced to close

Enjoy your stamps. Michael


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