Real vs reel: 10 facts about Kolar Gold Fields

Photo via Flickr. THE KOLAR GOLD-FIELDS in the Middle Ages, where men are crawling about like busy ants in the pursuit of their various occupations. Lighting our candles, and leaving coats and waistcoats at the shaft, we proceed on our eerie promenade through this nether world. Our way lies toward a certain rock face half a mile distant, where a rich line of quartz has recently been struck.

Hysteria reached an all-time high on Friday as the much-awaited Sandalwood magnum opus, KGF released much to the delight of enthralled Kannada film fans who had been eagerly awaiting the Yash starrer thriller.  

To bridge the distance between fact and fiction, DH mines our archives and brings to you ten facts about Kolar gold fields that you may not know.

  • The Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), situated 100 kms from Bangalore, is the second deepest mine in the world and has mined gold for over 121 years.
  • The Britishers fondly called Kolar Gold Fields “Mini England”. In 1903, the British government constructed a lake in Bethamangala to supply water to KGF and surrounding townships. Arrangements were made for filtered water to be supplied to the mines through huge pipelines from the Government Water Works at Bethamangala, five miles away from KGF and the underground water source of the Pala River. Soon Bethamangala became a popular sailing and picnic spot for the British population in KGF.
  • After Japan, KGF became the second city to be electrified in Asia.
  • To speed up gold production in a less hazardous manner, the Kolar Gold Fields were provided with electricity generated at the hydro-electric station, the first one in Asia, at the Shivanasamudra, about 131 kilometres away.
  • In June 1902, electricity was supplied for the mining operations at KGF, from India's first and oldest power generation plant which was called the 'Kaveri Electric Power Plant' from Shivanasamudra.
  • The capacity was increased in 1903, following which the plant was generating excess than what was required at Kolar. And so, a plan was conceived for providing electric lighting in Bengaluru. On August 3, 1905, Namma Bengaluru’s first electric lights were switched on! Within a few years, many parts of the city were electrified.
  • In the 1960s, a laboratory had been set up at a depth of 8,000 feet in the gold mines for experiments on the life of protons after an article by Homi Jahangir Bhabha at an international seminar in Mumbai in December 1950.
  • Research on cosmic rays was conducted at KGF and Pakistan’s only Nobel prize-winning scientist, Absuth Sallam had also visited the laboratory. Experiments were staged to discover whether iron rods weighing 8,000 tonnes would melt when radiation passed through them. ​The experiment were declared a failure five or six years later.  
  • Fears of nuclear fuel waste being dumped in the mines of Kolar Gold Fields dominated in the 1980s.
  • Inhabitants of present-day KGF have several issues such as slums, open drains, lack of public toilets, electricity issues and environmental pollution due to past mining operations and scientific experiments. A lot of mine workers are now engaged in odd jobs, waiting for another gold rush.

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