Johannes Rissik was given the task in 1888 of surveying the jumble of mountains in the area where the Olifants River shoulders its way through the Drakensburg. On the south bank of the river he surveyed a number of farms, among them Penge and Streatham, named by him after two London suburbs.
The farms were in rugged country, with summer temperatures of more than 40 'C.
Prospectors made their way into the area and found a strange type of asbestos, quite different from any other known kind. This asbestos had exceptionally long, springy fibres. It had an obvious value for insulation as it was resistant to heat, acid and salt water corrosion but manufacturers were suspicious of it. The deposit was so isolataed and possibly restricted in quantity that to adapt existing manufacturing processes in order to exploit it seemed to require financial risk.
Prospectors persisted in exploring the area however and in 1907 the geologists A. L. Hall and J. H. B. Wayne travelled there to investigate the extent of the deposit. It proved to be vast. To work it, Asbestos Mines of South Africa was formed and the asbestos variety became known as amosite, from the initials of the company. This material is now used all over the world for the lining of ships' boilers and many other insulation purposes.
Penge remains the only mine in the world producing amosite, but it is a large scale operation with tremendous reserves and an output of more than 50 000 tons a year. Connected to the outside world by a tarmac road, the mine is unexpected in such a wild setting.
A small town houses the workers and every possible comfort and sporting facility is provided. The mine is managaed today by a company called EGNEP - Penge, spelt backwards.