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reports from mining engineers were concocted, and the secretary and mining captain had no existence, save on paper. Registration, consisting only of forms easily complied with, enabled this adventurer to amass an amount of public money for his own purposes, and he was just on the eve of starting for Spain with the booty when he was suddenly wanted for another of his bogus schemes,—the Silver Value Mine,-resulting in his conviction for forgery and consequent imprisonment. Perhaps this was some satisfaction to those who had lost their money in his Tolbooth mine, the only further consolation being that they were called upon to pay up their shares in fuil to satisfy the demands of the Chancery Court. Now, the slightest inquiry at registration as to the identity of the parties who were said to be promoters, directors, engineers and secretary, would have exposed the fraud at the very outset, and the public have surely a right to be protected to this extent.
In the spring of 1881, at a time when a floating mania seemed to have laid hold of promoters, who had doubtless long had their prospectus pigeon-holed, waiting the favourable opportunity for pushing their well-laid plans, the SANTA CRUSE COMPANY made its appearance, and the names of those on the board were thought ample guarantee for its soundness, so that the shares were announced as having been subscribed for twice over. Now, it would seem only reasonable that men of position (acting as trustees for the public) who were going to give £60,000 in cash and £60,000 in shares to certain vendors for a so-called “working concern,” should assure themselves first of all of the correctness of the reports on which they approached investors. The prospectus was accompanied by interested letters and statements printed on paper of varied tints, prepared by "captains," said to be the company's superintendents; but really, as it turned out afterwards, acting for the vendor company. Instead of the directors verifying these "high-falutin documents before issuing the prospectus, they simply took them for granted and, on that assumption, we find elaborate details worked out to show a profit at least of 35 per cent. on the capital of £200,000. There were “6,760,000 tons of copper ore" only waiting to be taken away, and it was assumed that it could be put out at the rate of 70,000 tons per annum.
“ There is no "reason, however, why 70,000 tons should be looked upon as a maximum,—the quantity to be shipped is a mere question of men and development and yield of the mines, " as the ore requires no dressing or treatment of any kind, " but has merely to be broken from the lodes and carted or
“trammed to the place of shipment.” Then there is a reference to the already successful mining ventures in Spain :-“The facts and figures advanced are sufficient to “demonstrate the unusually profitable character of this “undertaking, which may be further 'illustrated by the “financial results of the Rio Tinto Company and the “ Tharsis Company, both carrying on similar operations. “ The Rio Tinto £10 shares stand at £23, whilst the “ Tharsis Company has paid dividends as high as 40 per
cent., and their £10 shares stand at £40, or four times " their par value." The trivial difference in the position of these companies and theirs was that they had copper ores to work upon, and it did not possess this advantage. It was only when, after some months, the anticipated returns did not come, that one of the directors took a trip out in company with an engineer, when it was found that "the
anticipations as to the yield and the profitable working of “ the mines could not be realised." The company had to be wound up, and this is not yet completed, although part of the money has been returned to those who held their shares, or who, being “in the swim," bought some at nominal prices from frightened shareholders. But it is questionable business capacity to buy a property and then find out afterwards that it is valueless; and, although this is continually being done with other people's money, directors are not in the habit of taking statements on trust, or being misled, when their own pockets are primarily interested.
A mishap in a company does not always mean a loss to officials in the concern, as their emoluments are not generally confined only to money taken in fees; but, by judicious buying and selling of shares, adverse statements can even be turned to some account.
About the beginning of 1881, a group of four ancient mines, which had been lying idle for thirty years previously, came out in rapid succession. Their names are so well known in mining circles that there is no occasion specially to mention them here. After dwindling down to a nominal figure, the enterprising firm of advertising brokers, who so carefully nursed them in infancy, quite recently succeeded in getting them quoted at high premiums, and must have spent a considerable sum in tendering their disinterested advice to “trustees, capitalists, and investors," which daily appeared in our leading papers. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for this quartet, their shares almost as suddenly receded in price, until they again appear at very modest amounts, - not, however, below what any trust-money could be safely laid out upon.
