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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Progress in Mashonaland since 1890

Progress in Mashonaland since 1890.

Although three years have elapsed since the occupation of Mashonaland by the British South Africa Company, the very severe and protracted rains in 1890-91 prevented much being accomplished until the summer of 1891, when the general conditions of life were greatly improved, and food, clothing, shelter, and medicines were poured into the country. Since then, public buildings for the Administration have been erected; the Standard Bank (the leading South African banking institution) has established a branch; hotels and stores are plentiful; telegraphic communication viâ the page 91 Southern route is working well to all parts of the globe; and the line to connect Salisbury with Nyassa is being pushed forward. A good mail and passenger service to the East coast, with comfortable fast coaches, has been established between Umtali (in Manika) and Salisbury, thence connecting with the present termination of the Beira railway near Chimoyo. Townships have been laid out at I Salisbury, Victoria, and Umtali (in Manika), the first sale of "stands" (building sites) at these towns in July, 1892, realising £10,000. Administrative districts, presided over by magistrates, have been formed in Tuli, Victoria, Umtali, Salisbury, and Hartley. Mining commissioners and medical officers are stationed in all mining districts, and justices of the peace and "field-cornets" in the sub-districts. Missionaries of various denominations have established themselves throughout the country, including the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, Wesleyans, Dutch Reformed Church, and the Salvation Army. Good hospitals have been established at Salisbury, Umtali, Tuli, and Victoria, and are in efficient working order.

Regarding the gold industry, on which the future of the country so largely depends, especially in its early stage, the extent of gold-bearing formation, upon which systematic active development is being carried on, is upwards of 27,000 square miles, the six gold-fields being as follows:—
  • Victoria District, area of 70 miles long by 20 broad.
  • Manika District, area of 50 miles long by 14 broad.
  • Hartley Hill District, area of 40 miles long by 30 broad.
  • Mazoe District, area of 40 miles long by 30 broad.
  • Lo Magondi District, area of 30 miles long by 25 broad.
  • Salisbury District, undetermined.

Mashonaland is a country with gold-reefs in all directions. Over 25,000 mining claims have been registered, and on over 4,000 of these the reefs have been partially tested by shafts and cross-cuts. It is stated on official authority that reefs have been tested at depths of between 200 and 300 feet below the surface, proving their permanence, and that, as a rule, the reefs at the lower depths maintain the yield obtained on the surface, and in some cases give even higher results. In other cases, where it was at one time feared that the "ancient workings" had exhausted the gold, it is proved that the richness of the reefs continues far below the depths which had been obtained by the previous workings.

Here it may be mentioned that, though expert opinion was unfavourable in the early stages of occupation, similar adverse page 92 opinion was expressed regarding the Randt (on which Johannesburg now stands), and this just before its development into an enormously valuable gold-field, now the third in any country of the world, and destined to take the first place, producing as follows:—
Ounces won.
1887 23,125
1888 208,121
1889 411,557
1890 494,817
1891 729,238
1892 973,271

In addition to gold, other minerals have been discovered, and several claims marked out on reefs showing silver, copper, blende, tin, antimony, arsenic, and lead, while deposits of nitrate of potassium and coal have also been found.

It is believed that the gold-belt starting from Umtali, in Manika, passes through Victoria, and will in all probability connect with the gold-belt stretching eastward from the Tati Gold Fields in the south-western portion of Matabeleland, on which considerable development has taken place.

The Salisbury District was discovered in the early part of the present year. The reefs begin within fifteen miles of Salisbury, The present Administrator of Mashonaland, Dr. Jameson, has reported that five parallel lines of reef are exposed, some of them very rich indeed, and that they evidently form a portion of the Mazoe belt in a direct line eastward, and still further east join the Enterprise series of reefs, and from there continue another seventy miles to the north-east up to the Pote Gold Fields—another recent discovery.

Other more recent discoveries are at Mount Darwin, about eighty miles north of Mazoe; at points a hundred and twenty miles north of Umtali (Manika), and eighty miles south of the same place; on the Tokwe River, about thirty miles west of Victoria; and in the commonage at Umtali (described by the Administrator as being phenomenally rich).

While the gold-formations at the places just mentioned are all very extensive, show visible freely, and give very rich pannings, they cannot be said to be in any sense developed at present.

Owing to the enormous cost of transport, prior to the opening of the Beira Railway in October last, very few machines, and these small and imperfect, are at present in the country, and it must be borne in mind that the quartz from which a large portion of the gold has been obtained was crushed by "dollies" worked by hand. Returns page 93 show, however, that the average yield of gold per ton is high. The total output reported to April 12, 1893, was 2,312 ozs., and many thousand tons of rich ore were at grass awaiting crushing. Taking an individual district, a report from the Mining Commissioner shows that at Victoria, up to the end of October, 1892, 535 tons, 10 cwts. of quartz, taken from all reefs, good and bad together, yielded 190 ozs. 18 dwts. 14 grs. of gold, while, he adds, considerable allowance should be made for gold absorbed during the setting of the plates. This gives an average yield per ton for the district of 18.3 dwts., or about 73s. Experience has, however, it is stated, shown that, even under the present disadvantageous conditions, mining operations tan be carried on in Mashonaland at a cost not exceeding 20s. per ton, leaving the very handsome profit of 53s. on every ton crushed in the Victoria district.

In a telegram received from the Administrator on his return from a tour of inspection of the various districts in May last, he states that new finds were daily occurring, and the crushings were everywhere successful; that the reefs were improving with depth, and that most satisfactory development was proceeding in every direction.

The importance of railway communication is fully recognised, and the overland railway from the south (a project, be it here noted, first proposed in 1886 by Henry M. Stanley), the main line of which will run through Matabeleland, and the Beira Railway from the east coast, are both being pushed forward. The southern line is now being extended from Vryburg to Mafeking, while the eastern road, whose terminus is now near Chimoyo, will be carried forward another section after the rains.

The Beira Railway (just opened), seventy-five miles in length, so necessary towards the development of the country, especially the gold industry, will also aid greatly in enabling the present difficulty with the Matabele to be satisfactorily settled. The section covers the greater portion of the "fly-belt," which is such a serious obstacle to transport. The importance of good supplementary communication to the east, 380 miles in length, in place of 1,690 miles to the south, is self-evident. But the disadvantages of the eastern route must not be lost sight of. This railway has to traverse the low country comprised in the Mozambique Company's territory lying between Beira and the healthy uplands of Mashonaland. Rapid communication through this low region of fever and tsetse fly is therefore nccessary to the healthy highlands at Manika. The southern railway route, on the page 94 other hand, will run throughout over high, healthy country-an enormous advantage.

Beira at present consists of a few temporary buildings, at the mouth of the Pungwé River, some distance above the confluence of the Busi, and north-east of Mussique Point. It has an anchorage, protected from the violence of the breakers by a sandbank, with a depth of thirty to forty feet, and is buoyed so as to enable the entrance of large vessels to be made with safety.