Bonanza: Spanish for fair weather, prosperity, rich find in a gold mine
As we left off last week in search of El Dorado in Zaruma…..we finally entered our first mine….one of the oldest in South America….El Sexmo. Now more of a tourist attraction as it was last open to mining some 8 years ago, we got a first hand look of what the conditions of mining are and more importantly….gold itself in the rock.
Into El Sexmo We Go - Like the Spanish and the Incas before Us
After our tour of the museum…we headed for real mining activity. Unfortunately, in Ecuador, owners of property do not have sub-surface rights, but investors purchase those rights from the government as a concession. Then….the surface right owners can negotiate with concessionaires for access to the gold. As a result of these negotiations, concessionaires can make a surface owner a partner, purchase his property, pay an access fee, or allow for “artisan mining” by the surface owner. Artisan mining is the simple, antiquated type of mining performed mostly without heavy equipment. There have been many a artisan miners who have struck it rich in Ecuador. But…most of the serious mining is performed with large investment of equipment and men on an industrial basis.
Did Anyone bring a Pick Ax
The gold mining process is done is several phases….and the phases are normally not performed by the same owners. First of course is the mining itself where bags are filled with stone and dirt – and hopefully gold and silver. Then, it is all brought to a mill where it is ground up. The next stage separates the gold and silver using Mercury. The final stage is when it is put into bullion for market.
Bags on the Way to the Mill
Fernando, Be Careful - He's Packing Heat!!! The Real Thing - DYNAMITE
We had a chance to actually visit some artisan miners who operate in heat around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. These guys REALLY have it tough and get paid by the bag. We also had a chance to visit a mill where the bag is ground up. It is a unique mill in that it is operated by a hydraulic water wheel. Then it is sent out to another place where it is separated from silver. The owner reminded us of Robert Duval and was not very comfortable with having his photo taken. He also explained to us the process of removing the gold by panning (performed since before the arrival of the Spanish).
These Guys Travel to the center of the Earth
Robert Duvall and His Hydraulic Gold Mill
Panning for Gold Just like the Spanish - and the Incas before Them
We Found it Boys.....
Our last stop was at the museum of Magnus Turner….a third generation Texan whose father Magnus Sr. came here in the early 20th Century. Magnus Jr. purchased the old American miner village and has turned it into a very interesting museum. Magnus, who very closely resembles Ted Turner, (he says no relation) is quite the “broker” in Zaruma. He knows everything about gold in Ecuador and can set you up with a speculative opportunity as a prospector, or he can put a deal together for a capital investment. We had a chance to discuss some possible interest with him while we where there. Even though he was not born in the USA…I felt like we were talking to an old West Texas Wildcatter.
Sittin' Down for a Spell with Magnus - A Real Prospector
At the end of the day…we did some shopping for gold on the street to get a feel for the market. Typically…prices for gold average from 2% to 10% discount below the daily spot price but the quantity of gold per oz. is always in question. Buyer beware!!!! Nonetheless, if a buyer wanted to purchase form street vendors…our contacts could lead us in the right direction to reputable sellers.
The Livin' is Easy in Zaruma
Forex Market in Zaruma
The End Result
Mike's Favorite Hangout - The Tango Bar
Mike - She's a Gold Digger
Give Me a Balcony and I will Start a Revolution...
Hoss, Pa and Little Joe - Drinking Delicious Zaruma Coffee
Despite the lure of gold…..Zamura should be a destination for anyone thinking of purchasing property, shopping for gold, or just out for an adventure.. Zaruma was probably not the El Dorado that the Incas spoke of (some say it was even a bluff) but it is definitely a “Bonanza”…..perfect spring like weather, prosperity, and gold mines! The countryside is spectacular and the best coffee in Ecuador is grown in the area. The town is safe (they claim their doors are unlocked at night), with a perfect climate, near a good airport, with a prosperous people, and reasonable real estate prices. What we also noticed about Zaruma is its conservative lifestyle…no loud music, no discos or heavy bar scene, but rather very family oriented and hard working people. We loved the town and cannot wait for more LWE enthusiasts like Mike Roeder to have us take them here again!
Village of Zaruma
Sunset from Our Hotel
On the Trail Back Home
Matt, Mike and Fernando??????? Adioss!!!!!