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28 October 2013

Tony Park: The Prey

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Mayhem in modern day Southern Africa
This time in "The Prey", Australian author Tony Park takes us to modern day Southern Africa with a story of powerplay, lawlessness, violence, and the continued influence of the civil wars of the fairly recent past, set against a background of the perils of underground mining and the beauty of the African bush and its wildlife.

The Eureka mine, owned by Australian based mining giant Global Resources, is one of the largest and most successful deep underground gold mines in South Africa. The mine has many disused mineshafts and tunnels from earlier days where the "zama zamas" illegally hunt for gold under the brutal control of Wellington Shumba, a product of the many violent civil wars in Southern Africa. During a hunt for the illegal miners operating close to Eureka's current operations, 2 security guards are killed and Chris Loubser, responsible for mine safety, is kidnapped by Wellington to help him improve the safety of his illegal operations.

Global Resources is facing another battle in South Africa where their proposal to develop a huge open cut coal mine in a private game area just outside the Kruger National Park is coming under a strong environmental publicity attack from Tertia Venter who operates a tourist park in that pristine area.

Kylie Hamilton, high flying Executive General Manager, Health, Safety, and Environment is sent to by her Australian based South African CEO, Jan Stein, to manage the response to the kidnapping and the proposal for the new mine. There she meets former recce commando Cameron McMurtrie, the tough but efficient manager of Eureka and gets involved with him in the rescue of Loubser and the elimination of the "zama zamas".

The story then becomes rapidly moving and sometimes a bit unbelievable thriller as Kylie and Cameron hunt down Wellington at the same time as Wellington hunts down, kills and kidnaps. When the mine is closed down by the unions for environmental safety reasons Wellington virtually takes over the whole underground operations.

At first I found the idea of illegal miners operating close to a large mining operation to be a bit far fetched until I learned that in mid 2009 over 80 illegal miners operating in old workings of the Harmony Gold mine were killed in an underground explosion. To alleviate their economic distress, many unemployed, independent and redundant miners are operating illegally in old workings throughout Southern Africa under unsafe conditions.

I am a great fan of Tony Park and have enjoyed all of his adventure stories of Africa. While I enjoyed this book, IMHO this one was not as good as the others because it focussed more on sometimes unbelievable actions and less on the Africa that Park loves and knows and loves so well.

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