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The Gold Rush of Chami, Mauritania: Tales of Fortune and Chaos in the Desert

In Chami (Mauritania)

On the main street of Chami, in western Mauritania, one would not be surprised to come across Samuel Brannan, on the corner of a building, among the countless gold equipment shops. Legend has it that he was the richest man in California in 1848, at the time of the gold rush. A simple pickaxe seller. At the age of 27, he left his native Maine to settle in San Francisco, where he launched the California Star, the first duck there. The ace ! His employees abandoned him a few months later as soon as they were sold the dream of gold at the bar. Young Samuel wonders: should he rush too or can he take advantage of the chaos in the city? He decides to invest his entire bank account to buy back, in just a few months, San Francisco’s entire stock of shovels and picks. A monopoly is created. The retail resale of carefully acquired equipment will make his fortune.

In the vast Sahara, a region already plagued by so many security and economic challenges, where the money of the pick-up ? Where do the ten thousand jackhammers that we hear roaring come from? Where do we find the hundred thousand picks that turn over the sand? Here, everything appears at once, as if by magic, including men. However, this is not California in 1848, the articles on the rush of February 21 towards the new gold panning site of Contempt (read episode 1, “In Mauritania, gold gives them a fever”) can be counted on the fingers of one hand. What happens in the desert stays in the desert, it seems.

At the Chami market, in Mauritania, Salem Bebah chats in a specialized equipment store; military outfits for sale; bulldozers for rental, February 23, 2023 — Photos Michele Cattani for Les Jours.

In the streets of Chami, Salem Bebah runs from store to store. He is not looking for the ghost of Samuel Brannan but for something to return to the area as quickly as possible. The first day at Tamaya has ended, the rush gives way to a second phase: the acquisition of equipment and the hiring of diggers. “I have to buy everything today and go back, otherwise my wells will be stolen,” he says as he rushes to a new shop.

The distribution of income is a pie chart divided into three. One third for the owner, one third for the digger, one third to buy equipment

Mohamed Salem spent two days loudly debating in Tamaya with other small landowners about the hole here and the well there. Having abandoned neither his hood nor his verve, he thinks about what comes next. Finally, he has three places that he is ready to defend tooth and nail against those who would come to challenge them: two on the site known as “Mahroum” (“the late one”) and one in “Graviers”. Since he doesn’t have his own car

2023-09-15 15:25:14

#metal #detector #golden #egg #pan #Sahara

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