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THE GOLD

There are few references to gold in the journals of the early explorers of New Zealand, and it was left mainly to the prospectors who had followed the great gold rushes to California and later to Australia to establish the presence of gold in commercial amounts (Salmon, 1963). Alluvial gold was first discovered in 1852 at Coromandel (Hauraki Goldfield) North Island in Driving Creek by Charles Ring; later at Collingwood in Nelson, South Island, in 1857; at Gabriels Gully in Otago by Gabriel Read in 1861; and in a number of sites along the western coastline of the South Island in 1864. Lode gold in the Hauraki Goldfield, the main centers being Waihi, Thames, Karangahake, and Coromandel, was first exploited in the 1860s; the quartz deposits in Otago, South Island, were first worked in the 1870s; and the productive quartz lodes at Reefton produced their first gold in the early 1870s.

Gold and gold tellurides are widely distributed in the Fijian Islands, and the presence of these minerals was evidently known to the early Fijians. Baron A. B. de Este is said to have discovered gold in the Tavua area in 1872, but some sixty years were to pass before any serious prospecting was carried out. In 1932 B. Borthwick and J. Sinclair discovered payable gold on Vunisina Creek, a small tributary of the Nasivi River. Further investigation of this prospect, associated with the Tertiary Vatukoula volcanic caldera, led to the development of a number of mines, of which the famous Emperor mine has been in continuous production since about 1935.

Elsewhere in the Pacific region gold had been sought and mined long before the Christian era. The gold-silver mines at Radjang Lebong, Indonesia, are said to have been exploited in a desultory manner by the Hindus as early as 900 B.c. and more systematically by others since 1700. The deposits at Bau, Sarawak, likewise have a long history but have received detailed attention only since 1820. In the Philippine Archipelago gold was known to the Chinese and Hindus from the beginning of our era; the Spaniards found gold there as early as 1524, but extensive exploitation of the deposits took place only after Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in 1898.

The Chinese have mined gold for millenia, the first indication of this pursuit being in the artifacts of the Shang dynasty (1765 B.C.). More recently considerable gold mining has been carried out in Archean, Proterozoic, and younger terrains in Shandong, Yunnan, Kansu, Szechuan, and other provinces. Likewise in Korea gold mining is an old technology going back to at least the beginning of the Christian Era in mining districts such as those of Unsan, Nurupi, Sak Ju, and Sen Sen.

Similarly in Japan the search for gold was in progress long before the Christian era, judging from archaeological evidence; the methods of searching for and mining the metal were probably introduced from Korea. The Sado mine on Sado Island in the Japan Sea, the largest gold and silver producer in Japan, was discovered in 1542 and has been in production intermittently since that time.

India has long been the site of gold mining, first from placers and then in more modern times from the oxidized and primary zones of a variety of auriferous deposits. Pliny, writing at the beginning of our era in his Historia naturalis, mentions the gold of India, and the land of Ophir mentioned in I Kings 10:11 in the Old Testament can, according to some authorities, be equated with India. It is certain that gold placers and the rich oxidized zones of auriferous deposits were worked in India long before the Christian era, as evidenced by archaeological data and written records. Large-scale mining in India began with the Mauryan colonization of the Deccan about the end of the fourth century B.C. The discovery of the Kolar field would seem to date from the beginning of the Christian era, probably coeval with that of the Hutti field to the north. The modern mining of the famous Champion Lode in the Kolar field, rediscovered in 1873, began about 1880 and has continued since that date.

The Russia has long been a legendary source of gold. The land of Cotchis drained by the river Phasis (the modern Rioni) in Georgia is reputed to have provided great quantities of gold. Similarly, the Persians are said to have obtained much gold from the Scythians, a polyglot group of tribes that inhabited the region north of the Black Sea, and from various Iranian and other tribes who inhabited the Ural-Uzbek-Altai region. The golden road to Samarkand was known centuries before Christ. With time the monopoly of gold mining became the sole preserve of the Imperial Czars, who pursued extensive placer and lode mining first in the Urals, beginning about 1774, and later in many parts of Siberia, especially in the Altai region where alluvial deposits were exploited as early as 1820. In 1829 the placer deposits of the Lena were first exploited and in 1840 those of the Yenisei Ridge came into production; the placers in the drainage system of the Amur were apparently first worked around 1867, and those in the Far Eastern maritime area appear to have been first exploited around 1870 or earlier. In recent years many more gold districts and deposits, both placer and bedrock (e.g., Muruntau, Uzbek), have been developed and brought into production, making the old Soviet Union the second largest, after South Africa, gold producer in the world. Since the new Rusia abolished the network of forced labour camps of political and war prisoniers, many of these deposits are subeconomical to mine.

Gold from West Africa found its way into Europe as early as the tenth century and probably before. Most of this gold came by Sahara caravan to Barbary and thence to Europe, the original sources being the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. It is said that much of this gold came from a region known as Wangara (a tributary of the Senegal River and noted for its placers), but considering the aurificity of West Africa it seems likely that the gold had a much more widespread source. In any event, one of the motives of the Portuguese voyages inspired by Henry the Navigator was to ascertain and exploit the west African gold. The Portuguese were soon followed by a host of English, French, Dutch, Danish, and Spanish entrepreneurs. It is thought that annually more than a quarter of a million ounces of gold reached Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries from African sources. Based mainly on native workings, numerous gold deposits, both bedrock and placer, were rediscovered during the latter part of the nineteenth century throughout Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, and the other nations of the Gold Coast. The Precambrian auriferous Tarkwa conglomerates of Ghana were developed in a modern way during the period 1876-1882 by Pierre Bonnat, the father of modern gold mining in the Gold Coast. In 1895, Ashanti Goldfields Corporation began work in the Obuasi district of Ghana, developing the Ashanti and other mines, which have produced the largest proportion of gold since 1900 in the countries of the Gold Coast. All of these deposits are of Precambrian age.

Natives worked gold deposits in Zimbabwe perhaps as far back as the beginning of our era. Long lines of ancient workings in the oxidized zones followed the strike of many Precambrian (Archean) deposits that were later developed by modern mining methods at the beginning of the present century. The Gaika mine was developed in 1894, the Globe and Phoenix in 1895-1900, the Eldorado in 1905, the Antelope in 1908, the Cam and Motor in 1909, the Shamva in 1909-1910, and numerous others during the period 1895-1911.

In South Africa an event in 1834 has influenced the history of gold ever since: Carel Kruger discovered gold on the Witwatersrand, or White Waters Ridge, while on a hunting expedition north of the Vaal River. However, little attention was paid to the find because the goldfields of Barberton and the DeKaap Valley were the chief focus of gold prospecting through 1885. In 1886 George Harrison, an Australian gold digger, and George Walker, an Englishman, discovered payable gold reef on the Witwatersrand. This discovery soon led to the development of the great reefs that constitute the largest gold deposits known and that made South Africa the foremost gold producer in the world. During a century of mining, some 4,000 million metric tons of ore have been treated from the Witwatersrand deposits, resulting in the recovery of 37 million kg of gold (1,200 million oz). The story of the discovery of the remarkable deposits of the Witwatersrand, of the growth of Johannesburg, and of the men who struggled for control of not only the gold reefs but of what it was South Africa is interesting.

Gold in: Gold 1 2 Primitive Classic Medieval Renaissance post-Renaissance period.


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This document is in the public domain.

March, 2011