Fool's gold
Hanover residents' hope for windfall dashed by geological experts
A section of the crowd that descended on the community in search of gold. (Photos: Anthony Lewis)

CHESTER CASTLE, Hanover — Sophia Jones' dream of a new life — away from her humble home in this community — will have to wait. The Mines and Geology Division (MGD) in the Ministry of Transport and Mining has dismissed claims that gold was found on her daughter's property where land was being prepared for a sewage pit.

"The discovery of the mineral in question is not gold but in fact pyrite and iron sulphide," the MGD said in a written response to the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

It said that determination was made after a visual inspection by its geological team and based on diagnostic properties such as colour, crystal shape and the mineral's ability to be crushed.

The MGD said they informed the land owner, Jones' daughter of the test results.

Earlier in the day, before the results were known, Jones wistfully spoke of what her life could be. She was "hoping for the best" she told the Observer.

"Mi would nuh badda fi live yah so. Wi would live somewhere else," she said.

"The authorities may have to put wi somewhere else because people may come in and maybe want to buy it and make your life better, or something like that. So, just praying for the best right now," the hopeful woman added.

She explained that the mineral was found last Tuesday while a backhoe was being used to dig a pit that would be connected to the toilet inside the house which she and her family use.

She's not the only one likely left disappointed now that it has been established that the crowd which gleefully converged on her daughter's property over the past few days had found fool's gold.

Wynter McIntosh, the former mayor of Lucea and councillor/caretaker for the Chester Castle Division (People's National Party), was among those who visited the property. He was there, he said, to give his support because a gold find would be good news for the predominantly farming community.

"I am sure that if the substance found here today is for real, if it is gold, it is an upward movement for the citizens not only in Chester Castle but a number of communities that spiral off Chester Castle — even western Jamaica would feel the impact of what is happening here today," he said earlier in the day when hope was still alive.

The digging was still going on then, and pickaxe-wielding men feverishly chipped away at the soil. Residents who searched did not want to be identified by name.

One woman said she had been sifting through the soil for an hour and had found a few nuggets. A man displayed what he had found, proclaiming, "Can't go wrong, ah the real gold this!"

This is not the first time there have been reports of gold being found across Jamaica. The MGD is encouraging residents who think they have struck it rich to contact it for guidance. It said a geologist would be dispatched to examine the potential deposit and it would then make economic and technical recommendations, where feasible, for development.

While some consider pyrite to be useless, some scientists have reportedly said its crystals can contain small amounts of real gold.

"While this find is not of any great economic value, the residents from this community and across Jamaica are encouraged to continue to express their scientific curiosity and report any unusual mineral find or matters of geological interest," the MGD told the Observer.

Pyrite, which is commonly referred to as fool's gold, is a shiny, brass-coloured stone consisting of iron disulphide and typically occurring as intersecting cubic crystals. The meaning of the word comes from the Greek word for pyr, which translates to fire.

A sample of the pyrite found which people believe to be gold.
Anthony Lewis

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