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The Penhalonga Gold Mine, Zimbabwe

Last Updated: 8th May 2008

By Daniel Russell

The Penhalonga Gold Mine

By Daniel E Russell

Located near the modern-day city of Mutare in Zimbabwe, the Penhalonga gold mine saw active service from 1895 to 1943.

The two earliest gold claims in the Umtali district were laid out in 1888 by British mining engineer James Henry Jeffreys. Apparently, the district was then considered to be part of province of Manica in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. Political astute, Jeffreys decided therefore to name the mining claims after officials from the Companhia de Moçambique, the company which possessed the trade concessions for Manica province (and other areas of the colony). The first gold claim was named Penhalonga, after Count Penhalonga, chairman of the Mozambique Company, and the second claim named for Baron de Rezende, the Mozambique Company’s Director of Operations on Africa.

In 1890, the area was annexed by Cecil Rhodes’ “Pioneer Column”, an armed force representing the expansionist interests of the Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC). The BSAC representatives for the region (Archibald Ross Colquhoun and Frederick Courteney Selous) “got a concession” from Jeffreys in September, 1890… effectively taking control of the mining tracts in the name of Cecil Rhodes. Jeffreys however remained on at the mine, and played a major role in its development (in fact, he even served as Mayor of Umtali and died in 1926). The Penhalonga Mine was official opened in 1895.

The Penhalonga Mine as it appeared circa 1910
Click for larger image

J Malcolm MacLaren, an economic geologist and mining consulant with experience in India, Australia and New Zealand, stated that the Penhalonga ore body “varies in width from 25 to 50 feet, of which some 8 to 20 feet may be economically worked. It is made up of a series of quartz lenticles occupying a zone of crushing in soft chloritic schists of the Swaziland Series. In the oxidised portion of the lode crocoisite (sic: crocoite) (chromate of lead) was abundant. In depth this mineral gave place to galena, with which blende, pyrite and chalcopyrite are associated.” (Maclaren, 1908, p. 434)

One mining engineer wrote:
The notable mine in this part of Rhodesia is the Penhalonga. It is a strong lode, nine feet wide, lying vertically in a mountain, and opened and driven on by a number of adits. It is of low value, but the facilities for cheap work are unusual. There is water power to drive a big mill, good timber, and an abundant labour supply. The mine is near a railway, and the climate is healthy. The one drawback is the low value of the ore, but I believe the Penhalonga will some day be worked on a big scale and at a profit. (Curle, 1902)
A report to the Royal Colonial Instute in London in 1902 also noted that a 40-stamp plant was under construction in order to beneficiate the ore.

By 1903, J. F. Jones, the Joint Manager and Secretary of the BSAC, reported glowingly of progress at the Penhalonga Mine:
In the Umtali district over 12,500 feet of work has been accomplished at the Penhalonga mine, where upwards of 200,000 tons of ore have been opened up. The average width of the reef is reported to be over 8 feet with an assay value of not less than 8 dwts., and as it is possible to work the mine by means of adit levels to a depth of 150 feet below the present third level, working costs will be exceptionally low, while water power is available to drive the 40-stamp mill which it is intended to erect in the first instance. The construction of a branch line of railway from Umtali to the mine is now under consideration. (Jones, 1903 p. 17)

The mine closed in 1943.


British South Africa Company
Historical Catalogue & Souvenir Of Rhodesia
Empire Exhibition, Johannesburg, 1936-37.

Curle, J. H
The Gold Mines Of The World Written After An Inspection Of The Mines Of The Transvaal, Rhodesia, India, Malay Peninsula, West Australia, Queensland, Victoria, Etc.,
London (1902)

Johnson, Frank
“Rhodesia, Its Present and Future”
Proceedings Of The Royal Colonial Institute
Volume 33 (1901-1902) p. 12
London (1902)

Jones, J. F.
Report Upon the Present Condition of Rhodesia
London (1903) p. 17

Maclaren, J. Malcolm
Gold: Its Geological Occurrence And Geographical Distribution
London (1908) p. 434

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