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DOWN IN THE GOLD MINE

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sunny 26 °C

MONDAY, April 14, 2014.

The crew is a lot of fun. We teased Manuel, who had brought a case of tinned tuna and had 2 tins of maple syrup - the authentic stuff, via Andre, straight from Quebec. Lunch at the camp is in the plans and these 'provisions' make us curious. We were on the bus by 8 and heading away from the cosast, towards Atico to have a look at a gold mine called Rey Salomon. Only 5 hours to drive with the last 7 k’s unfair on any rented bus! We were soon under way. The moonscape became rougher, but we continued over the barren terrain.

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Much of the drive from Lima had taken us by the Pacific Ocean. We turned eastwards and left the ocean behind us.
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As you see, the terrain became quite barren and rough.
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We climbed some steep hills and snaked into the interior. Beyond these mountains is the Amazon Rainforest!

By midday we had turned off onto the last 7 k stretch. We bumped along with our sleek bus creaking and straining in objection. 40 minutes later we stopped suddenly and unexpectedly! Hey - no gas! …but our driver has gassed up an hour back. Gas gauge showed that there was still gas - Engine sounds disagreed. Manuel and Andy set out on foot to reach the camp to get a vehicle for us. There was no option to phone for help - there is no cell phone coverage out this way. Eldon and the driver conferred over the problem and soon, both had disappeared under the bus. I followed Manuel and Andy to get a pic of the white knights! After 15 min wait, it seemed like time to leave our mark that we were here. A large boulder standing 30 feet above the road provided the base for an Inukshuk. I scrambled up and found suitable stones to mark our place of trouble.

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Our disabled bus sat in the middleof the road. or any vehicles behind us, there was no going around this baby!

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Manuel and Andre set off to walk the last 2 or 3 k's. There was gas at the camp and a vehicle to rescue us if the gas wasn't the soution.

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Eldon worked with the driver and they figured out the problem. Then they then worked on a solution.

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A large boulder stood beside the road, and what better spot for a (Canadian) Inukshuk than 30 feet in the air, looking over the stark and barren terrain. Can you pick it out on the right? Inukshuk, pronounced in-ook-shook, are stone monuments erected in the image of humans. One of their purposes was to communicate direction in the harsh and desolate Arctic. As such they were a tool for survival, and symbolic of the the acts of a nomadic people - the Inuit - who built them as signposts to make the way easier and safer for those who followed.

Another 10 minutes passed, and there were sounds of an engine starting up - OUR BUS - this coincided with the arrival of two trucks from the camp. So many white knights! The engine trouble had been found and McIver style, a piece of wire and a pair of pliers had fashioned a connection to the starter for the fuel pump, which had shaken off and been lost over the bumpy ride. Eldon and our driver had worked together from the bottom and the top to fashion the connector. We were again ready to roll. 20 minutes later, base camp appeared out of the rocks.

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Bob, Andre, Eldon and Manuel. "There's gold in them thar hills!"

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Here Vincent is looking down into one of the trenches dug out by someone exploring and removing "good ore" some time back. Generally these were dug by hand - pick and shovel - by individuals. When the ore turned out to be rich, digging usually continued, chasing the vein as far as possible.

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Ana Cecilia had a look for the bottom of this explored vein.

We found a small camp situated on a ridge just below the hills, with a good lunch room, clean washrooms, a good looking kitchen and offices. We all climbed out and were invited to look around. It appeared to be a good base camp standing on a hill and connected to a generator. We were treated to lunch: CAUSA!!!! Come over and I will treat you to that recipe. Bright yellow Andean potatoes, mashed, enclosing tuna, onion, lemon and spices. This, with a beet salad and with spicy chicken. After we had eaten, we were introduced to Yuri, the manager of the mine, and Freddy who is the geologist who is an artist in geology. He used maps and cross sections of the site to explain to us what had been found at the site. Manuel translated the Spanish as Freddy spoke. Words were efficient and sometimes technical but his ideas were clear. We were given an in depth view of the operations.

