There are very few places left in the world where a prospecting geologist can come across a gold mining camp with over nine thousand hand-dug pits. A gold mineralising system which has never been drilled! That is the singular experience I had on the 16th of April 2010 and one I never expect to forget. As usual our small party arrived at the prospect during the searing mid-day sun, a time of the “Mango Rains”. A time of year when with each passing day the heat builds to the bursting rains which come in late June. Intense daily downpours from the boiling storm-clouds which rise higher and higher in the afternoon heat before collapsing in an over spilling deluge. As we moved through the scrawny forested re-growth the scale of the system was gradually revealed. A warren of burrowing shafts with aprons of excavated floury-white kaolin clays coating the red laterite beneath. But the silence of the abandoned workings was a mystery until we were told that it was market day in the village and that on all market days the “devil is in the hole”. We traversed out to the west and came across another active gold camp only a few kilometres away near another small village. As it happened wa in this village it was not market day and the lodes were ahive of actvity with men mining and women with baby’s wrapped to their backs transporting the ore to be crushed with an axel and panned using an inner tube. The neat rows of motobikes in a clearing were testament to the lucrative winnings from this gold camp as. In this wretchedly poor part of a poor continent to own a motorbike has the same relative purchasing power parity as owning a Bentley in Mayfair. New buildings begain to sprout in the local villages. A sleepy gold buyer from Bamako under a straw-roof awning weighed gold nuggets on a small scales counterbalanced with a little stack of razor blades. Who knows how much gold seeps across Guinea’s porous brder with Mali.
This is an area in easternmost Guinea near the Sankarani River and across this big tributary of the Niger River lies Mali. This large region of Birimian greenstone belts is called the Siguiri Basin by geologists and based on what we know of its history it is arguably the most prospective and least explored gold district in Africa.
The Mandingo Empire in this region peaked in the 13th century and once controlled an area in West Africa the size of the United States, a feat largely possible because of its production of gold from vast shallow alluvial deposits.
With a rich cultural history that has its origins in the ancient Mali Empire, the Mandingo population numbers around five million people spread across some ten West African countries. Between 800 and 1400 AD, many of the Mandingo people converted to Islam. This trend, combined with a series of Islamic holy wars that occurred between 1855 and 1890, has resulted in the overwhelming majority of the Mandingo people currently practising Islam.
So gold has been mined in Guinea from pre-history. The fabled Buré Goldfields, known from ancient times, covered an extensive area including AngloGold Ashanti’s Siguiri gold mine and extended into southern Mali, north of Randgold’s Tongon gold mine. During the fifteenth century, Europeans developed the custom of calling these gold-bearing areas Guinea – which for a long time the English persisted in spelling “Ginney”. In 1662, the English began to use gold imported from West Africa to mint a coin which they called the “guinea”.
An outsider called Night of Thunder won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket at a price of forty-to-one just a month ago on May 3rd. I like to think we have much shorter odds of developing a world class gold mine near Mandiana. With so much gold known for so long surely we can find the deeper roots to this vast sprinkling of gold flakes and nuggets across this extensive drainage system. I am going back again to Guinea next week to join our team and follow the strike extent of this major gold system to the south across the new adjoining exploration concession which we added to our land holdings in November last.