Rhodesian Mining Law and a Wedding

End of Part 1: Perhaps it had broken the wedge and pushed the bottom half deeply into the material.

Nobody in the District but Mr Baird believed that there remained a portion of the reef below the granite but as only Mr Baird owned the mine and was paying for the exploration nobody interfered with his search nor discouraged his theories – It was nobody’s business but Mr Baird’s.

Breaking hundreds of tons of solid rock four hundred feet below and hauling it to the surface of the earth is expensive work. When there is a streak of other rock containing gold amongst the broken stone it is certainly worth the expense, always provided the gold is sufficient in quantity and in a form which is not refractory to ordinary methods of gold extraction.

The Baird reef was free of arsenic, antimony and other bugbears of the miner. So it’s owner had never worried about the cost of following it into the earth breaking it from the rock in which it was embedded and bringing it to the surface nor did Mr Baird grudge the cost of crushing his ore into powder or of washing it over the shaking copper plates.

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The yellow gold which mercury would catch from the agitated mass paid all the cost of mining and left a good deal over to pay the cost of a pretty daughter and all the comforts Mr Baird wanted.

But when there was no milky stone there was no gold and Mr Baird was distinctly worried. True it would take a year or two to break out all the quartz above the granite and there was another year’s work in recovering gold which had escaped the mercury and would only yield to cyanide treatment.

Two courses lay before Mr Baird – one to acknowledge that his reef had come to its natural end and to concentrate on cleaning up – the other to gamble. Mr Baird decided to gamble.

Eric Ferguson stood at the headgear of the Mascot with a boyish figure in oilskins.

“Not scared, Eunice?” he asked as a wet little truck emerged from the shaft. A remarkably pretty girl shook her chestnut hair as she clambered in.

“No fear – I like going down a little property – the Baird’s like Dad a bit too imposing.”

“Anyway hang on – we’ll go right down to the 5th level, the boys should have cleared away the night shift’s blasting. I’m into some pretty stuff. Jove Eunice if only the blessed reef would widen a bit.”

Down into the darkness dropped the truck and the miner slipped a protecting arm about the slim shoulders a small hand felt and found Eric’s hardened calloused one – In the mirk and drizzle of the mine shaft, a girl’s soft lips met her lovers’.

Down ever down sped the truck its steel rope singing to the winding drum above in the tiny patch of yellow that marked the surface.

A landing stage lit by spluttering candles marking a right-angled drive where naked black men white with clay toiled demonically loading a waiting truck – again a lighted stage, quiet, deserted, a black hole yawning at it.

No. 2 Level – No. 3 – No. 4 – With a jolt, the truck halted and a brawny native wet and clay covered grasping Eunice helped her to a wooden platform – a signal and the truck dropped into the darkness below.

“We’re down another 100 feet – just beginning to drive.” said Eric “We’ve worked out the first 4 levels and have just really begun to stope out the reef in this – the fifth.”

“Yes, what is it Boy?” as a perspiring grinning native spoke asking the Boss’s attention.

The native’s words tumbled out “Baas, we’ve driven into a big reef – plenty money.”

“Come on Eric” cried the girl snatching a candle from a ledge of rock “Hamba Boy, hamba pambeli“.

Grinning the native turned and trotted into the darkness the boy and girl behind.

“Eunice, will you keep quiet about it until I tell you to loosen up?” Eric’s voice though quiet held a worried note.

“Sure. But Oh! Eric! I thought you’d be dancing with delight – the reef’s as big as the old Baird and looks perfect – Poor Old Dad – he’s a broken man since the Baird pinched.”

“That’s the Baird,” said Eric grimly.

Eunice gazed dumbfounded at the great mass of white gleaming dully through the dark.

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“The Baird Eric?” she gasped.

“Aye – a wall of granite broke its thread and pushed the reef over into my claims.”

“But Dad’s down 700 feet, Eric, and he’s driven into both walls.”

“Well, sinking and driving he’s missed the reef – maybe by inches.”

“Then it’s yours now,” murmured Eunice drawing close against her lover’s form.

“I’m not too sure,” muttered Ferguson, “There’s a clause in the Rhodesian Mining Law about extra lateral rights – if two distinct reefs are being developed on adjoining properties the owners can follow their own reef underground right into one another’s claims. I’ve never heard of it happening but that’s the law.”

“Oh, Eric” cried the girl “if Dad gets the Baird again I’ll be forced on Colin.”

“Your Dad hasn’t got the Baird yet – it would be a deuce of a thing to prove anyway – and he’d have to prove it from his side of the mine,” said the miner grinning.

“He can’t come down my shaft, walk into my drive and say “Hullo there’s the Baird – I’ll start a  shift on it right away Fergie me boy.””

“I see” Eunice looked thoughtful – “Eric can you raise a couple of thousand?”

