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MINING-HISTORY  December 2008

MINING-HISTORY December 2008

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Subject:

Re: Northern Mercantile and Industrial Corporation

From:

Peter King <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The mining-history list.

Date:

Wed, 24 Dec 2008 15:50:28 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (115 lines)

A search of http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/ using the search
string "Northern Mercantile" reveals five companies with that name, with
company files surviving in TNA.  They might be worth investigating.  My
guess is that this was a public company.  I presume that there is an archive
somewhere of published company reports, possibly the British Library's
Newspaper library at Colindale London.

Peter King
49, Stourbridge Road,
Hagley,
Stourbridge
West Midlands
DY9 0QS
01562-720368
[log in to unmask]


-----Original Message-----
From: mining-history [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of
TONY BREWIS
Sent: 24 December 2008 09:58
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Northern Mercantile and Industrial Corporation


I recently had sight of a small book "My Family" (ISBN 0 900439 96 3) in
which a Welsh
clergyman, the Rev David H Williams, traces his ancestors. His father, Ralph
Williams,
trained as an industrial chemist at John Lysaghts in Newport, South Wales.
In December
1926 he sailed to the Gold Coast to be Cyanide Foreman at Ashanti for one
year.

His next job, which particularly interests me, was "with the Northern
Merchantile and
Investment Corporation, to be Sampler and Assayer at the recently discovered
iron ore
deposit at Marampa in Sierra Leone". Ralph sailed from Liverpool on 20 June
1928 for
Freetown, his contract allowing a salary of 45 p.a.and first class travel.
Accommodation
at Marampa was to be "a newly built native hut with camp equipment
provided". From
Freetown he travelled by river launch a six-hour trip to Port Lokko,
arriving on 3 July. From
there "he went to" Marampa [about 50 miles further inland].

A photograph in the book, dated February 1929, shows the laboratory he
worked in, another
"native hut" with thatched roof.  When back in the UK on leave in 1929,
Ralph suffered from
malaria and blackwater fever, and although the Corporation "were anxious to
renew his
contract" his doctor refused to allow him to return to Sierra Leone.

He subsequently was signed on by the Sinai Mining Company as analytical
chemist and
sailed to Egypt at the close of 1929 to work on the manganese mines of Umm
Bugma.

In his book, David Williams quotes the Daily Express of 27 March 1943, in
which an
article appeared mentioning Marampa, the "Magic Mountain" and how it had
become
Britain's leading supplier of iron ore in WWII when supplies from Sweden
were cut off.

My particular interest in this is that I worked at Marampa from 1963 to
1967, with what
was then the Sierra Leone Development Company. The story was that a
geologist, James
Campbell, working for the Overseas Geological Survey, discovered this hill
of iron ore,
staked a claim, resigned from the Survey, and borrowed 4 million from the
Colonial
Development Corporation. He built the port of Pepel, a 50 mile 3ft 6in gauge
railway line
and opened up the mine at Marampa, and started shipping lump ore to the UK
and Holland,
the initial shipments being in 1933. It was said that he paid back the 4
million in four years,
but that might be exaggeration!

The original shipments were of lump ore, but as the outer lateritic coating
of the deposit was
removed, the underlying powdery hematite schisst was revealed, and a
concentrator plant
had to be built. The first of these was named MPO1 (=Marampa Powder Ore 1).
As the
Daily Express article quoted by David Williams says, Marampa was an
inportant source
of iron ore for the UK during WWII, and a newer, larger process plant, MPO2,
was built
at Marampa by the Ministry of Supply in 1943.

By the time I went ot Marampa in 1963, MPO1 had been dismantled and on its
site MPO3
and MPO4 had been built. Originally MPO2 had had shaking tables, so had a
large floor
area. Subsequently Humphreys Spirals were used, and by 1967 we had over 900
of them in
the plant, processing about 2.6 million tons a year of raw ore to produce
about 1.6 million
tons of concentrate grading over 63.5% Fe, all sold as sinter plant feed.

Now for my question: Having worked for the Sierra Leone Development Company
for four years,
I have to confess that I had never heard of the "Northern Mercantile and
Industrial Corporation".
Has anyone heard of it? Can anyone suggest sources of information I should
try?

Thanks,
Tony Brewis

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