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F the great Latin poet had been permitted to rise from
the grave and to visit Johannesburg on July roth, 1895, he would have been able to realise the truth of his own words in more ways than one ; for the age we live in is truly a golden one, and no one can deny that by gold men frequently attain to the highest honour, and, as Ovid justly says, can win even love itself.
The roth of July will ever be a red-letter day in the calendar of the Transvaal, for that date marks a new era in the history of “The Golden City.”
As the clocks of Johannesburg struck the hour of twelve, the chairman of the Stock Exchange mounted his rostrum, and made the extraordinary announcement that the output of gold for the month of June 1895 had reached the hitherto unprecedented amount of 200,941 ounces, representing in money a sum equivalent to £775,000.
This announcement, be it clearly understood, had reference ONLY to the output of those mines on the Witwatersrand gold fields (commonly known as “The Rand Mines ") the main reef of which runs practically through the city of Johannesburg.
Needless to say, this satisfactory announcement was received with hearty cheers by the members, and one of the evening journals of that date thus
describes the latter part of the scene : "Several of the leading firms having sent in cases of champagne in honour
of the occasion, the market between 12 o'clock and p.m. was particularly vigorous."
I have no desire to introduce politics into an article which should be of a purely commercial character ; but the applause which greeted Mr. Dold, the chairman of the Stock Exchange, when he made the announcement aforementioned, was not more genuine than that which greeted the announcement, made by cable but a few days previously, that the Radical-Separatist Government had at last come to an end. For Johannesburg is an English city, overflowing with sturdy Britons who have not forgotten 1880 and 1881: men who never can, and never will, lose sight of the fact that the Transvaal, a country rich beyond the dreams of avarice, was once the property of our Queen-Empress, until a Radical Government, with senseless haste and reckless pusillanimity, gave it over into the hands of its present owners. Thinking over those days of humiliation, and of those so-called statesmen who brought shame and disgrace upon our country, puts me in mind of a saying of Voltaire's-“Quand on a tout perdu, quand on n'a plus d'espoir, la vie est une opprobe, et la mort un devoir.”
I think that sentiment justly applies to those statesmen (?) who gave up the richest territory in the world.
However, let us try and obliterate from our memories that shame-laden epoch, and make the best of the flag which foats over the “New Eldorado," and let us skip those five intervening years and bring the date up to 1886, less than ten short years ago, and try and imagine ourselves standing on the Rand, with an annual value of close on ten millions' worth of undiscovered gold lying under our feet--that Rand which was in those days nothing more nor less than bare veldt (like an American prairie), with perhaps a few Kaffir kraals and a Boer's farm or two in sight. Could any one have foreseen, or have in any way realised, that during such an incredibly short space of time, on that stretch of bare veldt there would spring up a large, prosperous city, teeming with workers of different industries-a city of fine broad streets and finer buildings (sure indications of the great wealth of their occupants)--a city of electric light and tramways, of hotels, clubs, restaurants, theatres, music-halls, cricket and polo grounds, and two racecourses a city with a population of 60,000 souls, three daily and three weekly newspapers, only forty-nine hours from Capetown and only 450 hours from London ?
Johannesberg increases not only every year and every month, but actually every week, as each steamer from Europe lands her consignment of passengers at Capetown, many of them bound "for the Rand,” most of them suftering from that insatiable thirst for the precious metal which some cynical old English writer has characterised as “the fool's curtain, which hides all his defects from the world.”
As the main reef of the Witwatersrand geld field runs east and west and dips to the south ; the city of Johannesburg is built to the north of it, and is spreading daily north, east, and west, the south being entirely taken up with mining plant ; steam engines, tall iron chimneys, and the hundred-and-one accessories of the gold mining industry, being visible east and west as far as the eye can reach, while the dull roar of the stamp mills ceases not day or night.
In the city itself land fetches about as much per foot as it does in London; and outside the commercial quarter, round about the pleasant wooded suburbs of Doornfontein, Braamfontein, Jeppestown, Booyseus, and Hospital Hill, “ stands” of fifty feet frontage by a hundred feet in depth fetch from £250 up to £700 each, according to locality, and the probability is that in twelve months' time these prices will double themselves.
Such is Johannesberg: only a young child of nine years old ; and yet it is some time since she put away her dolls and pinafores to become the Golden Queen of the Southern Hemisphere and the commercial and financial centre of Southern Africa.
And all this has come to pass owing to the energy, determination and enterprise of a handful of pioneers, whose skill and pertinacity were concentrated upon the exploration, exploitation and development of the greatest gold fields in the whole world.
Those men have every reason to congratulate themselves upon having achieved a success so abnormal that it is absolutely without precedent in the gold mining history of the universe.
In corroboration of this last statement I may say that the Witwatersrand gold field, which for brevity I will in future call the Rand mines-produces 88 per cent. per annum of all the gold that is found in the state, and yields to the world over 25 per cent of its total gold supply.
Although comparisons are said to be odious, it is still necessary sometimes to make them ; and in this case I would call attention to the relative values of these South Africın gold fields and those of West Australia. The total output of the latter for the year is quoted officially at 237,600 ounces of gold, whereas two months' output from the Rand mines is 158,000 ounces in excess of those figures.
