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The National Association of educational broadcasters presents America's African heritage recorded in Africa by Skip Westfall program 20. They call easy Cobalt mines there is Skip Westfall. Oh. I am. A live program we began the story of copper and coal mining here at the coal wheezing mines in the southern Gaza. Today we will continue that story. I'm standing on the brink of a huge Missoni mine this mine is connected with a komodo mine and the two of them are three and one half miles long. At the point where I'm standing this gaping hole is about a half mile wide and four hundred and fifty feet deep. At the moment there are two huge drag lines that were in and out of the far end of the head a group of about 40 men all wearing red house are preparing
to set off a criminalist brightest of several tons of dynamite. We hope to pick up that explosion a little later. Before an explosion to set off a warning warning South to stop all traffic. And the man with the horn has not yet put in his affair. So we have I think we should call him because the Word of God comes from the dozen times and that 63 percent of all the world's cocoa comes from this huge hole into which I am now looking. As we look down into the depths of this huge pit we can feast three three. Letters really. 70 percent try to visualize several underground or containing both copper and gold. And you have some idea of the ore formation.
The peak of this or mountain is very near the surface and only a small amount of dirt must be removed to get to it. As the huge buckets of the drag lines dig deeper into this for more and more dirt must be dug out until the removal of this upper layer of clay and gravel becomes too expensive then the operation must be cheap to underground mining. Go easy. The operation is still confined to. It might. Not. God. Now let's give a brief explanation as to how preparations are made to plant the dynamite to loosen up the door. A huge grill about 30 feet in height bores a hole four inches in diameter down to a depth of about 30 feet into this hole the dynamite is packed. This is probably the most dangerous part
of the mining operation. No matter how skilled and experienced he may be a man who handles dynamite has a dangerous job. A couple of hours ago I made a recording of the sound of this huge drill at work so that you may hear something of the sound of this operation. We'll play back that record. That machine that you have just heard is not running now of course for the holes have all been dug. The dynamite has been planted and the fuses are ready to be let in fact the big show is about to begin. The car has just stopped within about 30 feet of us. One of the men in the red helmet has stepped out and he's about to get the blast on his horn to warn all the workers in the mine that the explosion is about to take place. There goes the bell go.
Down in the pit we can see men running from their cars or trucks. Great lines are going to go away to a safe distance. Some of the perks of them driven up the road that leads from the pit. Others have been moved to the far end of the mine where there is no danger of their being hit by the falling rock. Now the bugles have stopped growing and the mine is as quiet as a tomb. Just a few moments ago there were scores of men busily at work. You just shovels were digging up the dirt. Trucks were moving to and fro. Now the mine is quiet and all activities stopped. The only men I can see in the entire mine are the two whose job it is to write the fuse and they are running now for their car which means that the fuse has been lit. I've been told that there are always two men for the writing of the fuse. If that job were left to one man and he fell and sprained his ankle at the last moment or had a heart attack
the other would be there to help him out of danger and cut the fuses. There goes a puff of smoke in seconds we will hear the explosion Khoa học. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Now the smoke and dust has settled and the men are swarming bank into the muck and to resume their work. Now let's go on with our story with a description of the concentrating plant where the copper on the Cobalt are removed from the OR.
Now we are at the concentrating plant in call with the first step here is to run the order through a huge pressures to break up the large hunks of metal and then it is mixed with water and various chemicals such as sodium carbonate and sodium silicate. And what is known as the flotation process in addition to water and the various chemical palm oil is that to help separate the copper and the cobalt from the gravel. The palm oil in the foamy solution prevents the bubbles from breaking the copper particles cling to the bubbles as they float to the top where they are skimmed off by revolving paddles. I was particularly interested to learn that palm oil is used in the separation process. You will recall it a few weeks ago. We made several recordings of the abundant oil palm plantation describing the dangerous work of the tree climbers who scale upon graves high in the air to gather the fruit from which the palm oil is made. We mentioned how many of these men are
injured. Follows from the palm tree and how some of them are dying from the bites of poisonous snakes. Now we find that these courageous filers of the palm trees play an important part in the business of removing cobalt and copper from the oil. But they provide the palm oil which is so important to this process. It is a most interesting experience to stand on one of the platforms overlooking leaves for the patient as they are flows into the tank it has a dark green color. Then as it is mixed with the solution it changes to a light green color. This change in color is due to the fact that there is now less now a guide led solution at the end of the tank where practically all that remains of the Cobalt mixed with dirt. The solution takes on a brownish color. If this were a color television show you would find it most interesting to look into these long lines and watch the solution change from a beautiful dark green to light green to a dirty brown. As a copper particles are removed from the solution. In the final stages the aura
containing both copper and Cobalt is dried and it emerges as a light green powder that is now referred to as body. Remember that when the ore is dug from the mine and then loaded into the trucks down the pit it contains only five and one half percent of copper and four tenths of 1 percent of the global now in its final form the copper content has been increased from five and twenty seven and the Cobalt proximately one this powder or bedding is deposited in huge piles and is now ready for shipment to the electrolysis plant at one hundred twenty miles away. Before taking you to the Jeddah bill plan I would like to say a few words about the living conditions of the workers here at the Union Money air. Many of these workers come from primitive native villages where there are no schools where the women must spend many hours walking to the weekly market carrying their on their heads the produce they have to sell.
