Our first morning in camp, I’m up early as usual. The kitchen area is next to our campsite, and I discover to my delight that the coffee is ready! The choice this morning is porridge or bukari. Bukari (called ugali in Tanzania) is ubiquitous. It can show up at any meal. It’s sometimes called “stiff porridge.” It’s formed into balls and steamed. It’s about the consistency of play-doh, with not much more taste. People here roll it into smaller balls and dip it in sauce or gravy. It’s filling, but that’s about the most you can say for it. I opt for the loose porridge. It’s made from corn, too, but it’s about the consistency of oatmeal or cream of wheat. A little raw sugar over the top, and it’s fairly tasty. Meanwhile, I enjoy the company of the kitchen crew.
The flags go up and morning prayer commences. Nyembo preaches on David and Goliath to the Scouts. Distribution of Bibles was supposed to take place this morning, but it’s put off till later, since the leadership, both African and American, are touring Tenke Fungurume Mine this morning. (We were supposed to go yesterday but got bumped (we will learn later) by other VIPs: Senator John and Cindy McCain got the tour yesterday.)
Meanwhile, the song leader is encouraging the Scouts to sing out, and smile while doing so. I don’t understand his words, but I don’t have to. His body language, as he slouches and frowns in imitation of what he sees in the boys and girls, is explicit. I turn to Nyembo and say, “I’ve given that speech.” He grins back at me.
And then it’s off to TFM. We get on a big bus with a heavy enough suspension to handle the roads hereabouts. Taylor says, “That’s my bus,” meaning, the one she wants Friendly Planet Missiology to get one like. Now, you can see the mine, or at least an outlier of it, from camp, but in order to enter the mine properly, we have to go the long way round.
We are taken to a facility where we are shown a power point presentation on the mine’s operation and given a safety briefing. We are issued reflective vests and hard hats. And then it’s off to look at the big hole in the ground. It’s a really big hole in the ground, by the way. We see the open pit, the reclamation process, the processing. We pick up little bits of copper-laden rock as souvenirs.
TFM is in the African Copper Belt. There are over forty villages in the 600 square mile concession. Several have had to be relocated in order to get at the ore. Every time this happens, new and better housing and facilities are built to replace what was there before. A portion of the Mine's profits are also re-invested in local communities.
TFM is owned by a consortium of three companies: one from Phoenix (hence, the interest of Sen. McCain), one from Toronto, and one from DRC. It operates on First World business practices and uses state of the art technology. It produces every day about what the government-sponsored mine nearby produces in a month.
TFM produces copper cathodes (table-top sized sheets of pure copper a couple of inches thick) and cobalt hydroxide in granule form for sale, as well as sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid, which are used in the leaching process that prepares the crushed ore for electrolysis or refining. At the main processing facility, we look out over a day’s production of copper cathodes stacked up for loading on trucks. About $4 million dollars’ worth of copper is spread out there.
It’s all very interesting, and very important, and it’s pleasant to be a VIP, but it’s also a distraction of sorts. We’ve had to suspend our part in the Jamboree program to come take the tour. For me, telling kids that something else more important than them has come up is something I don’t like to do. I feel we should be back doing the Jamboree. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why we’re here, and I’m paying attention, but still. Real ministry happens in the cracks between the official events on the schedule. Real leadership is exercised in the in-between, passing moments one shares with others. I’m feeling the need to be among the Scouts, not necessarily doing this or that, but being there.
Others on the tour seem to be more filled with wonderment. Good for them. I don’t begrudge them this tour, and I can see important relationships between the Mine and local Church and Scout leaders developing, so that’s good, too. But my father was a petroleum geologist, and one hole in the ground is much like another when you’ve been around these kinds of operations before. Well, let it go. However it all works out, God is in control. It will be as he pleases.
Several AU grads work at TFM. We have lunch with them. We ask if one of them could come and talk to our Scouts about the environment, and they agree. One of the AU grads majored in Peace Studies. He works in personnel for TFM now; his brief is keeping track of all the foreign workers employed by the Mine. He makes sure their taxes are paid and their papers are in order. We need someone like him in the US, I think.
A BIG hole in the ground
Tenke Fungurume Mine
Sack of dirt
Cobalt in granular form
A lot of pennies’ worth
Daily production about $4M in copper cathodes
After lunch, we return to Tenke. Bob and Taylor are trying to remember the French word for a termite mound. Bob suggests termitage, after “hermitage.” We are both taken with the word. Nyembo corrects Bob, however: it’s termitié; we both think it should still be termitage. Meanwhile, Phred rests at the DS’s house. Nikki banged up her ankle and is hobbling about. Back in camp, I get a bucket bath, after which I feel enormously better.
Bob and Taylor are leaving us soon. When they check up on their plans with Maloba in Lubumbashi, we learn that the local airport authorities have decided to close the runway for repairs three days a week for the next several weeks and didn’t warn the airlines ahead of time. We will have to stay two extra days in Congo. We decide we’ll stay one extra day in Tenke and one extra day in Lubumbashi. This, besides the inconvenience and expense here, causes some anxiety for those who have plans back home upon our return. Well, things will be as they will be. I get on Facebook this evening and update travel plans with folks back home insofar as I know them.
Just kidding around
Young goats roaming the camp
A bucket of cold water and some privacy