Zimbabwe: Sleepy Umvuma Awakens As Mines Open

Almost 55 years after large-scale work stopped on the once-mighty…

Almost 55 years after large-scale work stopped on the once-mighty Falcon and Athens Mines in Umvuma, they have now been opened and work is under way, which may restore them to their previous glories.

The two mines, which were the reason for the booming activity in Umvuma during the 1910s and 20s, were closed in 1926 after almost 15 years of large-scale operations.

Lonrho, which has taken over the mines, has expanded the Athens Mine by deepening the central shaft to another level, and with this renewed interest much needed life blood has been pumped into the dormant village.

Mine manager Mr Tim Nangle said the Athens mine only was in full operation as it was virtually a virgin ore body. Activity on the neighbouring Falcon Mine was in re-processing.

“The old oxide dumps on the Falcon mine are being reprocessed, but we have only a small pilot plant, which is not in full production. Plans to reopen the Falcon fully have not been completed,” he said.

The first claims to be pegged in Umvuma were made by the French South Africa Development Company in 1902, and in 1911 were bought by the Falcon Mines Company.

A great deal of money was poured into the mine. The familiar chimney stack was built in 1913, as the draw for a large blasting furnace at the foot of the hill.

The remains of the furnace and the brick flume, which connected it with the chimney, are still there.

Fifty huge Nissan stamping mills were operated in those days; the foundations can still be seen.

The mines closed in 1926 not through lack of gold, but for economic reasons.

The company had problems trying to separate the three metals found there-gold, copper and silver.

The minerals could not be separated on the mine. A matte consisting of all the metals was produced and sent to America to be refined.

This problem has now been overcome with a carbon in pulp process, which produces the gold and silver bullion, and the copper is extracted by flotation.

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