Reviewed by Gretchen Winters
‘Gold can be trusted where governments cannot. An ounce of gold could buy roughly the same amount of bread today as it did in ancient Rome. No other currency has stood the test of time.’(Prologue to this book)
It’s hard to resist a story written by a real-life Indiana Jones. There’s an absence of Hollywood glitz in this memoir by Jim Richards, yet his tale is one of adventure, disaster and skullduggery, where vast fortunes can be made based upon luck or persistence.
When Jim Richards was in his final year as a student in 1981, a noticeboard advertisement for summer vacation work in a gold mine in West Wales caught his attention. Jim headed off for his holidays to the mining district of Dalaucouthi where, in his spare time, he struck out on his own to search for gold in the tailings. This experience led him to research books on gold mining from Ancient Egypt and environs through to more modern times in California, Brazil and Australia. He was hooked, and made the decision, based on his research, to study Geology at university.
Since there were few positions for geologists in the UK at that time, the young graduate joined the OTC (Officer Training Corps) which led him to apply to join an elite parachute regiment, the second hardest course (after the SAS) in the British army. His determination and resilience ensured he passed the course and enabled him to go onto Sandhurst and become an officer-in-charge of a platoon in Northern Ireland. This training and discipline would stand him in good stead against seemingly impossible obstacles when he embarked on his dream of making his fortune, mining the world’s remote places.
Having read articles in newspapers about the South American gold rush, he decided that on his discharge from the army to travel there, despite having very limited funds. He flew to Belize first, courtesy of the RAF and his adventures began.
He travelled to Guyana via Guatemala, the Mosquito Coast and Venezuela and spent some time there. After some misadventures with cultural differences, rapidly diminishing funds, and a fast track course in Spanish, he is forced to make a decision when a chance meeting with a local brings him to the office of the Golden Star Resources Company in Guyana. At the company’s mining camp at Omai it becomes clear that he has been hired as middle management and not as a geologist. He is now in charge of a mining camp of 110 men from unfamiliar cultures with limited education. He is held responsible for the chaos that ensues.
Resigning from Golden Star with enough money to buy his own dredging operation, Jim goes to work in one of the remotest places on earth, the Ekereka River. Back-breaking months of dredging at the expense of his health decides him to go back to the UK with $40,000 worth of diamonds. With no work for a geologist in England he travels on to Australia – Mt Isa; Tennant Creek, and finally Meekatharra where he finds a diamond vein that makes the owner of the company rich.
Having negotiated a lucrative salary, Jim Richards travels to Laos as a geologist to stake out gold bearing areas, and pans almost every creek in the Golden Triangle. Cashed up, he returns to Perth where he buys a house and for the first time in his life is now debt free. An unfortunate interlude in Indonesia occurs when he falls victim to the BRE-X scam and loses all his investments in the inevitable crash of Indonesian mining stocks.
In 1997, Perth is undergoing a recession and so Jim goes to work on an off-shore oil rig. He plans to make enough money to set up a resources company. To make this possible he takes up yet another very dangerous assignment for BHP Billiton in Pakistan. Hard work and a judicious reliance on trial and error methods make him a success, and he is able to resign. Today he is one of the WA mining industry’s leading executives.
Jim Richards memoir is a compelling read and his hard work and vision to achieve his goals is admirable. His character and his moral compass are evident in his writing style. A wonderful life of achievement against significant odds.
By Jim Richards
ISBN: 9781925163995 (Paperback)