One of the reasons we went to Bulawayo was to visit a gold mine that Yud invests in and manages for a group of Israeli investors (myself included). The mine is about two and a half hours drive from the city, in the heart of the bush. After breakfast we met the mine manager and the local representative of the investment group, packed water and sandwiches for the day and set off.
The mine is built from a mining area and processing area. The mining area is mainly a shaft of about 70m deep that descends directly to the underground gold reef. The processing area consists of mechanical and chemical processing facilities.
I received an explanation of the complicated process to extract a few grams of gold from every ton of ore. First stage is mechanical, i.e. grinding the rock into a thin powder which is done in several stages. The second part is chemical, that is, sedimentation of tiny gold granules and their absorption into coal powder. The process includes the use of cyanide, mercury, caustic soda and more.
One of the workers showed us the ancient method of producing the gold, the thin grounded rock was rinsed with running water that removed the remains of the rock and at the bottom of the bowl were left tiny crumbs of gold.
Through the industrial process, the material becomes more and more concentrated, step by step, and in the end it is melted into a clean gold piece that is sold to the country's gold authority.
In addition to a tour of the surface at all the stations, I insisted on going down to the mining tunnels. The only entrance is through the iron bucket used to bring the ore up from the excavating area. The ore is poured, the remaining mud removed, and three or four crew members enter the basket and go down. The ride takes about two minutes. Along the wall of the pit hangs a ladder made of two chains connected by iron shelves. When something breaks down the miners have go up and down the ladder.
On the way down you see abandoned mining tunnels, where there is no more productive reef. On the lower level there are a number of tunnels that are used for production. The tunnels are electrically lit and flooded. The water is constantly pouring through the walls since the mine is located deep in the aquifer.
When I said that I insist on going down, Yud gathered his courage and went down to the mine to make sure that it was not too dangerous for me (he did not want to have a strife with Ayelet). After about ten minutes he came out soaked up and dripping sweat. Down in the mine it is much more hot and humid than on the ground.
I too went down, walked through the tunnels, saw the rock that contains the gold, whose color is different from the rock around and very prominent, and went up to breathe freely the fresh air. I admit, I wanted to photograph the sight of the mine and the miners but I was too tense, too much pressure and a sense of suffocation that I forgot.
Only through experiencing the trip down and a brief walk below ground you can appreciate the meaning of working a whole shift of hard physical labor inside the mine.
A very instructive day, I got a different perspective on the amount of work and knowledge required to set up and operate a mine. The complexity of operating the mine two and a half hours away from Bulawayo is also becoming more understandable. Job well done to Yud who manages the project admirably.
In the evening we had another wonderful meal, we went through a bottle of wine, in a restaurant recommended by the local representative, Yud had already eaten here in the past.
Upon arrival at the hotel, I fell asleep immediately.
That's all for today,