Assured as the future of Rand mining was, the latest discovery by the Turf Club borehole - one of the most important in its history - makes it more assured. Therefore it is bound to be attractive both to the investor and the speculator, and the investor and speculator will not fail to recognise the unique opportunities which it offers for the profitable employment of their capital. Both, however, will look at it from different points of view. It will be the investor's policy to pick out the best shares of the best mines, yielding substantial dividends, and to hold them as a permanent investment. And he will undoubtedly have an extensive list from which to make his choice. There are many outcrop mines which have fairly long lives before them, whilst there are others which are rapidly approaching the ends of their existences. He should be careful, therefore, to avoid the latter, or, if he invests in them, he must not do it blindly and riskily. Plenty of data will be given to him on which to make his calculations. And herein is the great superiority of the Band mining industry over every other gold-mining industry in the world. In Western Australia, India, British Columbia, and elsewhere, we cannot calculate, with any degree of certainty, the lives of the mines. The quartz reefs on which they are dependent are too patchy and unreliable. But the banket formation of the Band is entirely different. It has been proved to be wonderfully uniform throughout its entire area, and hence its reliability enables us to make the most accurate calculations and forecasts; therefore we can estimate very closely the lives of individual mines, even of those deep levels which have made no returns, hence the comparatively unspeculative character of it. Of course, those estimates may be upset from time to time by dykes and faults. But these faults have not been found to be of a very serious nature. The deep levels will learn a great deal from the experiences of the outcrops. As a rule, these faults have been found to be easily traced, and therefore they need not be regarded as serious factors in investment; indeed, it cannot be disputed for a moment that one can invest in many of the leading Band mines, both outcrops and deep levels, with more profit and with less risk than in hundreds of industrial ventures. The principal caution an investor must take is not to buy the shares at too high a price.
And this is the principal risk which they will have to face at a time of boom, therefore I would earnestly warn them to avoid this risk. At the present time their opportunities are far greater than they will be presently. Band mining shares are now standing at low prices, and if bought at those prices the yields in dividends would be very high. It is certainly not a propitious time for the gambler and speculator. He is biding his time till everybody else will be speculating, and until he can make quick profits by buying and selling. His opportunities will, therefore, come later, and the greater his opportunities, the less will be the opportunities for the investor. Now is the favourable time for the latter, and he will be foolish if he neglects it. To-morrow we may hear that we are on the eve of peace. Immediately prices will go up, for the dealers will anticipate a sudden public demand, and will make their provisions accordingly. The day for 'bargains' will then have passed, not to return, perhaps, for years. At the present moment he may buy shares which would yield him 12 and 15 per cent. after making allowance for redemption of capital, for a definite number of years, and the number of years he can get to know by inquiry. He can also get to know the dividends that were being paid prior to the outbreak of the war, and which will be sure to be resumed as soon as the mines get into a normal condition of working. In the majority of cases, however - and this only makes the present time the more favourable - those dividends will be, or ought to be, appreciably increased.
But, as usual, the investor will probably buy at inflated prices; he has always done so in the past, and it seems as if he cannot depart from this ingrained habit of his. He will certainly buy whether shares are inflated or not. If there is a boom in South African shares, he will not be able to resist it. He will buy the shares of a mine that he hears is returning 100 per cent., and will not take the trouble to find out how long it will last, nor what the net return may be on the price at which he buys. It may not yield him 2 per cent., and yet he will buy in the full assurance that he will be getting a return of 25 or 30 per cent. He completely loses his head at such times; there is no doubt of that. He is too excited to think or to calculate. It will be the same with the speculator, the man who concerns himself only with the day's rises and falls; and these will outnumber the investor by 90 per cent. The vast majority of people will be infected with the gambling mania, the mania to make a fortune in an hour; and many such fortunes will be made, and in less than an hour. These fortunes will be made as all such fortunes are - by pure luck. But they will be as quickly lost again. The fortunes are not made to hoard. Speculators are not by nature misers; they want to be rich and wealthy merely that they might spend it in luxuries and pleasures, that they might excite envy and admiration, and might outdo their friends and neighbours. A miser would no more dream of risking his precious sovereigns in gambling than he would of throwing them away in charity. But the miser and the gambler have this in common, that possession only begets the desire for more. The cupidity of neither can be satiated. If the gambler makes his fortune by a stroke of chance, he hopes to make another fortune by another stroke of luck. But he often hopes in vain. He stakes some of the fortune he has already won, and loses it. Chagrin and disappointment only urge him to try again; and he loses again, until he loses all his gains and his private fortune besides. This is what we shall witness, therefore, as surely as the night succeeds the day. The boom will come and with it all its abuses. We have not recovered yet from the disasters of the 1895 boom. But that will be no deterrent. On the contrary, it is likely to act as an incentive. In that memorable year thousands bought shares at inflated prices which they have been holding since in the hope that they will again reach their former prices, and it is highly probable that many of them will. They will then sell out and make their profits, and these profits will arouse the old gambling spirit in them, for they will expect to profit from the lessons taught them by their past experiences. Some may benefit, but the majority will not. They will repeat the mistakes of the past, and will commit precisely the same indiscretions. What they will lack will be knowledge as well as prudence, and they will not take the trouble to acquire that knowledge. They will trust to friends and acquaintances; they will trust to promoters and bucket-shop-keepers, knowing not that they will be trusting to thieves and scoundrels. They will not trust to themselves; they have no faith in their own judgment in such matters. They will put faith in all kinds of blackmailing newspapers; they will read 'puffing' pars by the thousand, and take them all as gospel truth.