It was in the month of May 1887 that the first output was registered on the Rand, and this was the result of the Wemmer crushing with five stamps one hundred tons of ore.
For June and July the Wemmer was still the only mine having stamps at work, but in August it was joined by the Crown Reef and Knight's, and by the month of October by the Meyer and Charlton, the Ferreira, the George Goch, the Jubilee, the Jumpers, the Salisbury, and the Stanhope, and in that month the output reached 4029 ounces.
Since then the output has increased almost continuously until it has reached its present huge total.
In December 1890 the 50,000 ounce figure was first reached, the output for that month being 50,352 ounces. In June 1892 the output was just double-viz. 103,252 ; and last month that figure again was doubled, so that in four years and a half the output from these mines has been quadrupled. Up to 1890 the output was made up entirely of gold from the mill and from alluvial washings ; aster that the McArthurForrest Cyanide, and other chemical processes for treating tailings, came into operation on a small scale, and now the amount of gold recovered in this way amounts to considerably over 60,000 ounces a month.
In 1894 the mining operations in the Transvaal had surpassed the expectations of the most sanguine, the confidence destroyed by former reckless speculators had been entirely restored, and new foreign markets were opened to the Transvaal.
On December 31st, 1894—the date up to which the Government official mining report had been made-upwards of a hundred and forty different mining companies that were in full work sent in official statements, and there were probably other mining companies whose works were not in a sufficiently forward state to warrant their giving figures.
However, the nominal capital of those mines who did send in statements amounted to £24,702,815, the issued capital amounted to £22,940,32 1, the working capital to £7,869,811, or 34) per cent of the issued capital.
The total amount of dividends paid out by the aforementioned mining companies, from their formation up to December 31st, 1893, was £3,503,867-a sum equivalent to 20 per cent. of tire value of the gold productions.
The dividends paid out from December 31st, 1893, to December 31st, 1894, amounted to £1,647,063, or a sum equal +) 20-5 per cent. of the gross value of the gold produced during the year, or 47 per cent. of the total amount paid in dividends up to December 31st, 1893.
In order to give the reader some sort of estimate of the increased value in the shares of the Rand mines (fifty-two only of the principal of which are quoted in the official report), their market value on the Johannesberg Stock Exchange at the commencement of the year 1893 amounted to £13,557,044, and on December 31st, 1894, the value of those same shares amounted to £31,782,613-an increase of 134 per cent.
These fifty-two Rand mines contributed £2,609,299 out of the aforesaid total dividends of £3,503,867 paid up to December 31st, 1893; and for the year 1894 they contributed £1,141,781 out of the total dividends of £1,647,063, or nearly three-fourths of the whole in each case.
The Government Engineer, whose figures I have been quoting, attributes these magnificent results obtained on the Rand to the exceptionally regular nature of the bedding of the Banket, the very slight variation in the thickness and in the deposit as greater depths are reached, together with the enormous quantity of payable ore ; so that in many instances before commencement of mining the quantity of ore in any area, and the value of it, may be determined with a fair amount of accuracy
Other factors which are conducive to the extraordinary successes of these Rand mines are the favourable conditions of timber fuel and water. The continuation of the Banket beds in depth at a more or less equal thickness and richness could hardly be questioned, in face of the general geological condition, the results being obtained from bore-holes or from shafts sunk on deep, level claims.
Although these Rand mines are extraordinarily rich in gold, yet there are many others in the Transvaal, I will not say richer, but which yield very large returns. The grand total of the progressive output from the whole state proves this, as it amounted on December 31st, 1894, to the extraordinary figure of £25,000,000.
The total expenditure for last year (1394) on 164 gold mines (including 24 ccal
mines) amounted to £6,153,410, a very large proportion of which huge sum was expended in the country and circulated amongst the natives (Kaffirs), of whom there were 42,504 employed, being an increase of 12,000 on those employed in 1893, and of white men employed above ground 5,653, an increase of 1,400 on 1893.
For this amount of labour there were 3,489,015 tons of ore extracted from the bowels of the earth ; and, taking these workmen all round, their average productive value works out at £160 per head.
One of the burning questions just now occupying the attention of the Chamber of Mines is the native labour question; and, unless all the mining companies co-operate and back each other up, it will be a never-ending one.
There is no doubt but what the wages are in some cases far too high, and if these extravagant prices could be only reduced a much larger--and a payablearea of ground could be brought under exploitation, the development of which would add further rich streams of gold to the already overflowing coffers of the Dutch Treasury, the mining industry alone having in 1894 contributed 431 per cent. of the entire revenue of the State.
It is therefore obvious that the Republic of the Transvaal is not only benefited to an enormous extent by this gold mining industry, but holds as well the unique position of being the largest gold producer in the world.
Everything connected with gold-mining increases pro rata. Thus, as new mining companies are floated, more claims are pegged out. And while on the subject of claims perhaps it will be as well for me to shortly describe, for the benefit of such of my English readers as are not “up” in the subject, the modus operandi of a prospector and his right to peg.
In the beginning of the eighties the first gold law was passed; Section i declaring, as a general principle, that the right to dispose of all precious minerals and precious stones is vested in the Statę,