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We were invited to learn about the operation. Freddy told how he used all the clues left by very small scale miners who had been scratching in the ground for the last hundred years. He explained the topography that he had tramped over and the geology of the rocks below.

The Rey Salomon project is a traditional mining operation and covers approximately 1,100 hectares in Arequipa, Peru. It is an active hard rock mine that was originally producing 5 ounces of gold per month by hand. No modern extraction equipment has been used to any degree on this hi-grade mining property. The property has all the mining permits in place for the operation of its on-site 50 ton per day “Carbon-in-Pulp Milling Plant”. There is also a network of roadways throughout the properties, with Water Rights, Permits, and Appropriations from the government. Furnished housing is also in place for the administrative staff, security personnel, and employees.

Studies by licensed geologists have established a non-compliant NI43-101 gold resource calculation of 4 out of the 32 veins identified as having 20,004 gold ounces, known and identified for short-term mining operations. A total of 48,000 ounces of gold are projected to be mined within 5 years from the 4 main veins and their extensions, and from the other 28 veins mentioned in the technical report (projections are based on the technical report, bulk samples and onsite visual inspections). I'm not telling the secrets, this information is available on Chazel Capital's web page from the internet http://www.chazelcapital.com

Now it was time to head out and see for ourselves. A bulldozer had put in roads in the last years. It allowed access to the mine sites by truck. The roads were steep and hairpin turns had been put in. This meant that a truck could go forward until there was a turn, and then it would need to back up the next section as there was not enough room to turn on the turns. Navigating the turns seems to come with a new approach.

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Close your eyes if you don't like heights!

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We passed by a "gallows frame" site of former small scale mining from several years back.

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The sign marks the spot of the boundaries of the property owned by the mine.

We drove past a vein on the surface which had been dug by hand by local miners. You can see the gallows frame, the wooden scaffold at the top of a mine shaft carrying the hoisting rope. These sites, along with samples taken from them and analyzed helped to locate and map the veins. One mine, called Esperanza, has been extensively developed. There was a tunnel dug from the top through a vein and excavated. It went about 60 feet down. A tunnel had been started on the side of the hill and went in 75 feet with another 300 feet planned to join the vertical tunnel at a right angle. Indications are that the vein runs exactly along this intended path. We donned safety hats and vests and were given miner’s lights. It was time to have a look.

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Here's the team, ready to take the dive underground.

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We're in good hands.

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The entrance to Esperanza. ....turn on your lights and watch your heads!


We walked into the mouth of the horizontal tunnel. Our lamps threw bright spots and shadows onto the walls of the tunnel. Fault lines and veins were pointed out. We had a look at some rock bolting and some of the drills. We were shown drill holes that would later take dynamite. If the explosion doesn't take off a clean break, an uneven face is produced. The holes left are called "bootlegs" and here they are called "tacos." The aim is not to produce any tacos! After detonation, the broken ore is loaded into trucks and hauled to a mill. Once at the mill, the ore is crushed into smaller loose rock. From the crusher, high-grade ore goes into a series of grinding mills where it is ground into a fine powder.

Some workers could be heard ahead of us. A "mucker" was roughly pushing a cart with a load of ore past us. We would follow its journey later.
Freddy answered questions and showed the operations, with some pride and with a keen ear to hear about suggestions and comments. We emerged about an hour later.
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Shadows could have made this spooky, if anyone wanted to be spooked.
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Bob was probably thinking of the recent earthquake in Chile and southern Peru. Hey - We are IN Peru!
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Andre is answering some of Vincent's questions.
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Heading off to see some good veins of ore.
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Thank goodness, there is not a maze of tunnels. One extra could be enough to get lost in!
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These are the holes drilled to later take dynamite.
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Eldon had to check this one out!
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Veins are seen throughout the mine. This means nothing to me, but I think Freddy knows.
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Apparently this is a good one. A good geologist is worth his weight in gold.
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This is what we were looking at.
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As we continued through the mine, miners worked on various tasks.
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This ladder goes straight up this shaft to provide ventilation in the mine. Perhaps an escape route if needed?
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A mucker is a person who shovels broken ore into orecars or orebuckets.
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Ana Cecilia. Supposedly, this is the first time (almost) for a woman in the mine. Miners think it is bad luck. They were told to "get over it!"
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Don't get left behind!