The family affinity of this group is apparent, by their being managed virtually by the same directorate, and having their City offices under the same roof. Their prospectuses were all accompanied by “highly-coloured " plans, showing the position of the old workings, and where the new body of ores” was to be obtained from ; while, to aid its attractiveness, and give an air of reality to the whole concern, the plate of the first one that appealed for support was improved by having placed at its four corners respectively,-a locomotive, a stationary engine, and two full-dress uniforms of the ancient working miner. It did not go into very accurate details of the causes which stopped the mine in former days, nor of the amounts it was purchased for before being offered for subscription ; but it has since transpired that the mine, for which £40,000 in cash and shares was paid, out of a capital of £ 100,000, could have been had any time these past twenty years for a few hundred pounds, and that the property had formerly been abandoned owing to a deluge which suddenly flooded the workings, and drowned many of the miners. It is stated: “The great value of the property “may be judged from the fact that the former company "raised and sold between £800,000 and £1,000,000 worth of ore, from two of the eight lodes that intersect the property”; and that “the £ 50 shares of that company “ reached a market value of £1,800.” So certain are the "vendors of the great value of the property, that they “ have agreed with the company to guarantee that the “ dividend for the first year shall not be less than at the “rate of seven per cent per annum on the capital paid up; 'but, almost as soon as you commence to drain the mine,
you commence raising lead." But two years and more have elapsed, and, although there is still much talk of working dividends (and an early rise of the shares to £10 each), there have been none yet paid. It may strike some as singular that those riches have been lying at our doors unused for so many years, when all the miners in the district can " testify to its being the richest mine in Cornwall.” Some journals seemed to think if it had been started as a WATERWORKS, it would have had a chance to pay ; but probably this remark was not made in real, sober earnest. Of the others in the group, it would be unnecessary to dwell at any length. The plan of one is encircled with a chain running through pulley-blocks at the corners, and we have rough woodcuts of the carly English miners at work prospecting, hauling, crushing, and smelting, as far back as the year 1558. Another replaces
these crude attempts at illustration by more modern ones of St. Michael's Mount; but, as the directors are for the most part the same, the purchase-money in like proportion, and the word-painting not dissimilar, nothing more need be said here by way of reference.
It says much for promoters that, for the most part, they steer clear of Scriptural allusions; and, with the trifling exception of Indian gold mines, which were sometimes referred to as having been worked in the “ early ages," we have not heard much of the Bible in connexion with the schemes of promoters. It strikes most people that little room is left for strictly theological views in a professional promoter, unless his religion is conducted on the principle of a magic lantern, with one set of slides for his business dealings in the City, and an entirely different set for home exercises. . We recollect one prospectus which came out, accompanied by a coloured map, on which occurs thé following: "A descriptive account of the GOLD in this “ district will be found in the 2nd chapter of GENESIS, the "Tith and 12th verses. A map will also be found, showing “the district, in an edition of the HOLY BIBLE published " by —, of which the following is a copy." On turning to the verses we found them to be : “ The name of the “first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land " of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that • land is good.” But surely there is no lack of mining captains to be found who, for a consideration, would report on the mines, without dragging in Moses to puff such enterprises. The £200,000 capital of the mine in question appears all to have been allotted to the owners of the property, and the share the public were asked to take was to subscribe to an issue of £60,000 in £ 10 bonds to bear eight per cent., and the advantages of subscription were also to include : “A bonus of £i fully paid share for “ each £10 bond subscribed for and allotted. Bondholders “ will also have the option, for two months after the allot“ment of the bond, of claiming, on payment of the par
value, ten £ I shares for each £10 bond subscribed ”; which, to say the least of it, is rather a novel method of raising capital
. “The concession, with all its rights, is “sold to the company for the sum of £214,993, payable "as to £15,000 in cash, and the remainder in fully paid "shares in the company's capital,” — i.e., the purchase money was to be more than the total share capital, and £15,000 of it was to come out of the debentures raised. Assays made from samples are said to have been so rich as to produce lead, silver, and gold, to the value of £983,
£1,700, and £4,319, per ton of ore respectively. By operating on a speck sufficiently small, it might have been found that a sample showed 2,240 lb. to the ton, or equal to £90,000 per ton of ore. It need only be added, that these bonds were at first endeavoured to be placed among the shareholders of some of the other schemes, set afloat under the same auspices, which had not then reached the liquidation stage. The chairman of those lucrative businesses addressed a circular, in his own name, and headed with his crest, beginning : “Ladies and gentlemen ”; and containing, among other sentences, this paragraph : “If you think fit to make application for any of the bonds, “and will forward me your application, I will take care " that you have an allotment and a preference over the “ general public, who will not see the prospectus until
some few days after this is in your possession." How magnanimous all this would appear to those who cannot see the least bit under the surface !