The Free State is one of the nine provinces of South Africa.

Area: 129,480 Km2 (10.6% of South Africa)
Population at 2001 census: 2,706,776 (6.0% of South Africa). The Free State is the second least populous province.
Population density: 20.90 people per Km2. The Free State is the second-least densely populated province.
Proportion of national GDP (2001): 5.5%
Per capita GDP (2001): R15 196
Capital: Bloemfontein
Languages: Sesotho, Afrikaans
Borders with provinces: Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, North-west province, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal
Borders with countries: Lesotho.

The Free State is one of the five landlocked provinces.
The Free State was not affected by the split from four to nine provinces in 1994, but in 1995 the name was changed from Orange Free State to Free State.

The centrally located Free State lies between the Vaal river and Orange river. It was originally the Boer Republic of the Oranje-VryStaat (Orange Free State), then was incorporated as one of the four provinces of the Union of South African in 1910.

The Free state has summer rainfall, and can be very cold (-9 degrees C) during winter. The Free State is fairly arid in the west and southern areas, which form part of the Karoo semi-desert. The population density is therefore low. Some low-density sheep farming takes place in the Karoo. In the east and north crops are grown and and livestock raised. Much of the province is "rolling prairie", and windmills that pump up groundwater are a common sight. The road network is well-developed, since the roads from Gauteng to the Western Cape and Eastern Cape pass though here.

Mining is the biggest industry, with South Africa's goldfields stretching across the Free state and Gauteng. South Africa is the world's largest producer of gold. From these mines also come silver and uranium. Other mines produce Coal and diamonds.

Some ancient San rock are is found in the Free State. Tourists may be interested in the Eastern Highlands, with the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The traditionally decorated Sotho houses are also worth a look.

Important towns are Bloemfontein, the capital and seat of South Africa's supreme court. Welkom, heart of the province's gold mining industry. Sasolburg, built for the Sasol petrol-from-coal plant. The chemicals derived from coal form an important industry here. Kroonstad is an agricultural center. Parys is ... you can see I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Not much happens in the sticks.

The nine provinces of South Africa are Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Gauteng, North-West Province, Mpumalanga, Limpopo

Sources:
http://www.saweb.co.za/provs.html
http://www.statoids.com/uza.html
http://www.southafrica-newyork.net/consulate/provinces.htm
http://www.sairr.org.za/members/pub/ff/200309/provinces

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