The inter-war period

Ore hoisting recommenced in 1919, but it was only in November 1920 that OMEG’s mining rights were fully reinstated.  A new shaft was collared in 1922, at first called Number One shaft, but later renamed Friederich Wilhelm Shaft, to honour mine manager F.W.Kegel.  This shaft had reached just below 8 Level in 1925. 

Freiderich Wilhelm Shaft?

Underground water cavity, 1924, Image credit, Digital Namibia Archive

It was on 8 Level, in December 1929, that visiting Philadelphia Academy mineralogist, Sam Gordon, had the good fortune to discover one of Tsumeb’s most famous azurite pockets, the contents of which he shared, reluctantly, with the mine manager, Herr Kegel (White, 1977).

Underground in Tsumeb Mine, Image credit, Digital Namibia Archive

By 1931, the Friederich Wilhelm Shaft was down to 16 Level, but then the Great Depression began to take a toll on operations.  Initially, deeper mining was suspended in order to reduce costs, but low metal prices forced the mine to close from August 1932.  By 1937, prices had recovered sufficiently to justify the dewatering of the mine, and normal production was resumed in 1938.  Extensive development followed; deepening of the shaft from 16 Level resumed from January 1939, and a winze to 24 Level was begun, but had only reached 22 Level when operations were again suspended.  The deepest production faces at this time were on 20 Level.

In September 1940, a year after the outbreak of WWII, the assets of OMEG were seized by the Custodian of Enemy Property for the Union of South Africa. Many of OMEG’s European (German) employees were removed to internment camps in South Africa, and Tsumeb remained under military occupation until February 1944.   Initially, following the seizure of OMEG assets, substantial shipments of ore were made from surface stockpiles, but then operations ceased completely, until 1946.