This woman transformed a site of destruction into a symbol of hope
Beauty can be born out of destruction. For over 60 years, a dolerite mine blasted a once picturesque part of Hilton, deep in the KwaZulu-Natal hills. The continuous decimation altered the area’s natural beauty, leaving broken ground in its place. But the indigenous environment was not lost forever. Today, Sarah Collins is transforming the mine, which has been in her family since 1939. The Hilton Quarry has become not only an icon of the town, but a symbol of hope and renewal.
Collins grew up in the original quarry buildings. One of her most distinct memories is the sound of a blaring siren, a warning to residents to steer clear of impending blasts. When mining operations closed down, the quarry turned into Collins’ playground. “It became a place of swimming, picnics, and loads of fun,” she says. The old mine has undergone significant change over the decades. In 1992, her family chose to give the quarry a new life, allowing indigenous fauna and flora to take over and flourish. “Nature has an extraordinary way of growing past human interference,” Collins says. The once frequent noise of explosions has since been replaced by the chirps of birds.
The quarry is a Hilton landmark, a short drive from Midmar Nature Reserve. It’s closed off to the public, allowing its natural state to thrive. But from a safe distance, visitors and locals alike can admire its depths and appreciate the change. “I’m extremely proud to be part of the development and protection of an area so deeply entrenched in my heart,” Collins says. “What was once considered a scar is now a place of beauty.” The quarry demonstrates that some of South Africa’s most enchanting places are also the most unexpected.