Mining the Gold
How did the Akan people find gold?
The Akan knew that the rainy season produced small particles of gold in the river beds. Occasionally larger gold nuggets were mixed in with the gravel. The digging season lasted only about seventy-five days until torrential rains and flooding made mining too dangerous to continue. During March and April, whole families joined in the mining operation. Women and children panned for gold in puddles near the river's edge. Men dove into the river or climbed down shafts dug into the earth.
Mining was dangerous and arduous work which yielded small quantities of gold, according to today's standards. A fortunate worker might have mined a 1/2 gram of gold after a day's work the weight of half of one M&M candy. Over the course of one digging season, a worker would gather about one ounce of gold-dust.
How did the Akan get the gold out of the ground?
Women panned for gold in puddles near streams where grains of gold were mixed in with the grains of sand. They used pans or bowls which had been stained black to make the shiny grains of gold more obvious. They followed these steps:
It is said that a good panner could process up to five-hundred pounds of soil per day. In less than an hour, a very skilled panner working in a very ordinary puddle could extract enough gold dust to cover a fingernail.
While women panned, men searched for gold in deep shafts dug into the earth. This work was very dangerous because no attempt was made to shore up the shafts. Many miners lost their lives when heavy rains caused the shafts to collapse around them. The successful miner followed these steps: