Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Secrecy surrounds night-time tunnelling operations in Valle Gran Rey
Many people have been wondering over the years why a horizontal mineshaft resembling a tunnel was being driven in an easterly direction into the side of Teguerguenche mountain in Valle Gran Rey. The excavation started several years ago from a spot very near to the floor of the dry riverbed in the valley, and just above the large mains-water tank. Officially it was said to be a tunnel to eventually bring water from an underground deposit to the tank. Every now and again work stopped completely, officially due to lack of funding, only to suddenly start again some months later with different crews. 
But why were they digging mostly at night, why was the tunnel so large, and why were there mining experts and engineers from places as far away as Russia and Australia at work ? It was joked locally that they were building a metro-style underground to Playa de Santiago...
Hard work: Secret minor 'mine' in
the mountains. Donkeys are used
to carry the ore. There are plenty
of  cracks and crevices to explore.
'There's gold in them thar hills'
There were some persistent rumours of gold since excavations started, and now bit by bit the truth slowly has come to light: It it a gold mine ! Howevr, many of the local people 'in the know' were already aware of the reason for the secrecy: The mountains around Valle Gran Rey contain gold in important quantities. 
Some time ago an inebriated Australian  employee of the company excavating the 'tunnel' had  shown around a sizeable lump of the precious metal found there in a local bar, causing quite a stir. It didn't take long and a lot of digging was going on in remote spots in the mountains and the valley. A few hard-working locals seem to have been rewarded and appear to have struck veins of gold, because they suddenly could afford to buy new cars, pay off mortgages, and order huge rounds of drink.
Local government and and all other officials however remain tight-lipped and have refused to comment.
The main vein of gold
Gold of high quality
A mining expert who wants to remain anonymous has explained that the gold found here is encountered in 'lodes' which are  deposits of metalliferous ore that fill, or are embedded in, a fissure (or crack) in a rock formation or a vein of ore that is deposited or embedded between layers of rock. ''The aurum (gold) we've encountered in La Gomera is of relatively high quality and purity, making this an important and commercially viable discovery. We can now be confident to hit the main lode in the not too distant future'', he said. The gradual increase in the number of police officers stationed and patrolling Valle Gran Rey over the past months is an indicator that he is right.
Apart from the larger deposits which are found and exploited directly during digging in the shaft, there are secondary finds of smaller amounts of gold, which are extracted from the already excavated material. New machinery for grinding and sifting through this gravel has been installed and some of it can be seen working a bit further down in the valley working through large amounts of material from the tunnel:
Gold rush ?
Where this unexpected gold find will lead to is anybody's guess at this moment, but the very strict environmental protection that most parts of the valley enjoy should ensure that no wild and unsightly mining boom will spoil the area's natural beauty. Many local people feel that only limited amounts should be allowed to be dug out. Mind you, the Spanish government will claim most of what is found anyway, but apart from the main commercial mine they can't check  and control every shovelful that a local farmer brings up carefully when ''digging a well for the goats'', and tourists poking around in between rocks will be left alone to try their luck. Madrid will have to be content with selling more prospecting licences and taxing the commercial finds. At least the gold will give some badly needed hope in these times of economic crisis that ironically helps to keep gold prices high. 

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

So Willie ....... Nice try on APRIL FOOL'S DAY!