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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 29: Extracting Gold

For the third day running the weather is just like in the UK, but more so. It is very grey and very, very wet - miserable. Added to this, just about everybody is ill. Jonathan, Kathy, John, Sophie, Drew and I have all got a weird bug. Mikey is back but feeling very rough after his accident. So many of us are tired it's untrue. Franz Josef is wonderful but I'm ready to go home and brave the bills and junk mail. Somehow I think that I'll feel different when the sun comes out.

Mike and Mike working on the gold extractionWe brave the 'Possum Flu' or whatever it is that we are suffering from and press on. The ore that has been ground to powder is combined with the mercury that Mikey has made in a glass vessel. We mix it around under water to avoid the poisonous fumes then recover the mercury, some of which should have dissolved any gold present using a spoon. We then take the mercury/gold/ore mixture and filter it through a piece of chamois leather. It's very hard forcing the mercury through the leather but it doesn't take very long before any mercury with no dissolved metals is forced through and drops into a dish. What is left in the chamois should be mercury/gold amalgam. There is a fair bit, which is encouraging.

Kathy's wonderful sluice is also coming up trumps and she is separating loads of fine gold from the black sand that she collected at the beach. There has only been one mishap - the material that she lined the sluice with is man-made and when she attempts to burn it to salvage the last of the gold it just melts. Bummer!

End of challenge 5Our next step also includes an element of burning. The amalgam from the leather has to be placed in a potato of all things, which is then heated on a fire. The theory is that the mercury will evaporate off and diffuse into the spud leaving some relatively pure gold in the pan. It works. We get a little nugget. Cool! Time to finish the programme and get back to the huts before celebrating in the pub. Mikey has been doing really well. He has been working hard regardless of the pain but is now totally knackered. The rest days will hopefully help but he is in a pretty bad way.

The night is a good one. I know loads of locals now and we have a great chilled out evening playing pool.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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