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Reno Chris

Into Africa

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I'm about to head out for what will hopefully be a very unique adventure to the gold fields of Western Africa. I will be there for a little less than two weeks.

This is not a perfectly safe location to travel in (unlike my visit to Australia a few years ago). Tropical diseases are common, and access to food, fuel and other necessary goods is quite limited once you leave the big cities. Desperate people who are willing to rob, steal or even threaten your life are far more common than I would like. Millions of people in this part of the world make a meager living digging, crushing and panning gold ores by hand, extracting a few dollars worth of precious yellow each day. While it is a brutal life, small scale gold mining is an important alternative to extreme poverty and starvation. Average incomes in a number of these nations is less than $400 per year. Some countries here are a lot more stable than others, and while some welcome outsiders, some do not. However, where the governments are willing to work with the mining companies to the benefit of all, big mining companies are making important new discoveries. Modern geologic exploration techniques are making a real difference in this remote part of the world.

I wont be filming some bogus reality TV series (or any TV of any type), though I am taking my camera.

I wont be heading out on my own, but will be a part of a larger group. This is not a good place for tourists.
Many of the countries in this part of the world speak French as their legal language, so I am brushing up on that old Francais I took in High School!
Prospecting on my own behalf to find gold for myself will not be the main objective on this trip.

 

I cant say too much more than that at this time, readers of the ICMJ Prospecting and Mining Journal will see some more detailed articles on this adventure, so stay tuned.

If I have internet access I will try to post a few updates during the trip.

This is like nothing I have ever done before.

May the Lord keep a steady watch over me while I am away.

 

Wish me luck, gents, and that I will return in good health with lots of stories to tell.

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Guest Bob(AK)

Have fun, be careful Chris. There will probably be an armed body guard or two in your group, Bob

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I don't know if you've thought about it or not but I do a fair amount of international travel in not so desirable places and I'd suggest if you are not up to speed on your vaccinations to swing by the Central District Health department in Reno and let them know where you are traveling and they can suggest a suite of vaccinations for you.  A few simply things like Hepatitis A&B and tetnis should be a minimum.  If you were to get injured and needed a hospital visit these steps remove a few areas of concern for you. 

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Jr R - I am fully up to date on all my vaccinations, including the ones you mentioned plus yellow fever, polio and others. You can't even get into some of these countries without documentation of the proper shots. Funny thing is that I worked for the Washoe District Health Department for nearly 27 years and still know many of the folks who work there.

Ihave now made it to Salt Lake City and in a few hours I will be off to Paris on my way to Africa.

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Guest Lucky Joe

Best of luck to you my friend! Stay safe over there and bring us back a few stories.

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Well, I am over here and my hotel has internet so at lest for tonight, I can check in. I got stuck in paris for 9 hours. First tim Ihave ever gotten on a plane then waited for a long time, then had to get off and wait while they prepared another plane. I guess I'd rather have that than see our pilot fly a plane with known important stuff wrong with it.

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The malaria medicine is not 100% effective and the longer you stay the more chances you have to get it. There are malaria strains resistant to some types of Medicine. I will be out in the field 5 days. I am taking the best and newest version available.

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I have already enjoyed myself, met some interesting folks and today we went out to the gold fields for the first time. As expected, a lot of similarity to what I saw in Western Australia. Tomorrow we will do so again and look at a different gold bearing area.

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Chris - I felt terrible taking the Anti-Malarials so in the end I gave up and took my chances. Only got it once in 8 years but wow, once was enough. Hospital for 5 days. Lot's of nasty bugs over there but after time you can build up a resistance. If it's like Western Australia and you're practising your French then it's either Mali or Burkina Faso. Northern part of Ghana is similar country-side too. Burkina has more underlying Birimian Greenstone than Ghana so massive potential there. Some Artisinal Mining operations there can have thousands of Miners with their own supporting Town around them. Mali has quite a lot of good Geology as well but Mali has seen a bit of unrest in the North recently. You're close enough at the moment to almost get across to Timbuktu. Most people probably don't even realise that there is in fact such a Town. ( From here to Timbuktu ) I'll bet as you're crusing around up there you're busy scheming how you can manage to get a small-scale Mining Operation going. Enjoy the trip and fill us all in when you get back.                 

