Modern Mining September 2016


New publication highlights Africa’s remarkable geology

R eaders might recall that in Novem- ber last year I devoted this column to a review of Gavin Whitfield’s book entitled 50 Must-see Geologi- cal Sites in South Africa . A new publication which would make a superb com- plement to Gavin’s very fine work is Africa’s Top Geological Sites , which has been issued as a special commemorative volume to coincide with the 35th International Geological Con- gress (35th IGC), which has recently been held in Cape Town and which is covered elsewhere in this issue. Published by Struik Nature (an imprint of Penguin Random House), Africa’s Top Geological Sites has been edited by Richard Viljoen (see also page 32 of this issue), his brother Morris Viljoen and Carl Anhaeusser, all prominent in the geological community. In its 312 pages, it manages to cover over 40 sites around the continent and contributors include many well-known geologists. It is pitched at a somewhat more technical level than Gavin’s book (Gavin, incidentally, is one of the contrib- utors to this latest volume) but is still, I think, very accessible to a lay reader. The new work is profusely illustrated, of course, with masses of photos, maps, satellite images and diagrams and includes an excellent glossary of technical terms and a guide to fur- ther reading. It has been sponsored by Acacia Mining, which runs the Bulyanhulu, North Mara and Buzwagi gold mines in Tanzania, and logistical support during its preparation was provided by VM Investments, an investment company focused on the minerals field, and one of its associate companies, junior explorer Bushveld Minerals. There are many other individuals and organ- isations who deserve acknowledgement but unfortunately space does not allow me to men- tion them all here. Explaining the motivation for Africa’s Top Geological Sites , Richard Viljoen writes in his preface that “The 35th International Geological Congress presented us with an ideal opportu- nity to showcase Africa’s geological heritage, and the concept of a commemorative volume, specially prepared for the event and for the benefit of delegates, was mooted by the publi- cations committee. With a growing worldwide interest in geoheritage, the production of a book devoted to Africa’s top geological sites – and as a legacy project of the conference – was an obvious choice.” The content is truly mouth watering. To give

just a few examples, Southern African sites and geological formations covered include Mapungubwe, the Pilanesberg Alkaline Complex and the Karoo Supergroup in South Africa, the Matobo Hills and Chinamhora Batholith in Zimbabwe, the Gorongosa area of Mozambique and the Namib Desert and Otavi Mountainland in Namibia. Moving further north, there are contribu- tions on the Tibesti Massif of Chad and Libya, the Ruwenzori Mountains of Central Africa, the Rift Valley, Meru and Kilimanjaro mountains in northern Tanzania and the Danakil Depression of Ethiopia. Africa’s offshore islands are not forgotten and there are two separate chapters covering these.

Some sites and terranes are per- haps less familiar than others. For example, one chapter covers the ‘The enigmatic Richat Structure in Mauritania’ while another is simply entitled ‘The Hand of Fatima’. Both of these were new to me. For those readers wonder- ing what or where these are, the Richat Structure is a 38 km in diameter domal feature in the Taoudeni Basin of Mauritania while ‘The Hand of Fatima’ refers to the spectacular erosional landforms of the Gourma region of Mali. The Richat Structure incidentally escaped dis- covery until the 1940s when it was

identified by two French geologists who were mapping in the Sahara. A satellite image of it appears in the book and shows very clearly why it is also sometimes referred to as ‘The Eye of the Sahara’. The contributors are all experts in their fields. Who better, for example, to write about the Tsodilo Hills of Botswana than well- known diamond geologist Mike de Wit, who is President and COO of exploration junior Tsodilo Resources (whose tenements lie in the Tsodilo area), and Mike Main, who knows Botswana backwards and has written a number of guides to the country? Africa’s Top Geological Sites is priced at R390. Although I imagine it can be ordered through most book shops, readers having any difficulty obtaining it can contact the publishers direct. Their website is www.penguinrandom- Arthur Tassell

September 2016  MODERN MINING  3

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