Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) - The Forgotten golden era of India | George Thengummoottil`s blog

Known as the little England, the little mining town which produced sizable amount of gold: about 50 Kms, east of Bangalore, the pride of The Erstwhile Mysore state, and India.

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George Thengummoottil, a double post graduate in Computer Science and Mass Communicationm blogs on Technology, Travel, Lifestyle and Philosophy

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Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) - The Forgotten golden era of India


Known as the little England, the little mining town which produced sizable amount of gold: about 50 Kms, east of Bangalore, the pride of The Erstwhile Mysore state, and India. 08-Feb-2009


BOOKS ON KGF


 Kolar Gold Fields: Down Memory Lane
Bridget White
Author House Uk Ltd (2010)

Colour of Gold / Gita Aravamudan
HarperCollins Publisher (2013)

   

The Beginnings

Gold was first mined in the area around Kolar in the 2nd and 3rd century AD by the digging of small pits. During the Chola period in the 9th and 10th century AD the scale of the operation grew, but large-scale mining only came in the 1850s under the British with more manpower and sophisticated machinery. In that year 1873 Mr. M.F. Lavelle, a resident in Bangalore, retired from the army, with some knowledge of geology, applied to the Government for the exclusive privilege of mining in the Kolar District, his thoughts being principally directed to the possibility of finding coal. His request was granted on certain terms. On these conditions, Mr. Lavelle commenced operations by sinking a shaft in 1875, near Oorgaum. But finding that large capital would be required for carrying out the work, he next year, with the approval of Government, transferred all his rights and concessions to Colonel Beresford. This officer, with some friends among racing men, formed a syndicate known as the Kolar Concessionaires, who took up the matter in earnest.

The remains

The remains after extracting gold piled up to form a barren hill near the mines. At some places, the stones are loose and there is a high chance of losing grips while climbing. The hill is about 30 meters high and  can be seen to the north from the Robertsonpet town. From the top of the hill you can see a good view of the town and the mines far away. The hill was mostly made up of some soft stone, probably hardened due to the heavy pressure of the soil on top, there were many interesting patterns on the rocks.

 

The Hill was strong enough. No trees or plants were growing on the hills. At a few sides, the stones are loose and there is a high chance of loosing grips while climbing. The hill was about 30 meters high.  The hill can be seen to the north from the Robertsonpet town. From the top of the hill you can see a good view of the town and the mines far away. The hill was mostly made up of some soft stone, probably hardened due to the heavy pressure of the soil on top, there were many interesting patterns on the rocks.

The reduction of gold deposits and Increase in the cost of production forced the KGF to be closed by 2003. Now all the remains are left as ruins. Instruments and machines worth millions are just left to the dance of wind and rains. There are a few military officers to guard it, they can keep the monument away from the forces of nature. It is believed that an earthquake which occurred nearby is due to the presence of this mine.

The Setup

By 1881 the Concessionaires had secured the valuable aid of Messrs. John Taylor & Sons, a firm of mining Engineers in London. A general rush was then made for gold. Up to 1891, about ninety seven square miles in all had been leased out for gold mining, the land being situated in every district except Bangalore. In what was a desolate waste, a large flourishing town has sprung up, provided with most of the conveniences and institutions of European life. A branch railway on the standard gauge, 10 miles in length, was opened in 1893, running from the Bowringpet (Bangarpet :Bangalore – Jolarpet  Route ) junction to the Bangalore line through most of the principal mining properties, and has proved an immense convenience and success.

The principal commodity carried by it was coal, timber and machinery. The population rose from 7085 in 1891 to 37964 in 1901!!
Mines in the Gold Fields during 1905

  •    The Mysore Gold Mine
  •     Champion Reef Mine
  •     Ooregum Mine
  •     Nundydroog Mine
  •     Tank Block Mine
  •     Balaghat Mine
  •     Gold Fields of Mysore
  •     Coromandel Mine
  •     Oriental Mine
  •     Nine Reefs Mine
  •     Road Block Mine
  •     Mysore Reefs Gold Mines Coy

The Mining and Improvements

The Golden Carpets were 4 miles (6 km) long with an average width of 4 miles, were first worked by a British company, John Taylor and Sons, in 1880. Within three years, four main veins (Champion, Oorgaum, Nundydorog, and Mysore) were opened. Champion, the deepest, reached some 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) below sea level.

Until the year 1902 all the machinery in the Mines was worked by steam power, but in August 1902 the completion of the Cauvery Power Works, brought about a complete revolution in the working of most of the Mines on the Fields, whereby 4000 H.P. of electric energy is transmitted to the Gold Fields from the Cauvery Falls Power Station received at an elaborate Transformer House centrally situated and distributed to the various mines in quantities contracted for and by the means of this electric power the majority of the mines work their milling and stamping machinery.

Kolar Gold Fields was the first city in Asia to get Electricity from Shivanasamudra( A waterfall near Kanakapura, Bangalore) in Mysore. People from as far as Kolar could see the lights of this once prosperous city. KGF was known as "Little England " by the British, due to its more temperate Weather and a landscape more similar to Britain`s. It also had a sizable Anglo-Indian Population who worked in the various mines in different capacities.. Silicosis, a form of pneumoconiosis caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust, was first identified in KGF. National Institute of Miners Health had its headquarters in KGF Mr.K.H.Muniyappa union minister has been successful in reopening this closed mines and giving life to the almost dead city. It is told that it was his election promise.

