C Marshall Fabrication Machinery, Inc.

African Gold

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Illegal gold miners in Africa

Last week I told you about the shipwreck that they’ve discovered just a short walk from where I live. Although I don’t have too many complaints about staying on a beach on a Caribbean island, this is about to change. Africa, here I come.

My husband is already in Africa. He’s actually working on establishing a gold mine there. No one seems to believe this when I tell them, but that’s OK since the last thing I want to do is invite more competition. The place where he is has a lot of illegal mining activity. He went into the jungle recently and took some pictures of the miners.

Their current rate of progress is pretty dire: they work extremely hard to extract a pretty measly amount of gold per day (although in their country’s economy, it’s probably well worth the effort). However, their technology is so primitive that their most advanced (and pretty much only) piece of equipment is a shovel.

What they do is this: they go into the jungle and start digging. They dig holes into the ground as deep as 3 meters. While one person digs, the other person starts filtering the mud using water and basically a blanket. That’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s the same technique that the ancient Egyptians and other civilizations from thousands of years ago used. In fact, it’s the same technique that gave rise to the “Golden Fleece” of ancient legend.

They don’t cover up the holes once they’ve dug them. Then the rains come, and what looks like a puddle on the surface is actually a 9 foot-deep hole. It can literally be fatal to take a walk through the jungle for this reason.

The tribal chief, who owns the land, is not happy that the illegal miners are taking gold off his land without giving him a cut. This is why he is only too happy to welcome a few Westerners into his neighborhood who are willing to give him a percentage of what they extract from his land. This said, it’s not uncommon to have 3 different people approach you to inform you that they are the tribal chief and in charge of the land. In any case, it is also important to maintain extremely friendly relations with the illegal miners so that your high-tech equipment (and by “high tech”, I mean anything more advanced than a shovel) doesn’t “accidentally” break overnight when it is left on the premises.

It’s not quite as structured or regulated as doing business in the US, and it’s a tad more risky than working at a 7-11, but then again, it’s also a bit more interesting. For example, I just found out yesterday that in the particular area where my husband is doing business, there is no such thing as a legitimate business transaction if the mother of the businessman is not in attendance. In other words, if you think you just struck a deal with one of the locals, if his mom was not physically present in the room, it was an illegal transaction.

In the meantime, however, I’m still holding out for the (albeit remote) possibility of finding a gold bar right here where I am, in one of the most beautiful places in the world, washed up on my beach from the shipwreck. Wouldn’t that just be peachy.

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C Marshall Fabrication Machinery, Inc.