Hishikari deposit – how big?
Crocodile Attacks, Karaoke And Gold
I have to admit — I’m glad to be alive.
As I wrote earlier this month, the last few weeks have been some of the most adventurous of my geological career. Because of a journey into the eastern islands of Indonesia.
I know there are a large number of readers who have joined this missive over the past couple of weeks — for more background on the Indonesia trip, please check here and here. The basic idea being, to hunt down a look-alike for one of the world’s greatest gold mines: the Hishikari deposit in Japan, which hosts a stunning mineral reserve of over 7 million ounces at an incredible grade of 40 grams per tonne.
As the many field hands reading this letter know, there are 3 critical steps to any successful exploration program: get there, look, and come back in one piece. And in this case, just accomplishing the first step was an adventure.
By plane from Jakarta my team and I traveled five hours east (Indonesia is a big nation, east to west) by commercial aircraft. The plan then being to take a fixed-wing plane to some of the surrounding islands.
That plan hit a snag however, when the 11-passenger plane turned out to be full. But we were on a tight schedule, with no time to sit around and wait. Instead, we jumped a local ferry — pulling up to the dock almost literally as the boat was splitting from the pier.
As you can see from the snap below, the journey turned out to be a beautiful side trip. And we made it to the islands without incident.
Passing tropical islands from the ferry deck
Although there, things started to get a little weird.
Our plan had been to snag a different aircraft to our final destination. But arriving, we found the airstrip was located several kilometers from the ferry port — too far to walk, and there didn’t seem to be any taxis in this outport.
Querying local port employees, we were finally directed to a young man who turned out to be the town ambulance driver — and also spoke English. He waved us toward his vehicle, and before long we were speeding down sideroads in the back of the emergency vehicle, trying to beat the plane to the airport.
We did accomplish that goal. Only to find that the plane here was also full. And there were no other flights for two days.
But a glimmer of hope appeared when the ambulance driver, Kenzo, called a friend who owned a speedboat. Who said that he could take us by water to our final destination.
We met the boat driver, hashed out a price, and agreed to meet the next day. Then turned to the issue of where to stay for the night — with Kenzo recommending a cluster of beach huts just outside of town.
That turned out to be a surreal experience on its own. When the guesthouse owner, a transplanted Chinese immigrant to this remote area, checked us in and then asked, “How about some karaoke?”
Perplexed, we followed him as he opened a door on a clapboard building — to find a wall-to-wall sound system and 20-foot projection screen TV inside.
It was a good evening.
Especially so because, coincidentally, that night turned out to be the anniversary celebration for this region of Indonesia — kind of a local fourth of July. We toured the town and watched the stage festivities, then finished with fireworks. Not a bad welcome.
The next day the speedboat arrived early at the guesthouse dock, and we sped across the crystal blue waters toward the even-smaller village that was to be our base camp. Again, travelling by boat proved to be a perfect way to see the incredible local scenery.
We made it safe and sound to our final destination, and even found the site had a beachfront hotel and restaurant. It wasn’t the Hilton to be sure, but a pleasant surprise given we’d expected to sleep in a tent and eat freeze-dried food for the week.
And as for the geology?
Hishikari deposit – how big?
There’s a saying in exploration: “weird is good”. Reflecting the fact that the world’s greatest mineral deposits (like Japan’s Hishikari deposit ) are freaks of nature — and therefore usually come with a lot of strange features in terms of geology, mineralogy, and geochemistry.
That being the case, we were instantly intrigued by a number of weird things at this site.
The jungle was thick, so much of our fieldwork was conducted by boat going up local rivers. Where things got a little more exciting when our guides told us to keep eyes peeled for “buaya” — or crocodiles.
Hands now squarely inside the boat, we kept one eye on the water and one eye on the rocks. Fortunately no reptiles ever appeared — although I have to admit, part of me wanted to see one of these beasts, at least from a safe distance.
Our local guide on the lookout for “buaya” in the river along our field traverse
But the risk of croc attack turned out to be well outweighed by the field knowledge we gained. When we stopped at some riverside outcrops — and immediately found volcanics of the same kind that host mineralization at the Hishikari deposit mine.
That was a good start. And things got a lot more interesting when we pulled up to a sandbar, and found numerous cobbles of what appears to be red jasperoid lying around — the same rock commonly associated with gold deposits in places like Nevada.
Pieces of what appear to be jasperoid, found along the river
Those are now in for analysis to confirm. And that wasn’t the only thing that caught our eye.
One of the really weird features of the area turned out to be an unusual kind of purple quartz — with a cloudy lustre, unlike I’ve ever seen before. Usually purple and quartz means amethyst. But in this case it appears to be something altogether different.
Our winner for weirdest observation of the trip: strange cloudy purple quartz
That’s also in for analysis. But looking at it closer the last few weeks, I suspect it’s chalcedony — a type of rock intimately associated with gold-bearing veins at the Hishikari deposit mine.
Of course, a field visit wouldn’t be complete without a little serendipity. And we got that on our last night, as we were sitting on the beach at sunset having a local Bintang beer to celebrate what we thought had already been a successful excursion.
Out of the shadows, a figure emerged. A fellow who worked at the hotel, who had been kindly driving us around the town on his motorcycle during the week.
Shyly, he held something out to us — a rock. And even in the dim light, it was enough to make us stand bolt upright. Check out the photo, taken the next day in full sun.
Sometimes the best discoveries come when you least expect them
Assays from all of these samples should be in the next few weeks — then we’ll see what we’ve really got. But whatever the case — as always — one of the real rewards here is the chance to see an amazing place, meet a bunch of new friends, and really, truly enjoy life. With or without a 7-million ounce high-grade discovery, a trip like this makes you feel pretty rich.
Just another day at the office — Indonesia style