Beginning in 2009, a small division of the Chambers Federation, Chambers Africa Ltd, began first with exploration, then exploitation of the Rosterman mines in Kakamega, Kenya. Over a period of 11, months the company produced 761 ounces working in cooperation with two local mining groups. In exchange for the company bringing in modern, efficient equipment, the groups provided the labor to extract the gold ore.
New & Old Techniques:
When first arriving to the area we were surprised to find many devices and relatively complicated machines replaced by hand made tools. Even the shafts which traveled many meters down into the ground were hand dug and lined with untreated and un-stabilized wood. The conditions were exceptionally poor and dangerous. Even part of the gold separation was done by using mercury, first with bare hands, then burned off by fire. The new equipment and processes the company brought with and taught not only dramatically increased the efficiency and production but the improved the safety standards.
Local Mining Groups:
The local mining groups consisted mainly of young men in their late teens and early twenties. Due to the rise in gold values beginning just a few years before, many of the miners were new this business. Most came from rural farms and would have been farming, making substantially less income.
Impact from Investment:
Approximately 42 miners, 6 support staff, 3 shift/site managers were directly employed by this project. Prior to the company’s project, these mining groups averaged less than 1/10th of a gram per person, per day. Under the company’s management this production increased to nearly ½ of a gram per person, per day. In total, the mining groups profits increased to just above $200,000 from less than $50,000 prior to the company’s arrival.
The company was led by the American president, Matthew Chambers. While this was his first venture in Africa, he had prior experience in both Michigan and the Philippines. The company also relied heavily on its partnering lab in New York to conduct tests on the soil samples as well as processing of the final product.
All funding for this project was provided by the company president, Matthew Chambers.
Rosterman Mine History:
Beginning in 1935, the mine is the largest mine historically in Kenya. This mine reportedly produced 250,000 ounces of gold between 1935 and 1952. Since 1952, several local mining groups have attempted to continue mining in this area. Even several international mining and exploration companies continue to explore the remaining deposits yet none have advanced to the extraction stage.
Many anticipated difficulties such as theft were relatively limited with the appropriate precautions. However, several others were not fully anticipated. Our primary mining site was located nearby a river, which unknown prior to excavation, there were feeder streams running through our site into the river. While this issue was solved with water pumps, the volume of water made it very difficult to extract the quantity of ore known to be in that area. Eventually these mine shafts were closed due to instability concerns caused by the water. Furthermore, the gold purity became a point of contention between the company and the mining groups. Even after treating the gold flakes with nitric acid the purity never exceeded 80%. However, with new access to websites like www.Kitco.com, every miner was able to see what the daily value for pure gold. In their minds everything they brought out of the ground was pure gold and therefore mistrust ensued. Even after showing a spectral analysis of the gold they
Despite being the first program of its type to be implemented by the company in Africa it was an astounding success. Although the equipment brought in only totaled $68,700 in value, the profit netted by the company over the 11 months was $298,600. In addition, the two mining groups working with the company also enjoyed a six figure income, far higher than what they expected.