South Africa became a signatory to the international World Heritage Convention in 1997
In terms thereof it has the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage sites of universal value to mankind, on its territory. World Heritage status is the highest form of protection in the world that can be awarded to a site.
The United Nations Education and Science Commission ( UNESCO ) is responsible to oversee that effective and active measures are taken for the protection, conservation and presentation of World Heritage Sites by member states.
It has the power to inscribe and delist World Heritage Sites.
The criteria for the declaration of a World Heritage Site is that it must be of outstanding universal value to mankind, and that the state of whose territory it falls must be able to insure that it is properly protected, conserved and managed. The proses of declaring the Vredefort Dome a World Heritage Site took 5 years.
Oldest & Largest
In July 2005 the Vredefort Dome, being the world’s oldest ( 2023 million years ), largest ( 350 km diameter ) and most deeply eroded complex meteorite impact structure, was inscribed by UNESCO and South Africa’s seventh World Heritage Site.
It is the only example on earth providing a full geological profile of a astrobleme below the crater floor, thereby enabling research into the genesis and development of an astrobleme immediately post impact.
This declaration of the Vredefort Dome as a World Heritage Site put it on par with sites in South Africa like Robben Island, Cradle of Humankind, Mapungubwe, st Lucia Wetlands Park and international sites like the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef, the old city of Timbakry and others.
Approximately 60% of the site falls in the North West Province ( all of it within the municipal area of Potchefstroom ) and 40% in the Free State Province