By G.C. More O’Ferrall
Honduras is a Central American country, bordered by Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. It has the Caribbean Sea to the Northeast and the Pacific Ocean to the South (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Location of Honduras in relation to other Central American countries
The Bay Islands, which are a scuba diving and snorkelling destination, are along the 1000 km long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (more on this later).
Honduras currently has one underground mine, the El Mochito Mine. The mine is situated in a very mountainous area, approximately 2 hours’ drive (88 km) from San Pedro Sula, the primary industrial centre and the second larg-est city in Honduras (Figure 2). Two distinct mineralised zone geometries are mined: the mantos (a blanket-like body formed along a bedding plane) and chimney-type deposits (formed along intersecting geologic structures) Figure 3. Initial stoping operations occurred in chimney-type deposits above a shale layer. The broken ore (containing gold and silver) was hoisted to surface, loaded on carts drawn by mules to be transported to Lago de Yojoa (Lake Yojoa), loaded onto boats for transport across the lake, and then transported to the mills to be pro-cessed.
Figure 2: Location of El Mochito Mine in relation to San Pedro Sula
Figure 3: Mineralised zone geometry
Production commenced in 1948 (Figure 4), with zinc and silver being the target minerals. Post-pillar cut-and-fill mining was conducted with jacklegs in the chimney deposits, but with the presence of the mantos not being known at the time.
Figure 4: Entrance to El Mochito Mine
Since 1948, the mine has had four different owners, although not all of them have had the available capital to conduct additional exploration. A structural geology study was conducted (by SRK) in 1995, and with the better understanding of the deposit, an extensive targeted exploration programme is currently underway by the new mine owners (having purchased the property in 2016).
The travelling way/drift, from the mine entrance to the station where workers are transported to the deeper working levels via mancage, is approximately 200 m long. The mancages are double-deck, with a maximum capacity of 8 per-sons per deck (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Underground station (mancage to the left and skips to the right)
Current mining methods include longhole open stoping (chimney-type deposits) and post-pillar cut-and-fill (mantos deposit).
The Bay Islands
The Bay Islands are an approximately 45-minute flight (in a twin-engined aircraft) from San Pedro Sula. Being in the Caribbean Sea, the water is warm (approximately 21°C when I was there) and clear (Figure 6).
Figure 6: Photograph indicating the clear, blue water around Roatan Island
My experience of Roatan Island was surreal – the water was very salty, making it difficult to stay underwater, yet it was possible to swim with my eyes open without them stinging. The beaches are fine white sand and stretch for kilometres. Seafood is abundant and cheap (Figure 7).
Figure 7: USD50 for this meal for two, including a bottle of wine – absolutely amazing
Accommodation in a 4-star holiday resort was approximately USD75 per room, per night (breakfast included); unfor-tunately, I only had the luxury of having three days on the island, before having to return to work in Zambia (I could easily have stayed there for a couple of weeks).
I took a 3-hour long snorkelling trip (USD25) along the barrier reef. I snorkelled in three different dive locations; it was like swimming in a marine aquarium (the colours of the reef fish were spectacular). Although there are Caribbean Reef sharks along some of the more popular scuba diving locations of the island, there have apparently not been any shark attacks on humans. Fortunately, I did not see any sharks, otherwise I’d have transitioned from snorkelling to running on top of the water.
For those South Africa-based persons who might be interested in visiting this stunning part of the planet, here is an indication of the cost of flights and groceries (as a comparison to what you pay in South Africa), Figure 8.
Figure 8: Cost of travel and groceries in Rand terms
The trip, both to the mine site and as a tourist to the Bay Islands, is definitely one of my favourite ‘adventures’ that I have been fortunate enough to have undertaken.