The Kolar Gold Field water Supply Scheme was completed in 1901-1902. The water was drawn from the Bettamangala and Ramasagram tanks. Rotertsonpet (The mines are located near this town) suburb was established around 1901, and the name was given by the then H.H. the Maharaja in commemoration of the memory of Sir Donald Robertson, KCSI, late Resident in Mysore, on 15th August 1903. In the same year Kolar Gold Fields established a Corps known as the Kolar Gold Fields Volunteers, and earlier part of the Bangalore Rifle Volunteers.

The Corps had its Head Quarters in Oorgaum, and there was a Kolar Gold Field Club and Kolar Gold Fields Library in a building called Oorgaum Hall. In 1905, S.M. Pritchard was the Clubs Hon. Secy, H.H. Osborn was the H. Treasurer, with R.R. Rodda. G.H. Burnell (Secy & Librarian), and Committee members were P. Bosworth-Smith, H.M.A. Cooke and  Rev. L.G. Pollard.

Kolar city was one the most prosperous city in India. A few of the schools that existed then were Kolar Gold Field School, Nundydoog Mines (1901), St. Joseph`s Convent Girl`s School (Order of St. Joseph of Tarbes), Champion Reef, St. Thomas School. One of the bigger public institutions was The Kolar Gold Field Gymkhana Club, which hosted a Polo, Golf and Hockey team.

The people of Kolar were very happy and it was a self sufficient city with cheerful people and talkative children. KGF played a major part in the prosperity of the British Empire. A collaboration of Particle physics from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, Osaka City University, Japan and Durham University, UK recorded the first Cosmic ray Neutrino interaction in an underground laboratory in KGF mines in 1965. 6KGF also has the distinction of having a Golf course started by the Britisher`s dating back to 1885 and affiliated to Indian Golf Union.

The Decline

As the years rolled by, and the gold reserves diminished, coupled with the freedom struggle, the Expatriates began to leave the mines, though the British, who owned the mines still, held on to key positions. Anglo-Indians were the next favored kind and they took over many Administrative & , Managerial posts. Meanwhile the school of mines which was then started began to produce some good Indian Miners & Engineers, who were soon absorbed into Managerial levels on the mines.

By this time the Central Government took over the Mines from the British and later handed over the Mines to the State Government. Gold reserves dwindled and the once prosperous Gold Mine showed signs of decline. Emigration was now in the air and the Anglo-Indians were leaving India to greener pastures in large numbers. Some went to U.K., some to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and to other European countries. Many skilled personals left to the Gold Mines in Ghana, West Africa.

By this time the Central Government took over the Mines from the British and later handed over the Mines to the State Government. Gold reserves dwindled and the once prosperous Gold Mine showed signs of decline. Emigration was now in the air and the Anglo-Indians were leaving India to greener pastures in large numbers. Some went to U.K., some to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and to other European countries. Many skilled personals left to the Gold Mines in Ghana, West Africa.

Although the annual production in some years was more than 95 percent of India’s gold output, the mines declined and were nationalized in 1956 to prevent closure. The mines finally closed in 2001 despite the protests of the miners and others who depended on the mines for their livelihoods. Many people left the mining town and moved to the nearby cities of Bangalore and Kolar.

Talking of Kolar Gold Fields brings back old memories of the social life there, in those days. With four or five Clubs with facilities for Tennis, Billiards & Snooker (skittles on Sundays) and even a separate Golf Club, life was something very different. The frequent Dances and social functions were something to be witnessed to believe. During December, the whole place will be humming with activity. Dances, Christmas Trees, Gifts for children in all these Clubs, were the highlights of this festive season. Many from Bangalore would also come to these Dances at Kolar Gold Fields.

Well Kolar Gold Fields is no longer the same, economically and socially. The posh Bungalows have been divided and sub-divided to accommodate more familes. The glass panes in the windows have been replaced by plywood when broken and the walls have not seen paint for quiet awhile.

The then renowned KGF Club, which once was out of bounds for the Indians, is failing to bits the brass door handles, knobs and hinges have all gone. The highly polished floorboards have not seen wax for a few decades. The sterling silver cutlery which was specially ordered fcom `the U. K for the Club`s Restaurant with the emblem of the Club on it has all disappeared. There is not even cold beer on summers Sunday morning to quench ones thirst.

How to reach Kolar Gold Fields

The KGF is very easily accessible from Bangalore. It is well connected by both Rail and Road. Rail / Train:  Get a train which goes to Bangarpet, from Banaglore there are many trains along this route (Most of the trains going to Chennai and Kerala will pass Bangarpet). From Bangarpet you have to move to Oorgaum, but there are no trains frequently (1 per hour roughly to carry people of Kolar to Bangalore for work) along this route, so it will be ideal to get a bus to KGF from Bangarpet, there is one at least every minute (I saw many many buses). You can get down at Robrtsonpet (Which is the Last stop) and from here, you can make a walk to see the Golden hills and the mines (Just 2 kilometer walk), The Countryside is very beautiful and is good the make a walk Bus:  Buses are available from Majestic (Bangalore)  to KGF, There are buses to Kolar, but please note that the buses which goes to Kolar will not Go to KGF (the Kolar town is about 20 Kilometers away from KGF). Once you reach Robrtsonpet, you are on your own; you can get an auto or make a walk to the


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  • George Joseph (george@peermade.info)Thanks To

 





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