PROSPECTING STORIES

While living in the remote Lowveld of Rhodesia at Chipinda Pools we one day came across an old prospector, Hans Bole, a Hollander who at one time, he told us,  had a tame leopard  and had a couple of photos to prove it. He would spend weeks in the bush living fairly rough while digging for calcite. Peter often accompanied him and was shown how to identify drift, i.e. the bits and pieces of minerals on the surface. Thus began Peter’s interest in prospecting and this later got us into a bit of trouble.

Chipinda Pools 2

Chipinda Pools

We heard that a company was interested in acquiring fossil wood from which they were wanting to craft ashtrays.  Peter knew where there was a large fossil forest and the people concerned asked him to provide some samples.   Knowing the law, he went to the Mining Commissioner’s office and asked under what category fossil wood would come under, and was advised that it came under the category of quartz, and the licence was duly issued.  All above board, and legal, or so he thought.  Due to work commitments, so far Peter had not had time to get out into the bush to gather any samples. At that time I was working for a company in Bulawayo and was busy at my desk one day when two officers of the law, a  policeman  and a policewoman, suddenly appeared at the reception desk, and they were asking if I worked there!   I duly went up to speak to them and was told  they wanted me to go with them to my house, as they had a search warrant  Hmmm?  Heart pounding and not knowing what as going on I had to excuse myself with my boss and accompany the two officers.  The ride to my house was conducted in total silence.  We arrived, and they then began searching the house and the garage while I stood anxiously by .  They at last told me they were looking for fossil wood, and did I have any?  I told them no, but that we had intended to as we had a valid prospecting licence.  I produced the licence and they looked it over in a puzzled manner, obviously not expecting to see such a document.   I was duly taken back to my office, and resumed my work amid many stares of suspicion, as you can imagine. I did explain it all later.    It turned out that the licence should not have been issued at all, as fossil wood came under the National Monuments and Relics Act.  The issuing Mining Commissioner had made a mistake in putting fossil wood into the category of quartz.   We heard nothing more.

Fossil wood

Two old friends we knew in Bulawayo were keen prospectors, Terry Cushing and Roy Cochrane,   They were looking for gold, and had a stamp mill way out in the bush.  They showed Peter a technique called loaming whereby  holes were dug in grid form, and then look for traces of gold by panning the soil from those holes.  Once, or if, any traces were found trenches would be dug, and large samples pushed through the stamp mills.  Out would come the gold from the other end, with luck.

After the tuition from Hans, Peter was keen to do spot of  calcite mining himself, and again applied for a prospecting licence (this time there was no mistake!) and went out into the Matibi II area, near Chipinda Pools, South East Lowveld of Rhodesia, and began searching for the tell-tale signs that could indicate calcite might be present.   Out of the blue, a man called Peter Horsbsorough contacted us.  He had been to the Mining Commissioner’s office and had seen  that we were prospecting for calcite and wanted to join in.  An interesting man, with a very plummy accent, he stayed with us overnight a couple of times, and on being asked what he would like for breakfast would answer “Oh, just a beer, please”.    Having found some calcite deposits, we dug trenches and put up the legally required notice around them stating our claim.  We had decided to call the claim Dendy Mine.    Due to work circumstances and the distance involved, we weren’t able to return to that claim for quite some time, but when we did, we were amazed to find our pegging notice had been removed and someone else’s had been put in place claiming the site.   A bit peeved, we removed that notice and put ours back in place, and set to work extending our trenches.  However, believe it or not, when we went again a few weeks later, the same thing had happened – our notice gone, and another one put in place.  Unfortunately, nothing ever came of our efforts and we eventually decided to abandon the whole exercise.

A couple of  years later, we met Clive, a man who also lived his life in the bush.  Peter and he had much in common and began discussing their interest in prospecting.  We were all stunned but delighted to learn that it had been Clive who had taken down our prospecting notices!   And he had been just as put out by us removing his notices,  wondering who on earth was this Dendy person!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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