A Tanzanian gold mine – in a TREE.
Above Photo: A Baobab tree near Shinyanga, Tanzania.
What’s do you see in the above photo?
A lovely Baobab tree, out in the bush, right?
Well yes, it is that, but it is also probably the most brilliantly camouflaged GOLD MINE in the world.
My brother told me about it some time ago and on my last visit to Tanzania, when I was stuck in the Tanzanian version of Groundhog Day, I asked him to take me out to see it. For security reasons, let’s say this tree lies in the Galamba region of Shinyanga, in Tanzania.
The first unusual thing I noticed was the build-up of solid rock chippings around the tree’s base.
On further examination these rock chippings proved to be greenstone, a rock in which gold is often found in the Shinyanga goldfields region of Tanzania.
Then we noticed the tree had its own water and electricity supply, which is most unusual for a Baobab tree.
We followed these utilities until they disappeared into the access hole in the tree.
When I poked my head inside the opening, I was amazed to see that all the tree’s roots had disappeared, and that someone had dug a very deep shaft right through the roots and deep down into the earth, through the bare rock.
There was a mechanism for hauling buckets of rock up from the mine, and also a ladder allowing access to the shaft.
We decided not to climb down, as we may have been shot, or worse, as people are rightly serious about mine security, whether your mine is in the open or under a tree.
We spoke to a few nervous locals who answered evasively that it wasn’t a gold mine, but instead a mine “producing a metal which is used in coins”!
Another said it was just a hole in the ground under a tree, made naturally, before asking where we were from and why we wanted to know.
For people to have dug through bare greenstone rock by hand, down to such a depth (I could see 30 feet down and the shaft was still going) would suggest they are mining some very profitable gold down there, and good luck to them.
They had also dug a ventilation shaft up through the tree, which I couldn’t get a decent photo of.
All in all it was a very clever bit of mining, engineering and camouflage by the locals, but I still wonder how they knew they could find gold by digging a shaft beneath that tree.
The discovery of this mine had some commercial importance for us at the time, because it bordered our large diamond prospecting licence area of Galamba, measuring up to 170 sq kilometers, and we too had greenstone on our property, with the possibility that gold was also present in our licence area, but unfortunately we never got to find out.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
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