The miner shrugged his shoulders – “If I had something to show, yes.”

“Offer Dad £2000 for the Baird – it’s what he reckons she’s worth now.”

“Has he stopped looking for the reef Eunice?”

“Closed down yesterday and is taking the pillars out from tomorrow.”

“Then there’s no time to waste – I’ll take some samples and we’ll get up.”

“Then you’re prepared to give me a months option on the property Mr Baird?” Eric looked with pity on the man whose twelve-months fruitless hunt had made him look the four and seventy years he’d lived.

The old miner looked troubled.

“What do you want her for Eric – think you know how to find the reef?” a sneer crossed the speaker’s features. “I guess no Ferguson will succeed where I’ve failed.”

“I’m reckoning on pickings – the Mascot’s widening and needs a five-stamp. What with pillars and stringers I reckon the Baird’s got four or five thousand in her – thought £2000 was a good price and I take the one battery over on twelve-month credit – together with the big boiler.”

“You wouldn’t lose” grated Baird.

“I’m not a philanthropist – but you’re fed up with it and I doubt whether there are many buyers.”

“Had two fellows out this morning.”

“Aye! They told me they weren’t doing anything.”

Bair snorted “Have you the money?”

“Can raise it – is it a deal?”

“Aye” – lifting a bottle on the table between them Baird poured two measures of whiskey and pushed a siphon to his guest.

“Take a trip down the Mascot, Mr Baird – I’ve a strange problem at No. 5 Level.”

“To Hell with mining,” answered the other – “I’ve no interest in it.” and the old mine-owner’s head dropped on his breast.

“Come on Daddie” called a fresh young voice “I promised Eric I’d go down and he’s awfully eager to show you the reef.”

Protesting yet curious Baird walked with his companions silent but observant – now and again his eyes rested kindly on the fair girl chatting merrily with the powerful clean looking man.

“She might ha done worse” muttered Baird “Colin’s no altogether her sort – bit dour and wantin that girl from the hills.”

Down into the bowels of the earth rumbled the skip – past the levels stripped of their ore to the one where fresh stoping was beginning.

“She’s opening up a bit Eric,” remarked Mr Baird gazing curiously about him “Ten years since I’ve been down – good little property she’s been £300 a month for fifteen years isn’t a bad output” agreed the Mascot’s owner – But what do you think of this Mr Baird?”

Turning a corner of the drive the three were next to a great mass of quartz at which a dozen natives were busy.

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“The Baird The Baird” shrieked the old miner stumbling to his reef.

Eric his arm about the girl drew next to the kneeling figure feverishly working at the rock face.

“Mr Baird”

“What’s it you’re wanting Ferguson – it’s my reef I tell you – I’ve got lateral rights Ferguson – that deal about the Baird’s off you scoundrel.”

“Steady on Mr Baird I was only joking or I wouldn’t have brought you down – its Eunice I’m wanting.”

The gaunt white-haired figure covered with clay and mud rose to his feet.

“We’ll go halves in the Baird Fergie – you’re a white man – and I’ll chuck Eunice in to clinch the bargain.”

Baird held out his hand.

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Copy of the original in Bernard’s handwriting

 

 

Extra Lateral Rights

I am watching a video with a Year 10 class called Storm Surfers in it one of the big wave surfers comments on how finding never-before-surfed breaks is like prospecting for gold. 

A glance at a fissure in a cliff or even a wall – following it from the top it will probably run down more or less vertically. It may be almost a straight line – it may be only a surface split – may go halfway down or right through to the bottom. Gold reefs are the fissure veins.

The dip here is heading ever downward.

David Baird owned a gold mine in Southern Rhodesia – he also owned an eighteen-year-old daughter a fact which filled Eric Ferguson on the adjoining mine with all sorts of longings quite unconnected with gold mining.

Eunice Baird liked Eric which was not very surprising for he was tall and broad-shouldered, had blue eyes and was in his early thirties all factors which to lonely young females make an excellent base around which to weave romance.

Eric shaved every evening and bathed with the aid of a bucket – neither of which acts are looked upon as essentials by all men who live far away from civilisation. Eric also never wore a white tie with a dinner jacket though why he or anyone else wanted a dinner jacket at all frankly puzzled Eunice’s father.

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Mr Baird was also tall and broad-shouldered and had blue eyes but he was not in his early thirties. David Baird was in his early seventies and not the sort of man who needed a pension though he usually needed a shave and quite often a bath.

But though Mr Baird did not consider razors or baths to be essential in his life he did believe that life without the Baird Reef and Miss Baird would be a very miserable existence.

Mr Baird did not believe that the Almighty had been good to him with regard to either his mine or his daughter. He took all the credit for himself. As proof that God had nothing to do with giving him the Baird Reef, he pointed to the adjoining claims where Eric Ferguson and his father before him had worked for twenty years on a 9-inch reef.