In many of the areas from which these workers come there are no roads and the hospitals are so far apart. But patients must be carried in keep always or hammocks for distances of 100 miles or over it to get them to the hospital. In our program two weeks ago it was recorded in one of these primitive villages. Now we don't want to give the impression that all of the Congo is in this primitive state far from it. But there are many areas in this part of Africa which are still not far removed from savagery. But for the workers who are employed by the union money air. There are schools hospitals and social clubs like you would find in a modern American city no longer must the women walk for miles to get to the market. The stores have been set up in the residential district so that only a few minutes walk is required for the wives of the workers to do their shopping. The homes which the company has built for the workers are neat attractive cottages. The streets are lined with green hedges and there are flowers everywhere. The area and go easy where the workers live is surrounded with beautiful rows of gold in the case of trees.
What a contrast to the drab villages of mud huts from which these workers have come. Certainly the union money Air has spared no effort to provide for the well-being of their workers and their families. The men who work the mines do not labor as slaves but as free men. But now to get on with our story of the electrolysis plant at Jetta they'll know where our next recording will be made. Yes we are now speaking from the union money air plant in Jeddah and we're going to try to describe in about two and a half minutes the final steps in processing the copper and the Cobalt. The first step is to dissolve a powdery ore in the solution of sulphuric acid. A large percentage of the sands and lime is remaining in the ore sink to the bottom and then comes what I consider to be the most interesting process of all the liquid which now contains chiefly copper and Cobalt is running through a 60 foot long
tanks in each tank are 100 thin copper plates arranged alternately with 100 lead plates. These tanks are charged with two and a half volts of electricity which causes the copper to become a towel and these copper particles cling to the copper plates while the Cobalt passes on through. When the copper plates are placed in the solution they weigh six pounds when they're removed five days later they have collected so much copper that their weight has increased from five pounds to one hundred and ten pounds. These plates are then melted in furnaces and formed into bars which contain ninety nine and ninety five 100 percent of pure copper. Now there still remains in the solution Cobalt which is finally removed by charging the solution with four and one half loads of electricity. Then the Cobalt solution drips into tanks of fresh water and the Cobalt forms into small balls which have the appearance of lead. Some of them look like buckshot others emerge in
the form of small pellets. They are now ready for shipment. Through this process it is interesting to watch the change in colors. The solution containing copper has a deep blue color. The Cobalt solution is first there ready to color like wine. Then it turns into a white paint from these streams of pink liquid pouring into the tanks. Finally emerges the pellets of COBOL are. So there is this Cobalt story. It's a most interesting process as you follow it through from step to step. Now as you listen to your radios or as you drive your automobiles along the highway perhaps you'll recall a bit of the story behind the mining of the Cobalt. And there may come to mind the blasting of the bugles in the sound of the explosion down deep in the mines as the African laborers in the Congo dig out the precious Cobalt which has become so much a part of our American way of life.
This has been program 20 of America's African heritage. These programs feature recordings made by world traveler skip Westfall on a recent trip to Africa. The series is made possible by a grant in aid to radio station WOIO Iowa State College from the Educational Television and Radio Center. Production is under the direction of Normandie Cleary. This is Reagan speaking for the National Association of educational broadcasters.
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America's African heritage
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Race and Ethnicity
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 4918 (University of Maryland)
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Chicago: “America's African heritage; 20,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
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