|Cofre -- Rio Arriba (standard:adventure, 1002 words)|
|Author: GXD||Added: Apr 07 2009||Views/Reads: 2445/1300||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|The Colombian river Cofre was home to some of the world's most poisonous snakes, guarding their gold. Come upstream with me and have a look for yourself.|
COFRE -- RIO ARRIBA Downstream along the Rio Cofre, they told me, the muddy banks would be crawling with snakes. But up here at the headwaters of this sinuous river, reptiles weren't common -- an occasional half-drowned straggler perhaps, wandering beyond the foraging range of the nest. Instead, the clean stream burbled and plashed with turbulence among sharp stones of every size. At one point it swelled and overflowed a natural dam, where it widened outward into the soft banks, forming a pool. And below the bank, a beachlet stretched out to the ripples. The sand near its rim lay black and crystalline, facets glistening in the Cauca sunlight. The pool formed a fairy grove under the coarse-leaved palms. It was about forty feet wide and clear as a polar sky. Blue fish whipped and flashed; sunlight shimmered on a carpet of golden pebbles lining its bottom; a concerto of crickets echoed off the liquid mirror surface. Ripe oranges along the bank sprayed an appealing, citric spray into the air. If anyone had ever dreamed of finding El Dorado, it had to be like this. All I had to do was to fill up my ore-sampling bags and go back to the lab. Under tall ferns, only a stone's throw away, the opposite bank shrank back into shade. No welcoming beach had formed there. That clay was brick-red, yet the sands beneath my feet were ebon, jet, raven-black. One drag of the magnet through this mud left it with a beard of magnetic chips clinging to its stubby poles. Black sand often conceals many hidden treasures . A magnet becomes the magic tool whose singular field coils embrace the electrons of face-centered cubic structures with a preference, drawing first one, then another of the valuable metals and minerals from the gangue. Iron ore is more magnetic than ilmenite. So I use deep-reaching magnets to attract even monazite, sand-mother of Uranium. My ultraviolet beam penetrates the deep water to reveal a host of gems twinkling in its eerie glow. I probe the pool with ultrasound, looking for silver- and goldstones. Here and there, I scoop up a sample of the sandy bottom. After I dry out these samples, I'll sift away the coarser sand and fill my bags with the valuable fines. Back at the laboratory, my assistants will use a static generator to split the residue into metals and non-metals. After that, the centrifugal funnels will separate lighter gems and ores from heavier ones. Each instrument, each processing step singles out the sands of value. After microscopic examination, all I needed was an independent assay, so I could validate my mining claim. The heavy, yellow sand -- which would be sifted further, screened and ground and sifted again, rabbled and spread to flow across the ribbed concentration tables and onto the magnetic belt, then down spirals, where subtle gateways open wide along the spiral channel's side, eating up the shallow stream a little at a time; where the top-gates split out coarse sand and particles of ground-up bone from an oceanload of washed-up fish; where the next gates get down to business by splitting off oxides and silicates of lighter elements, allowing particles loaded with compounds -- Yttrium and Hafnium, Tantalum, Rhenium, flinty Cesium, radioactive Thorium and Polonium and Protoactinium -- to segregate near the bottom -- the heavy, yellow sand would go to my customer. That was the harvest. "El Patron" paid well in advance to be sure a report came back confirming a source of Uranium. Well, my customer was going to get that report -- in Spades. Long ago, the world went bonkers. Tough men plundered the earth to snatch up all its metals: copper and silver and gold for coins, lead and zinc for batteries, iron for bridges and skyscrapers and autos, tin for cans, nickel and aluminum for jet planes; cobalt, molybdenum, tungsten and zirconium for war machines. By 1990, all the good stuff was gone. Now the mining machines were rooting about in the tailings and waste of yesteryear's mines, sniffing for traces and scraps. But this lode of virgin metal two hundred miles up the snaky river -- it could change things. Click here to read the rest of this story (30 more lines)
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