Red Mercury in South Africa

A piece from highlights how Red Mercury [WHICH DOES NOT EXIST] was thought to be a key ingredient in South Africa’s nuclear weapons program.  The following quote, from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, probably helped feed some of the hysteria:

“Red mercury may very well exist, in fact red mercury does exist, the contentious issue is whether it plays any role in the nuclear arms sphere. There is no doubt that red mercury exists, I can refer you to the original chemical articles on this particular form of mercury, and there have certainly been a number of unexplained deaths in people who’ve allegedly been linked to the red mercury industry.”

The are no “unexplained deaths” linked to Red Mercury.  People are killed or injured as they try to extract this hoax substance from very real and very deadly explosives like landmines.

Michael P. Moore

November 20, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

From the NY Times: The Doomsday Scam

Many thanks to the New York Times and CJ Chivers for call attention to the Red Mercury hoax.

As Chivers says in the article:

“In southern Africa, it has cost lives. According to a regional and especially cruel variation of the legend, the substance is found in conventional military munitions, particularly land mines, there to be claimed by anyone daring enough to take them apart and extract the goods. Tom Dibb, the program manager in Zimbabwe for the Halo Trust, a private mine-clearing organization, said he and the local authorities have documented people being killed in explosions while hunched over land mines or mortar bombs with hand tools.


“In the bloodiest incident, in 2013, six people were killed near Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, by a blast in the home of a faith healer. One victim was an infant. Dibb spoke with the police and said ‘‘they were pretty convinced that it was a tank mine being taken apart for red mercury.’’ In another case, which Dibb examined himself, two men were killed and another wounded as they tried harvesting land mines for red-mercury extraction from a minefield. The most recent death that the Halo Trust investigated occurred on Nov. 1, Dibb said, when a 22-year-old man, Godknows Katchekwama, was killed while trying to dismantle and remove red mercury from an R2M2, a South African antipersonnel land mine about the size of a tuna can [pictured below].”


R2M2 photo from CAT-UXO

South African-made R2M2 anti-personnel landmine, image from

In the comments for the article, one person says:

“When I lived in West Africa in the early 1980s, people would occasionally approach me to ask if I could procure them some “mercure rouge” (red mercury). (Perhaps they thought as a foreigner I would have access to such things). As I recall, it was believed to be useful for conjuring up large amounts of paper currency through some kind of sorcery.”

This suggests that the Red Mercury hoax exists beyond Southern Africa where we’ve documented it.

Spread the word.  Red Mercury isn’t real and no more lives should be lost in fruitless pursuit.

Michael P. Moore

November 19, 2015

moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org

Kenyan conmen captured in Red Mercury scam

Four men who bilked tens of thousands of dollars from residents of Nyandurua county, Kenya, have been arrested and their assets seized.  Kenyan police posed as potential buyers and arrested the men some of whom were also wanted for armed robbery.

As always, Red Mercury does not exist and anyone promising you riches for it is a conman.

Full story is here:

UFO Digest falls for the Red Mercury Hoax

UFO Digest, which I have never read or heard of before today, thought to publish a piece suggesting Red Mercury might be real. It isn’t.  I can’t / won’t comment on UFOs, but I know Red Mercury is as real as the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa.  Story is here:

Three men arrested in India for Red Mercury scam

According to a story in the Hindu, three men approached undercover Indian police and tried to sell them Red Mercury supposedly obtained from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sources in Sri Lanka.  The conmen claimed to have some eight pounds of the stuff to sell and demanded the equivalent of US $2.2 million for the whole lot.

The link to LTTE is a new one to me, but the truth remains: Red Mercury does not exist and anyone trying to sell it is running a con.

Michael P. Moore

January 2, 2015

No, this kind-of-interesting artifact does not have red mercury in it.

Came across this YouTube video which claims to show an artifact found in Madinah (Medina?) which was filled with red mercury and sold for US $1 million.  I can assure you this story is filled with something and it ain’t red mercury. The artifact itself, which may not even be that old, is interesting looking with images of the sun, a spider and other images embossed onto an egg-shaped ceramic, but there is no red mercury in it because red mercury does not exist.


The Story that Started the Campaign

As part of the Landmines in Africa Blog, I write a monthly round-up of news stories from the Continent.  In the January 2013 round-up I wrote the summary below about an incident in Zimbabwe.  This was my first exposure (and far too unfortunately, not my last) to red mercury and with each successive incident, my determination to do something has grown, especially as I read about the bystanders who were killed and injured.


The Chitungwiza Incident 

What follows is a cautionary tale that includes witchcraft, greed, conmen and landmines. If it were not true, I would never be able to believe it.  I have compiled this from several sources (All AfricaAll AfricaThe Sunday MailThe New ZimbabweAll AfricaAll AfricaNews Day).

On January 21st, a massive explosion ripped through Chitungwiza, a densely populated suburb just south of Harare.  Six people were killed by the blast, five instantly including a seven-month-old baby, the sixth succumbed to his wounds several days later.  The explosion took place at the home of Speakmore Mandere, a local healer who was known as Sekuru Shumba.  Shumba was reputed to be able to perform traditional magic and healing.  At the scene, investigators found a clay pot and because of the injuries to a local businessman – he was “torn apart at the waist area” – investigators believed that the clay pot was the source of the blast and at the time of the explosion, the businessman was straddling the pot. Four possible causes of the blast have been identified:

  1. A local businessman, Clever Kamudzeya, had secured the services of a money-making goblin (through another healer). The goblin helped Kamudzeya grow his business, but the goblin had started to make demands of Kamudzeya and so Kamudzeya went to Shumba to dispose of the goblin.  The blast occurred after three days of ceremonies when Kamudzeya brought the goblin to Shumba to be destroyed.  The goblin fought back and destroyed itself and 12 houses.
  2. Shumba manufactured a lightning bolt but the bolt struck its source instead of its intended (and unknown) target.
  3. Shumba was conducting an enrichment medicine (muti) using a rare rodent-like animal, the sandawana.  According to a member of the Zimbabwe Traditional Healers Association, enrichment spells using the sandwana are “very dangerous” and “not recommended to be done in a house” and “usually discharged in the bush” because “it can backfire.”
  4. Shumba and Kamudzeya were tampering with an anti-tank landmine in an attempt to extract “red mercury” from the mine.

Red mercury does not exist.  In a scam that began in the 1970s, conmen would sell red powders to people looking for get-rich-quick schemes and tell them that the powder was rare and used in bomb-making and therefore valuable.  In Saudi Arabia, people were convinced that red mercury could be found in and extracted from old Singer sewing machines which raised their price five hundred-fold.  More recently, items of unexploded ordnance, including anti-tank mines, have been sold for $300 in Zambia, Angola and Zimbabwe by conmen who tell the buyers that if they can extract the red mercury, the seller could then get thousands of dollars for the non-existent material.  The explosion in Chitungwiza is the third known occasion of Zimbabweans trying to extract red mercury from explosives.  In the previous events, four people in Waterfalls were injured trying to open a grenade and in Manicaland, two conmen were arrested trying to sell unexploded mortars.

What likely happened was that Clever Kamudzeya bought an anti-tank mine and then approached Sekuru Shumba with the hope that Shumba could enrich or increase the amount of red mercury in the mine through magic.  Shumba reported charged Kamudzeya $15,000 for the procedure so Kamudzeya must have believed that the red mercury existed and was very valuable.  Both men paid for their belief with the lives and the lives of four others.

Please, please, please do not tamper with landmines or unexploded ordnance.