The summer of 2001 is forever remembered for the world-changing terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre on 9th September. People all around the world remember where they were and what they were doing on that fateful day. I was very busy drilling water wells on the slopes of the Campsie Fells in Scotland, where, as in New York, it was a clear sunny day. I could see for miles across the Glasgow City basin and the Firth of Clyde and watched the regular comings and goings of passenger aircraft on the flight paths around Glasgow airport. The tranquil scene viewed from on high, the planes passing by almost at eye-level to my elevated position on the mountainside, betrayed no inkling of the terrible events unfolding 6-hours flying time away on the other side of the Atlantic….
That summer is also memorable to me as the time that I was first contacted by Richard Unwin, the Chairman of Cresta Mining Corporation, a businessman who was a member of a Commonwealth advisory committee on trade and industry and who rubbed shoulders with Commonwealth heads of State, including ‘his excellency’ President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, to whom he was a ‘special advisor’ and personal friend. The President was keen to develop the mining sector in Uganda to accelerate his country’s recovery from the disastrous genocidal post-independence era, and Mr Unwin had been given a Presidential charter to explore for minerals in Uganda. He already had a ‘geological team’, but had heard of my exploits in mineral exploration and water and mineral divining, and he wanted me on board as his Exploration Director, offering an attractive package and shareholding in the company. It sounded too good to be true. I was doing very well in Scotland and was reluctant to involve myself in an exciting but potentially risky venture. It took him 6 months to persuade me to go.
It all started when, in December 2001, I agreed to meet with Mr Unwin at his Sussex residence, to discuss his plans and have an initial perusal of some of the maps and reports his geological team had unearthed from the DGSM in Entebbe. His home, a luxuriously converted 16th Century Sussex Barn, was most impressive, as was the chauffeur-driven Bentley that collected me from the airport, and Mr Unwin’s jovial but forthright character struck a chord with me. Within a few hours we were quite well acquainted, had agreed terms, and stood poring over Richard’s map-strewn billiard table upon which lay numerous old topographic maps and geological maps of Western Uganda, dating from the days of British rule in the 1940’s and 50’s.
One of the cornerstones of the suite of biophysical remote-sensing techniques that I use, in mapping geological structures and plotting the location and orientation of faults, fracture-zones and many kinds of geophysical anomalies, is an advanced form of map-dowsing (literally divining on maps and aerial images). There is an explanation as to how this is done for water on the geodivining.com web site, and I will post more details in this blog in days to come, but for now let it suffice to say that the application of these techniques on this occasion began one of the most remarkable successes in the development of Geodivining International. The maps were very out of date and lacked much geological detail, and yet they were sufficient to provide the basis of geographic reference upon which I was able, quite rapidly, to determine the most highly prospective areas in Uganda for gold and base metals, and then, working on 1:25,000 scale enlargements from the old one-inch topo maps, to delineate a number of quartz-vein and shear-zone hosted ore bodies. We agreed that I should take copies of these maps back to Scotland to complete the detailed work over the Christmas holidays, in preparation for another meeting with the senior field geologist, who was booked to fly in from South Africa in January.
There were four major prospect areas in Southwestern Uganda, in Kabale, Mubende, Mbarara and Kamwenge districts. The first area we focussed on was in the Mafuga Forest prospect, Kabale district. There were some records of past alluvial gold workings and some small wolfram mines in parts of the area in undifferentiated phyllites of Precambrian age, peripheral to a large igneous complex. On the 1:25,000 enlargements of the prospect area, I applied a series of goal-oriented remote-sensory techniques to delineate 15 major auriferous (gold-bearing) quartz veins, arranged in two cross-cutting parallel sets, ranging from 3 to 12 km in length and up to 100m in width, with ore grades from 2 to 9 grams per ton and a few richer pockets at intersections. There was no indication of any such structures or features on the geological map of the area.
I arrived in Sussex for the next meeting, armed with these tantalising maps of gold ore-bodies on a scale that clearly indicated the possibility of a major mineable resource, and with the usual sensible caveats that exploration geologists are accustomed to using, I explained my findings to Richard and proposed the next step should be a reconnaissance field trip to the prospect area. The next day the South African geologist arrived at Gatwick airport and we met up for a classic Sussex pub lunch before returning to the billiard room to talk turkey. Mike deVilliers was a larger-than-life character, proud of his French Hugenot ancestry and Afrikaner heritage, and a knowledgeable seasoned campaigner with over 40 years professional experience behind him, with a lasting enthusiasm for all things geological. To say that he and Richard were amazed by the first set of ‘gold maps’ would be something of an understatement. Mike was understandably sceptical about the idea of divining for gold on maps from a location thousands of miles distant, but accepted the viability of water divining as a technique, and he was open-minded enough to embrace the possibility of obtaining some indications provided this was backed up by rigorous conventional field exploration. I was in full agreement with that, and soon arrangements were made for our first field excursion. Mike returned to Uganda to set up office and accommodation, vehicle hire, etc; and I returned to Scotland to set my business in order and prepare myself for my first visit to equatorial Africa, requiring malaria prophylaxis and a host of vaccines.
I flew out to Uganda in February, a direct flight 8 1/2 hours from London to Entebbe, Uganda’s only international airport, on the north shore of Lake Victoria.
to be continued….