Local history in the heart of Mayombe

Waking up to bird song and a sunny morning. Feeling well rested and ready for a new day. I notice that the music and singing from last night’s partying at the village is still going strong! We’re in a gold mining area, and apparently the diggers buy drink by the crates and party as soon as they find a speck of gold. And we’re told there’s always someone who finds gold, so the partying is pretty constant… Not that it prevented me from sleeping last night, super comfortable bed and tired after the day’s travelling, so slept like a baby!

Auberge Vigoureux is located by the Dimonika village in Mayombe. It’s a place full of colonial history. Gold was found in the 1920s and a Belgian by the name of Armand Vigoureux set up home here and created an entire operation around the gold, with a railway, lakes, tunnels, wagons, a power station… a total of 2 tonnes of gold was apparently extracted here. Mr Vigoureux also constructed brick houses for his workers, a school, a hospital, a cinema, a swimming pool…. At the height of its operation in the 40s and 50s the Dimonika village was home to over 3000 people.

Today people still come here to prospect, but the professional systems put in place by Mr Vigoureux are all but gone. Now people simply dig and wash and pan, using small portable generators to pump water from the river. Permits are not taken seriously here, it’s pretty much a free for all situation, bringing about 150 outsiders (even from neighbouring countries) at any one time to this village of some 250 inhabitants. I’m told the relationship between the locals and the outsiders isn’t great, and indeed some of those who come are of dubious character.

So it’s good to hear a local teenager we met telling us he found some gold about a week ago and used it to pay his school fees and give the rest to his family for food. The current price here is 18.000 CFA per gram of gold.

Other minerals are also found here, and while out walking a young guy passing us on his motorbike stopped next to my daughter and gave her a piece of something. Looking at it later we discovered it’s quartz. I wonder if it means she’s engaged to be married now… hope not, she’s only fourteen!

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One comment

  1. It’s a shame that all those efforts made by Armand Vigoureux to develop the community were not made by others who came after him to keep the community going. Such a waste to let everything go after a few decades . . .

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