He David Baird had worked for old Ferguson and studying the formation evolved a theory. In his spare time, Mr Baird had worked on his theory which was that the Mascot reef of Ferguson’s was only a minor fissure near a major one.

This theory resulted from studying the formation in which the Mascot reef lay. Much of the rock walls of the vein contained gold and numerous threads of rich ore ran into it. After long study of the surrounding country, Mr Baird pegged next to Mr Ferguson, dug many long cuttings and found a four-foot reef full of gold just outside his late employer’s boundary. So while old Ferguson and later his son ran a little stamp battery which yielded a living Mr Baird ran a ten-stamp mill which yielded a nett profit of £2000 per month.

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When nearing sixty Mr Baird married the daughter of a bankrupt Irish gentleman who had committed suicide – he thought farming was an easy way of making money and found it wasn’t. Mr Baird bought the farm together with a stock of solid old furniture and a good range of implements. He also erected a handsome granite cross over the resting place of Eunice’s grandparents for her grandmother had died of heartbreak – an example followed soon after Eunice’s birth by Mrs Baird. A Scottish nephew was called in to make the farm pay (and he succeeded). Mr Baird was anxious to keep both farm and mine in his family.

Mr Baird decided to marry Eunice to his nephew Colin but Colin wanted to marry a Bonnie Highland lass in the land of his Father’s. Eunice, though she liked Colin liked Eric more. However, all realised that what David Baird liked was that everybody connected with him would have to like as well.

John van Niekerk, a miner, scratched his head and gazed worriedly at a pile of broken rock next to his feet. Mr Baird on his hands and knees worked frantically with a tiny prospectors pick in the pool of light given by a red candle held by a half-naked black man.

“Don’t stand looking the hyphen fool you are van Niekerk” bellowed Mr Baird looking up to see whether his assistant had found a solution of a puzzle which was causing the aged blood to chill.

“She’s run dead into blue granite,” said the miner with conviction in his tone “That’s why she’s been pinching the last week.”

Blue granite (Credit: MS International)

Blue granite (Credit: MS International)

Mr Baird spat and resting from his labours filled an old black pipe and lit it.

“You cursed fool” he growled – “the Baird’s a true fissure vein it’s only an intrusion of granite that’s pushed the reef over – maybe cut it clean. We’ll find her in place below or maybe the fissure is diverted. We’ll pick her up again John – Don’t you think so Man?”

“Maybe Mr Baird maybe you’re right – there’s always strange things happening in mining.”

The old mine owner glared savagely through the candlelight “You bloody fool” he shouted, “there’s nothing strange about underground earth movement – don’t you know enough ’bout mining to know that when two rock formations are up against one another it’s only reasonable for there to be all kinds of breaks in the contact with the newer rock dovetailing into the rotting older formation.”

“That’s so Mr Baird! That’s so, but even fissures come to an end and when a reef runs into granite…”

His employer rose gripping his pick menacingly “See here van Niekerk the man that says that the Baird’s pinched in the granite will get his neck twisted. Got me?”

“Yes, Mr Baird.”

Alright! Shove on a double shift – sink and keep on sinking, also drive into the walls – the granite mebbe fifty foot thick mebbe ten – she may have pushed in a couple of hundred feet and mebbe only twenty – we’ll pick up the Baird if it costs me every damned farthing I’ve got.”

But as van Niekerk remarked, “Strange things happen in mining.”

Supposing one dark night you or I armed with a lantern walked along the edge of a cliff two thousand feet deep. If we came on a small crack and climbing into it tried to trace it to the very bottom of the cliff our chances of success would be small. A ledge might run across it and yet quite possibly the crack might continue below but then again it mightn’t.

The intrusive bar may have caused our crack to narrow almost to nothing but it could possibly have found a way around the obstruction or be behind it. Quite likely, however, the crack ends for good.

Mr Baird was in the position of such searches. He believed the fissure which contained his gold to be under the bar. But there was no proof to encourage Mr Baird’s optimism. For four hundred feet from the surface of the earth, a hole showed how nicely Mr Baird’s gold reef had behaved – on two sides of the hole a dull white streak stained with oxidised metals showed what a very nice reef Mr Baird possessed.

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Along the roof of many tunnels, the same milky band proved that the reef was a four-foot wide wedge which was like a white wedge that went into a solid mass of grey stone.

What Mr Baird disliked was the thought that all the wedge had been taken out of the material. For years he had broken the milky wedge out bit by bit working from its top until now it seemed suspicious there being none of it taken out – that a molten stream had forced through the middle of the wedge and cooled, melting away only a little of the middle. Perhaps it had broken the wedge and pushed the bottom half deeply into the material.

To be continued…