Back into the trucks, we set out on the route to an area where some of the miners were doing a rough essay of the ore they had removed. They are paid a bonus based on the quality as well of the quantity of ore produced in their shift. A small rock from a vein they are pursuing is crushed to a powder. it is put on a flat cone shaped metal dish, water added and swirled (gold panning). As gold is very dense, it sinks to the bottom of the slurry. The slurry is tipped off the edge of the pan and more water is added. More swirling and tipping. After several times there is a small deposit in the birds eye middle of the pan. This amount of gold is estimated by the miners and it determines if they will continue in the exact spot in the vein or if they will move a few feet ahead, behind or slightly to left or right. Samples were taken from these ores for assay. This will be recorded to determine the quality of the gold in the rocks, which will lead to the men's bonuses and provide information for mapping and planning for the operation of the mine.

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Freddie is holding a piece of ore that is to be crushed and panned.
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This piece of ore is crushed with a hammer.
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Behind the man crushing the ore is another miner, who is panning to get an idea how rich the ore is.
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The crushed ore is swept up and then put on a cone shaped pan.
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Water is added to make a slurry, which is swirled, tilted and then more water is added, and the process repeated.
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Gold is much denser than the crushed stone, so it settles to the bottom of the pan.
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Have a close look.
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The rocks which appear to bear good quantities of ore are loaded into 1.5 ton sacks which are transferred by winch onto a truck. Later these sacks are winched onto a scale and weighed, then dropped onto a very rough grid of parallel railway ties 12 inches apart. This allows very large rocks to remain behind and the ones to be processed to fall below. A second screening allows for smaller rocks to be selected again. Next is the ball bearing drum then a second one which pulverize the rocks. The powder is reacted with cyanide to dissolve the gold, then again reacted and absorbed onto the surface of charcoal made from coconuts. This “coconut gold” is then sent out for recovery by simply melting the gold. We met the chemist who was responsible for the gold extraction from the gold ore. His explanation was translated into English for us by Manuel. There were some questions, and just as many answers.

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1.5 ton bags of ore have been packed. These will be hoisted up to continue through separators and crushers to produce a powder that can be treated
to remove the gold.
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The sun was setting, but there was more to see. We drove to the equipment area, where the ore is weighed and then processed into a powder.
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We looked at various steps involved in processing the ore......
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Manuel beside one of the rock crushers.
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Next to the crusher were ball bearings for crushing ore into a powder.
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As the moon comes up, we meet the chemist and Manuel translates for us.

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By this time we were standing out under the southern stars, with a bright moon lighting the area. Rigel is the brightest star seen here towards the left, and the oddly named Betelgeuse is the bright one above it.

The air began to get a bit chilly. It is time for our driver to gear up the bus and retrace the day’s travel. We bid “ Adios” to the engineer, the geologist and the miners who had just returned from their shift and climb aboard the bus. A stop for supper, and then 10 people slept for the next 5 hours while our driver competed for a piece of the road. We tumbled out of the bus at 2:30 a.m. and into our comfortable rooms. A sleep-in tomorrow till 9 a.m.!

TUESDAY

Today is another travel day!
Travelling with this group of 10 plus driver is all good. We have found plenty to talk about. Certainly, the mine is a hot topic for all of us.

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Pretty cheerful bus, eh? I think we all had a great time!

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Lots of discussion and laughter in the back seats.

