The Umba Valley's Buried History

Out beyond the land of cellphones and electricity is a village in the Umba Valley called Kigwasi. It's located at the end of a long red clay road that winds through the villages of Daluni, Ngombeni and Kalalani, to name just a few. The village of Kigwasi has seen both better and worse times. I've been fortunate to visit this village each time I've come to the Umba Valley in search of gem rough. During my most recent visit there, I learned a piece of fascinating history that I'd like to share. Scroll down for a photo/video tour of a different time - a time of large scale mining and untold gem discoveries.
A Maasai woman standing in the hole she has dug in search of gems. Notice in the background a collection of structures. We'll be moving in that direction.

Here is the first photo of the massive gem washing plant. It was built sometime in the 1960's by a mining magnate of Greek descent named George Populous. He operated here until he was kicked out of the country in 1979 by Tanzania's first president for reportedly saying "This government is too deep in my pocket." In the foreground is the mining camp's manager and in the background a few miners wondering what I'm doing there

The next few images are different sections of the massive gem washing plant. It was too large to capture in a single frame. Notice at the top of the photo the water cannon (at one time there were two of these cannons) This is where the gem gravel would have first entered the wash plant. The water was pumped from the Umba River. I'll be showing how that was done.
This is the engine that pumped the Umba River water to the plant. While it isn't visible in the photo, the Umba River is only 20 yards away. A portion of the plant can be seen at the top of the photo.
Standing at the top of the plant. Tractors would have first dumped the gem bearing gravels here. The water cannons would be used to remove much of the loose soil.
Up close of a water cannon
I believe this is called a trammel. It is where the large rocks would have been separated from the smaller gem bearing gravel, which would have fallen through the openings.
The camp manager lifting these massive screens to show me where the gems would have fallen in the sorting process. The gems were captured underneath, and hauled away to be sorted in a dedicated building. I'll be showing this process.
This is standing at the end of the wash plant. This is the area where the tailings would have been.
What follows are a few photos of the wash plant.
I opted not to use these stairs.
The home of George Populous. It looks out over the wash plant.
The sorting room. Notice the slats on the table top. In the Umba Valley, different gems are found together. Sapphires, ruby's, garnets, zircons, etc. would have been deposited down their respective slat.
Photo's of recent production. However, this is just a fraction of what once was happening here. Nowadays it is extremely small scale mining using hand tools digging shallow holes. I'll be showing the enormity of the mines that supported the washing plant in the photos ahead.
Sapphires from the dig site.
Tourmaline from the dig site. 
Miners hanging out, digging in the dirt. 
A short video showing Maasai women washing gem gravel in the Umba River. There are crocodiles in this river. They haul the gravel down and wash it in the river. At the end of the video you can see George's house through the trees.
The hole that George built. This is called "Hyena Head Mine" because the size of the gems they use to pull from here where said to be, well, the size of of a hyena's head. It's massive but used to be even larger. This, along with the other mine I'll be showing were largely filled in when George received word he was going to be kicked out of Tanzania.
That is a full sized tree growing from the bottom.
How deep is this hole? Watch and listen for the rock to hit the bottom.
I'm convinced every bush in Africa has thorns to one extinct or another. This one is no exception. I kept getting tangled in these particular bushes until I finally asked what they were called. My partner replied, we call this bush "wait a moment" because when it gets ahold of you, you must wait a moment before you can move again. HAHA!
Close up of "Wait a moment"
Driving to another mine, another hole that George built. Apparently he had 80 mines in this area of the Umba Valley! Contrast the small mounds of dirt of todays mining verses what use to be done here. It's mind boggling.
This is Hatch Mine. Like Hyena mine, an assortment of gems occurred together.
Another view of Hatch Mine.
How deep is Hatch Mine? Watch and listen for the rock to hit bottom.
This very narrow and deep slit in the earth is a fairly recent mine. It was a ruby mine started by 2 partners who sponsored miners to work it. The story told to me was that while one of the partners was out of town, they hit a pocket of ruby that produced 2 kilos of gem material. Both the partner who was on the ground here and the Thai dealer he sold them to disappeared into the night. This mine is no longer being worked.
I can't imagine having the nerve to go down into this hole on a daily basis.
50 miles from nowhere. Thanks for reading! 

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