Portugal Enjoying'Gold Rush'
Due to Sardines and Black Ore
Great Amount of Intrigue Marks Boom,
With Germans Coming Out Victorious
This is the last of a series
xcritten by an American corre
spondent just returned, from
By DAVID M. NICHOL.
Correspondent of The Star and Chicago
Portugal is experiencing a modern
gold rush in the form of the sardines
its citizens fish from the sea and a
dull black ore called wolfram.
In the background is as much
international intrigue as ever graced
a novel of high adventure. There
are mysterious agents with endless
bank accounts and pockets full of
money, deals in tin cans by the
millions, legal trials which may de
termine the number of airplanes
the Germans can produce, and Por
tuguese peasants wearing silk shirts
and buying fountain pens by the
dozens because some one convinced
them this was an indication of af
Wolfram is found in small chunks
on the surface, in slender seams just
under the topsoil, sometimes em
bedded in other stone. These unfor
tunate natural phenomena have al
tered the physical characteristics of
large areas in Northern Portugal,
and even some of its architecture.
Mad search Tor Ktcnes.
Farmlands have been tom up.
vineyards destroyed in the mad
search for the black wealth. In one
small town an entire building was
taken apart, stone by stone, because
some enterprising prospector discov
ered traces of the ore. Farm labor
has practically disappeared in the
north part of the country. The
Portuguese government has been
compelled to attempt regulation of
the industry, so far with little suc
Wolfram for years was just an
other of a long list of Portuguese
products. It attracted little atten
tion. There were supplies in other
parts of the world. Then came the
blockade and then came the Ger
mans. British counterbidding helped
to boost the price, but the real
bonanza did not occur until the
Russian war cut off previous Ger
man supplies from China, shipped by
the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
The importance of wolfram lies in
the fact that from it is produced
tungsten, and tungsten is vital to
many of the alloy steels, hardening
them and fitting them for use as j
cutting tools and other essential 1
Prices varied with international
market conditions, but in England
the semi-refined ore brought about
$700 a ton. The United States pays
about $1,400. a ton for its imports
from Bolivia. No one would start
tearing up their olive trees or their
cork orchards for the small amounts
they might find at that price.
But the far-sighted Germans,
through an agent named Dietmar,
began surveying the area a year
and a half ago. Purchasing by
pounds, or their fractions, they be
gan buying at the rate of $1.20 for
a kilogram or 2.2 pounds. By last
spring the figure was up to $4 80
for the same amount, and by Sep
tember to the equivalent of about
$7,000 a ton.
Then the real boom got under
way. In October It was $12,000 a
ton: by November, $18,000. and by
about mid-January, $24,800. The
importance of the olive trees disap
peared early in this rising market.
British and French capital con
trol the important commercial pro
ducers. but they have lost out on
the wildcr»ting. The German ar
mistice cor.*mission insisted that the
output of a large French concern,
the Borralha Mines, should be
turned over to the Nazis, but so far
the British have succeeded in block
ing the transfer in the Portuguese
courts The country’s total output
will be about 6,000 tons this ypar,
it is estimated.
Dizzy Course for Sardines.
Sardines followed almost the same
dizzy course, with variations of their
own. The “pack” this year will
approach 1,500,000 cases of 100 tins
each—important to the British as
food, more important to the Ger
mans for the oil and fat they con
tain. The catch was the tinplate
needed for the cans, and the Eng
lish believed they had the only
source of supply.
English brokers offered the sar
dine canners the equivalent of $2.40
at the docks for enough sardines
to pack a case, the unit of the
trade. The price was good, about
four times the normal January mar
ket. and the only factor the British
hadn't considered was the Nazi con
fiscation of tinplate in the occupied
areas of Europe.
German brokers appeared in the
Portuguese market with enough of
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the precious tin for 1,000,000 cases,
and gave the sardine market its
rosiest days for years. The price
at the docks was five times the
English figure, about $12 a case, and
the Germans will get about two
thirds of the pack as a result.
(Copyright, 1W12, by Chicago Dally Newa.)
at To Do
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"Keep America Strong by the
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Organ musicale, Washington
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Concert, Marine Band Symphony
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