Okiep, Northern Cape
Did you know?
Okiep got its name from the Nama word U-gieb, meaning 'the great, brackish spring'.
Modern-day overlanders could be forgiven for passing the tiny village of Okiep in the Northern Cape (also known locally as O’Okiep) and missing it completely.
However, just over 100 years ago, Okiep was the centre of the richest copper mining area in the world. Over a period of about 60 years, the Cape Copper Company extracted copper worth more than £6-million from mines around Okiep and its sister villages, Springbok, Concordia and Nababeep.
Copper miners from Cornwall in the United Kingdom streamed into this part of Namaqualand at the time and suddenly local social life took on a decidedly British flavour. The Cornishmen and their families arrived at Port Nolloth, were offloaded via a giant swinging basket and transported on a narrow-gauge railway to Okiep. The same little rail link carried the mined copper to ships waiting at the rather treacherous Port Nolloth harbour.
Okiep also hit world headlines during the last months of the South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War) back in April 1902. General Jan Smuts and his flying commando of about 400 mounted Boers laid siege to the copper towns of Namaqualand, and Okiep became the focal point of British resistance.
Colonel WS Shelton, commanding the British garrison, had fortified the settlement with 13 blockhouses.
In anticipation of a protracted campaign, the British issued local siege notes, to be used as legal tender until relief came. Even though the garrison only had enough provisions for 3 weeks, Shelton refused to surrender to Smuts.
The Boer plan, historians claim, was to divert British forces from Cape Town and leave the Mother City vulnerable to attack from Boer commandos. However, before this came about, Smuts was called from Okiep to Pretoria to co-sign the Treaty of Vereeniging in June 1902, which brought the South African War to an end.
Okiep went back to its copper mining for nearly 2 decades until all operations ceased in 1919.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Okiep Country Hotel (Tourism Info):
Tel: +27 (0)27 744 1000/+27 (0)82 569 7158
Cell: +27 (0)82 335 1399/+27 (0)83 928 3571
Richtersveld Tour Guide:
Conrad Mouton: Tel: +27 (0)73 651 8833