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Actually the Birimian Greenstone belts extend through or at least touch more than a dozen countries from Senegal on the north to Ghana on the south. I saw a number of spots that looked good for gold but had not sign of any real prospecting - I wanted to get out and give it a go, but we had no time for such. Other places had numerous holes. We saw two dig spots one of which had about 50 people spread far and wide and the other had maybe 150 and was much more organized and concentrated

 

The malaria medicine made me real sick the first day, but I will be honest and note that that first day I totally ignored what they said to do as far as taking food with it - I took it on an empty stomach (and luckily I was at home as you start taking it before you leave). I have followed the directions carefully since and have not had the same problems.

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Err on the side a caution as have many friends ,relatives and aquaintances who've been to africa. I turned down a couple of offers as don't like replacing managers who got hippo/gator killed as just no job security. Money was insane but not for me. I like viewing the email fulla diamonds,gems and gold but just too old and risky for me anymore. Tons a au 2 u 2 Chris. PS-brother and his wife also learned after their first trip to continue them anti malaria pills for a few weeks after return home,CDC has gestation period but yikes it's a bad'n to get fer sure-John

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Well, I am back from Africa for a week and I did not get sick or have any problems (but I also took all my medicines and exercised reasonable precautions as far as things like food, etc.). Part 1 of a 2 part article is in this month's (June) issue. It talks about the geology of the area and all the activity of the mining companies exploring for large gold deposits there. Look for part 2, which covers my experiences there, in the July issue, but I will share a little of some of the things that happened:

 

I did do some detecting and got one nugget / specimen. One day we went out to a spot where some nuggets had been found in the past. Geologically the spot looked very good, but the locals had given up on it - there was no one around when we arrived. I was detecting along with a Gold Bug Pro and found there was still a number of pieces of trash in the ground, so I knew it couldn't have been hunted out. After about 20 minutes of detecting, I got a weaker signal that I had a good feeling about. Trash tends to be closer to the surface and louder, so when I heard this target, and saw the readings on the Gold Bug Pro, it just seemed like it had a good chance to be gold. I got the target out of the ground pretty quick and saw that although it looked rusty, it was not attracted to the magnet on my pick yet it still felt heavy in my hand. A quick swipe over the surface with my finger revealed the yellow glint of gold. It was my first African nugget – a nice little gold and quartz specimen nugget with probably about $150 worth of gold - roughly 1/10th of an ounce (that’s a lot to the local people who average less than $400 a year of income). I started yelling out to everyone in French that I had found gold.  My yelling caused quite a stir and about 40 guys who had been detecting with us came running over top see. I showed them the gold and could see the excitement on their faces was very real. A few minutes later, and about 20 yards away, a local fellow found a nice nugget of nearly half an ounce.

These two finds precipitated a mini “gold rush” to those diggings. We had to leave at noon, but later that day the local miners found quite a bit more. All told, nearly two ounces in total was found that day and what finds were made in the following days I do not know, though I am sure there was even more. We had to depart at noon, but as we were leaving we could see guys in the nearby village who were getting their detectors together to head out to the diggings - word of the gold finds there had spread fast.



 

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Hey they have no welfare state there. Either you feed yourself, get others to give you charity or you starve! There were very, very few fat people. Also very few folks much older than me. Saw a few folks in their 60s or 70s, but very few.

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Guest flintgreasewood

Chris,

   Pretty cool story.  Are the detectors the local use primative?  Wonder why it took your discovery to bring attention to the area.  You'd think they'd have figured that out for themselves if they are in such need.  Go figure!

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