JOHN Hamoonga scans the ground, making circling movements with a metal detector, and listening for a warning sound through the large earphones covering both his ears.
Suddenly, there is a bleeping sound from his detector, and he stoops to carefully examine the ground, racks the soil in his hand, and then lets the debris slip through his fingers. Then he gently rubs something between his thumb and index finger to completely separate it from soil and other particles.
It is a tiny piece of metal – a half-staple. How it got here, deep in the jungle on the edge of the Luano Valley, one can only imagine. But that is less amusing than the fact that John’s metal detector was able to detect such a tiny object buried under the earth.
But John is not here to find mundane objects such as used staples; he is here for the gold, and he is one of thousands in this mountainous region lying between Rufunsa district in Lusaka and Mkushi district in Central Province searching for gold.
Like the other gold hunters digging and crushing stones in this wooded area, John is unrelenting in his treasure hunt, holding high his dream of becoming rich one day.
Recently, he acquired a second-hand metal detector from a Tanzanian merchant. He bartered the device with 60 grammes of gold.
When he is not looking for his own gold, the young man is helping other gold hunters to detect metals in the ground with his gadget – at a fee.
“With this machine, I have a bigger advantage over my friends,” says John.
On a good day, he gets about 10 grammes of the precious mineral. With the price of gold at the local market at K550 per gram, it is not bad for the young man.
But digging for gold is like gambling. Nothing is ever certain.
John is a school dropout from Kabwe, but he now lives a nomadic life, visiting various sites in the country where gold has been discovered.
The mountains in the Luano Valley have century-old tunnels running as deep as 300m into the ground. They were the work of early gold hunters – white men on horses. CLICK TO READ MORE