Remarkable People

ID #5194

Hans Merensky. Geologist, Prospector, Scientist and Conservationist, South Africa.

Hans Merensky was born in 1871 at Botshabelo -- his father’s mission station near Middelburg in Mpumalanga. He is South Africa’s most famous geologist, a great humanitarian and a devotee of nature, forestation and agriculture. He unearthed some of the greatest mineral deposits known. These include the richest deposit of alluvial gem diamonds at Alexander Bay, platinum and chrome reefs at Lydenburg, Rustenburg and Potgietersrus, some of the greatest platinum mines in the world and an immense vermiculite, phosphate and copper deposit at Phalaborwa in the Lowveld, gold in the Free State and the world’s biggest chrome deposit at Jagdlust, 80-km south-east of Polokwane (Pietersburg).

He studied mining geology when he finished school in Germany and fulfilled the requirements of a doctorate in mining geology from the University of Charlottenburg in Berlin. After returning to South Africa, he made a fortune on the stock exchange. He was interned during WW1 and, penniless, had to start all over again. In 1924, while in his fifties and heavily in debt, he discovered platinum in the Lydenburg district, after which he never looked back.

He lived out his days in Top House on his farm Westfalia where he entertained local and foreign dignitaries with charm and hospitality.

In his will, he appointed trustees to ensure that his life’s work would continue. Most assets were allocated to the Hans Merensky Trust to continue work in agriculture, horticulture and forestry on Westfalia.  However South Africans and, in particular, employees of the trust had to benefit from its activities.

In a speech delivered at the opening of the Hans Merensky Library which he donated to the University of Pretoria, he acknowledged his debt to South Africa: “This country has given me so much that I am only too happy to be allowed to help it develop and to be able to give back to it a fraction of what it has given to me...” RSAHM

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Last update: 2014-05-14 16:52
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.7

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