KwaMachi quarry: Is it fool's gold or the real thing?
While samples from the KZN site have been sent for tests, many are holding onto their treasure, just in case
Ndumo Ngubelanga has never enjoyed the trappings of wealth, but in a drawer crammed with medication and keepsakes, the 72-year-old woman keeps her “gold”.
“I found my gold on the side of the road. I am keeping it in case my children and grandchildren need it,” she said, running her fingers over the nuggets.
She gathered the glinting shards of rock from the fringes of a shale quarry in KwaMachi, in southern KwaZulu-Natal, dubbed “Marikana” for the possibility it may be a window into a seam of gold running through the rural hillside.
“I have no real hope about whether it's gold or not. What would I have hope for, I am old. It's the kids who have hope that from this [gold], maybe job opportunities might arise. They are hoping that, if God is willing, they get jobs from there,” the grandmother said.
The nondescript quarry was the epicentre of a feverish gold rush in May, with hundreds desperate to strike it rich descending on what appears only to be a gash in the hillside.
Several days later, after police were overrun by warring miners, provincial economic development‚ tourism and environmental affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala declared the site a no-go area.
He enlisted the local chief to seal off the site with guards, while samples were sent for testing by the Department of Mineral Resources.
Months later, it remains unknown whether or not it is real gold.
Department of Mineral Resources spokesperson Ayanda Shezi told Times Select that tests were still under way and that an outcome was only expected within three months.
Zikalala’s spokesperson, Bongani Tembe, referred all requests for comment to Shezi.
Ngubelanga’s household, like the others that dot the windswept hillscape, is locked in the grip of poverty.
“I would be very happy if job opportunities arise, because my kids are educated but unemployed. Nothing that looks like it has a future has ever happened here. I have been living here since November 1972,” she said.
“People are saying there is now a new spot right at the bottom, past the old spot near the river. I am not entirely sure if they have or have not found anything.”
“I have kept if for my grandchildren so that they can see it, even if it's not real. Some lady tried to buy my last one from me, but I said no.”