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I am hearing about personal lives and histories. Myself and Ana Cecilia and Jinny have found so much to talk about - this has been marvellous! Bob, at the age of 81 is a great character with a wonderful sense of humour. Jinny, Martin and their son Vincent have shared lots with me. They are on a year long travel around the globe. Vincent, their 8 year old son has taken to announcing our arrival in towns over the p.a. in the front of the bus. He chats to us in French, Spanish or English. Oh, so you thought he was a girl? Wrong! He has grown his hair since the beginning of his travels, and will be donating it to a charity that makes wigs for children who are undergoing cancer treatment. Pretty cool, eh?

Andre is a big part of the company and fills us in on details and carries on with brashness and humour that make me warm up to his endearing Quebec accent.
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Yes - A proud father, and the mine is his little baby. Something to be proud of!

Andy is an intense fellow with a warm and ready laugh. He is part of this enterprise, and is passionate about it. Last of all is our driver. He was steady and cheerful. I think I fooled him with my Spanish, as he spoke with me only in Spanish whenever I sat in the front of the bus. Of course, there was Ana Cecilia, who I have grown so fond of. She is the Girl Friday of this organization. She has a keen interest in the efficiency of this business and was captivated with discussing equipment auctions with Eldon and other opportunities to streamline this company. We had some good personal talks, as we are both the mothers of boys - enough said!!!!!!!

Manuel amazes me with his abilities in working with and inspiring those around him. He is a real good fellow! We enjoyed his expertise and his welcoming manner. The day on the bus was spent enjoying a bit of joking, snacks and really great conversations. We stopped for lunch, and then continued on our return to Lima. Traffic became quite bad as we approached the city during their 2 hour rush hour from 5 - 7. We drove into Manuel’s neighbourhood, and stopped there.

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We had a chance to meet his family. A lovely wife and 3 children aged 8 to about 13. After they greeted each guest the kids politely stayed around for 20 minutes, they were tempted away with Vincent and played soccer practice in the back yard, and then of course computer games. We enjoyed a local drink made with Pisco, lime juice and ginger ale. We were invited to freshen up and have showers, before going back to the hotel or on to the airport. Instead we went for the drinks and snacks and conversation.

We then left, bidding Manuel and his family goodbye, and a very big thank you for the wonderful treatment that we had received in this first trip to South America. We continued by bus through the now dark city to our hotel in Miraflores. Here we had to part with most of the crew. Ana Cecilia and I will be in touch, and I believe that I will be back to visit once again and perhaps see most of the rest of the group. Warm wishes and goodbyes were exchanged.

We continued on to the airport, we, the driver and Bob. Getting out of Lima to the airport is not easy. Traffic was heavy in places, and we had to do a lot of weaving through congested streets before we even saw a sign for the airport. We arrived at 10 for our flight 2 hours later and went smoothly through the usual dance that is required to get on a plane.

ALL the young staff in one airport gift shop was having fun and dancing to the beat of some great up tempo Peruvian - African music. I was hooked and went for a listen: Eva Ayllon - an Afro - Peruvian singer described as a living legend. Of course I bought it with the last of my Soles. Then, I had a really fine chuckle at the cheerful young sales clerk as she made change for the previous customer who paid with U.S. dollars. “I will not give you Soles for change. You cannot spend them. I will give you a package of Skittles, and you get one for free! And I still owe you some Soles. I think you will like lemon candies. I will give you some candies made from purple corn. They are from Peru. Is that good?”

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I thought that was good. I thought it was so good that it was worth a picture …or two.
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See the Skittles? ...and the candy?

After buying the wonderful Peruvian music on the way to the plane, we found ourselves seated in “pods” once again and slept in comfort for the next 5 hours. Just another 18 hours and 3 more flights, and we were back in out own beds - just a breeze, Eh?

Posted by Sue McNicholas 17:43 Archived in Peru Tagged bus trips mines Comments (0)

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