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10

AramcoWorld

FORME R

GOL D M I NE R

always thought

working in the forest

would be like a

vacation, but it was

a survival contest.

We worked with big

machines day and night at

12–hour shifts and used

1,000 liters of diesel a day.

We start by removing the

topsoil until we hit gravel.

Gold is in the gravel and

can’t go through clay. Gravel

is scooped up with a back-

hoe and dropped onto the big

iron grille over the sluice box.

As it falls through the grille

onto the mats, it is sprayed

with water and washed down

the sluice. Gold being seven

times heavier than sand, it

will stay in the mats.

When we have worked a

week, we beat the mats and

collect the gold. Sometimes

you see gold, sometimes not.

That’s when you add mer-

cury. It doesn’t mix with sand

but will mix with gold. There

are a lot of robbers about, so

you can’t lose time. Mercury

is heated in the gold pan with

a welding torch and evapo-

rates, leaving gold.

The gold is then raw. We

wash it with a magnet to get

all the iron bits left by our

own equipment. Then the

gold is washed with powder

soap. This dissolves the fat

and diesel that collected. The

gold is now pure.

It’s also dangerous. Cicero,

a gold miner I knew, owed

someone money and wouldn’t

pay. One day he was sleeping

in his hammock after a long

shift. The others were working

in the hole. A knife stabbed

him in the chest two or three

times. Dead. No witnesses.

Police can only collect the