The Gold Rush in Aruba
From being called a Useless Island to producing more than 3 million pounds of gold
Nowadays, tourism is our island’s major source of income, however before efforts were directed to this industry in the 1940s, our island had other sources of income.
Aruba had been called an “Isla inútil” meaning Useless Island, by Spanish explorers in 1499, when they visited our island in search for gold and could not find any. The Head Office of the Dutch West India Company also tried to find gold by instructing that a research be performed on Aruban soil, however they only found a minimal amount of gold, and discontinued their efforts.
And then, on a particular day in 1824, a 12-year-old boy named Willem Rasmijn was casually crossing the dry riverbed of Rooi Fluit in Santa Cruz with the sheep of his father, when his eyes spotted a shining stone. He took the stone to his father, who then verified it was gold, and proceeded to sell it. Word got out that there was gold, and suddenly there was a gold rush. Everyone went looking for gold in the dirt of dry riverbeds and could sell it to the government for a fixed price. In 1832, hardly any gold was found anymore in that area.
In 1854, a significant new source of gold was discovered, and the decision was taken by the government to regulate the mining of gold that same year, and the first company that was granted the right to dig for gold was Concession De Jongh of The Hague. In 1867, the London-based Aruba Island Gold Mining Company, Ltd took over. This company built the Gold Mill at Bushiribana on the Northcoast and processed ores that came mainly from Seroe Plat and the Kristalberg. To this day, the historic remnants of this fixture are present, adorning the rugged Northern shore and explored every day by admiring visitors touring our island.
This Aruba Island Gold Mining Company, Ltd stopped its operations in 1899, and another company took over, named Aruba Gold Concessions, Ltd. who built the gold mill at Balashi and mines were struck all over Aruba, among them one at Miralamar. To this day, the remnants of the Balashi Gold Mill are visible atop the Spanish Lagoon near the narrow canyon of rocks known as Frenchman’s Pass. There are also remains of gold mines at Miralamar, within our Arikok National Park.
The Aruba Gold Concessions ceased its operations in 1908. A local company named Aruba Goud Maatschappij took over. Initially, the results were pretty good and the Goudmaatschappij was the principal source of income for the island, but then World War I started. During World War I, it was impossible to buy dynamite and the raw materials needed to purify the ores, so the operations of the company stopped. After the war, they found that the machineries of the Balashi Gold Mill could not be used anymore, because they were not maintained or used for years. It was at that point that the gold mining ended on Aruba in 1916.
More than 3 million pounds of gold was extracted in Aruba during all those years, and the most important places where gold was found were the areas near the Gold Mill, Kadushi, Matividiri, Sero Cristal, Wariruri, and Babijn.