There are many other points for the speculator and investor to consider in calculating the value and prospects of a mining property. Not the least important of these is its position, for though a mine may be opened up on a reputedly rich gold-field, this fact alone is no evidence that it will prove to be a rich mine, or even a moderately rich one, or even so much as contain a reef. Each mine must stand on its own merits, though this does not seem to impress itself upon the average speculator and investor. In fact, it is upon ignorance in this all-important matter that the promoter trades, to his immense profit, when a new gold-field is opened up. Take the history of the West Australian Gold-field as an illustration, though there is not a gold-field that has been opened up that could not give a great number of typical examples. When the famous Coolgardie field was discovered and reported to be phenomenally rich, claims were pegged out in every conceivable direction, and these claims, whether worthless or not, were floated into innumerable companies, to which the public eagerly subscribed, merely because they were situated in the Coolgardie field, and merely on the reputation of one or two mines where rich patches of ore had been discovered. As I have already said, history repeats itself in this fashion on the discovery of every new gold-field, and that it will repeat itself in the future is as certain as that the sun will rise to-morrow morning. It is repeating itself at the time of writing in the case of West Africa, where some hundreds of companies have been floated in an incredibly short space of time, hardly 5 per cent. of which can hope for anything in the way of success.

In spite of the dulness prevailing in the mining market during the months of June and July, there is no cessation in the registration of West African companies, ready to be placed before the public when the promoters think the favourable opportunity has arrived. In the Financial Times a few days ago - July 18 - I see that since the middle of May, and within a period of two calendar months, seventy-three companies have been registered, which was at a greater rate even than in the earlier months of the year. At that date, therefore, some 321 enterprises connected with West Africa have been floated, most of them within the past eighteen months, and goodness knows how many more will be floated before this book is finished and published. It is ridiculous to conclude that even a tithe of these will be successful. But, in order to select the most promising ones, that process and method must be applied which I am endeavouring to sketch out.

Reverting to West Australia, how many of the Coolgardie companies that were floated in the early days are now so much as heard of? Coolgardie itself - which was a name to conjure with, which was enough to turn the heads of thousands of people - is almost forgotten, and Western Australia is now principally identified with the Kalgoorli gold-field, which is undoubtedly the richest portion of the colony so far discovered, and where the richest mines are at present working. But even Kalgoorli - or the Hannan's Field, by which it is more generally known - has been the scene of many failures and disappointments. When it was first discovered, it created just as much excitement as Coolgardie had formerly done, and company after company was floated by astute promoters merely on the strength of one or two rich mines. But we very rarely hear of these now, and many of them long ago passed into oblivion, leaving only a heritage of loss and ruin to foolish enthusiasts and ignorant investors and speculators.

A favourite device of the promoter is to give as part of the title of a new company the name of a rich and successful one, and the bait is generally found to be a most alluring one. The Bounder Mine, for instance, strikes an exceedingly rich reef, going many ounces to the ton, and immediately there ensues a strenuous contest between promoters as to who shall be the first out with the Great Bounder, the West Bounder, the East Bounder, the South Bounder, the Bounder Extended, the Bounder Block, the Bounder Main Reef, etc., all of which are said to be in immediate proximity to the Bounder Mine itself, thus leaving the unreasoning public to infer that all these properties will be equally as rich. In the first place, instead of being in the immediate vicinity, they may be miles away, or, even if they may be next door to it, they may stand just as much chance of cutting the same reef as if they were situated in the heart of the city of London.

True, a rich reef may be struck in the Bounder Mine; but no one can tell, until the mine has been sufficiently opened up in depth, in what direction it may dip, or even whether the richness may continue at depth. It may become impoverished and unpayable, or a fault may throw it in a direction least expected, or it may even be lost altogether. Therefore a neighbouring mine may be as great a speculative venture as one opened up miles away, and this possibility should be sufficient to counsel the exercise of caution in subscribing to the shares of such companies.

It would be advisable to wait patiently, in the majority of cases, for the dip and quality of the reef to be ascertained with a great degree of certainty, and to buy at the very moment that evidence is given us, for the shares are likely to be a good purchase both as an investment and especially as a speculation. A rich reef may outcrop through a certain property, and claims may accordingly be pegged out along the outcrop with the idea that the reef will dip in a certain direction. For instance, a claim may be pegged out to the north, in the hope and expectation that the reef will dip to the north, instead of which it dips to the south, and therefore the claim is quite worthless. Or a claim may be taken up on the west, with the idea that the reef will dip in a westerly direction, whereas at a shallow depth it will run quite suddenly in the opposite direction. Or the company that has taken up the claim where the outcrop of the rich reef has been discovered may make the mistake of pegging off its boundary line in the wrong place, on a wrong idea of the trend of the reef, and thus will find the major portion of its ground worthless. An illustration or two will make my meaning clearer.