Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The Australian Nugget 1 ounce

Monday, December 16th, 2013

The Australian Gold Nugget is a popular series of Gold bullion coins issued by the Perth Mint. They
have legal tender status in Australia and are one of the few legal tender bullion coins to change
their design every year, the most notable other being the Chinese Panda.


Australian Nugget 1 ounce

Australian Nugget 1 ounce

Australia issued its first Gold Nugget coins in 1986. From 1986 to 1988, the reverse of  these coins featured images of various Australian Gold nuggets, hence the name. From 1989, the design changed to feature different Kangaroos, a more world-recognised symbol of Australia. The coins are sometimes referred to as Kangaroos but the name

Nugget seems to have stuck. The coins up to 1 Toz change design each year. Each year, a Proof edition is issued and that design becomes the bullion coin design for the following year.

The coins have a unique market niche for two reasons; a “two-tone” frosted design effect and individual hard plastic encapsulation of each coin. Provided they remain as they came from the mint, the quality is maintained and thus premium.

The initial sizes offered were 1/20 Toz, 1/10 Toz, 1/4 Toz, 1/2 Toz and 1 Toz. In 1991, the 2 Toz, 10 Toz and 1 Kg sizes were added. These were created with the intention of using economies of scale to keep premiums low. The face values of the two larger coins were lowered in 1992 in order to bring them more in line with the smaller sizes.

In October 2011, the Perth Mint created a one tonne Gold coin to break the record for the biggest and most valuable, previously held by the Royal Canadian Mint. It is approximately 80 cms diameter and 12 cms thick. The face value is A$1 million but at the time of minting, the Gold price made it worth over A$53 million.

As mentioned, the reverse of the coin features in the early years a Gold nugget and thereafter a Kangaroo. It states the year of the coin, the weight and Gold fineness.

There is also a mintmark ‘P’ which signifies the Perth Mint.

The obverse features a profile view of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. The portrait is surrounded by her name, the denomination of the coin and the word AUSTRALIA.

The Australian Gold Nugget coins should not be mistaken for the Australian Lunar Gold Bullion coins. Both coins are minted by Perth Mint and have 999.9‰ fineness but Lunar coins use different animals from the Chinese calendar instead of the Kangaroo.

Investment Advice

There are various grading systems in use around the world. However, the British system is as follows:

All Nugget coins are issued as pure Gold finewness, 999.9‰ and in theory have a low premium just above the value of the Gold.

However, their intrinsic beauty makes them very collectable and they attract good premiums.

As with any coin, the best quality grades will attract the best premiums. The three early years in particular will be those with the highest premium. Although the coins

were issued in Proof form, many were unpacked and have thus been damaged and are at lower gradings. The mintage figures for all sizes of Nuggets are in general quite low, thus every coin will have numismatic premium value also. All round, the Nugget is both a collectable and investable product.



Monday, April 29th, 2013

livre3DReview by Mark Rogers

Gold, A Different Point of View by Paul McGowan

With a Preface by Bill Bonner

Published by Ferrington in association with

Following the drop in the price of gold a few weeks ago, record sales of gold coins were reported (see here, and here for a rise in its price). The publication of this little book is therefore timely and pertinent.

There may be many people who would like to hold some gold but are dissuaded by the thought of large and expensive ingots. But bullion is not the only way in which to invest in or purchase gold. Yet as the author states: “Gold is not just ingots. The common response to gold is that it is only for the wealthy: those heavy bars, alluring though they may be, are simply unaffordable.”

This book argues that this view of gold is misguided and misinformed: there are affordable routes to investment in gold.

Although short the book contains a wealth of information. There is an introductory chapter giving a brief history of gold’s 6,000 history, which includes its denigration by politicians and academics in the twentieth century; Keynes for example thought it a “barbarian relic”. Proudhon, Marx, Lenin, Hitler all denigrated it, and to this day it troubles the likes of Ben Bernanke and George Soros.

Gold’s function as a stabiliser of value and its use over time as actual currency coin in circulation suggest that gold is today an alternative currency, and this first chapter ends with a comparison of gold with modern economies, noting that the latter are not working, while attempts to remonetize gold are afoot in, for example, Utah.

There is also discussion of the vexed problem of clean extraction with some useful information about the certificating process that reassures investors that their gold has been mined under the highest standards.

Chapter Two, “Gold, the last bastion of individual freedom”, examines the role that gold may play in hedging one’s investment portfolio, as well as its potential as a regulating device, controlling the whims of politicians and central bankers. This chapter contains a concise guide to the problems of paper currency unsecured against tangible value, with the inevitable consequence that savings are eroded and destroyed and more and more paper is required to purchase fewer and fewer goods. In other words, paper currencies are a direct attack on people’s individual control of their lives, rendering it harder and harder for them to provide for themselves, their families and their futures. We have been here so many times in history, with the latest example being the eurocrisis, that it is nothing short of scandalous that the political and academic classes cannot see the lessons to be so plainly learned.

Gold on the other hand “observes a constancy. With one ounce of gold you can almost buy today the same quantity of basic goods as at the time of the Roman Empire or Egyptian civilization. Inder the Pharaoh Tutmosis III, one needed the equivalent of 2 ounces of gold to buy an ox. Today, 2.5 ounces would be needed. Inflation has been rather weak in 4,000 years!”

This is a salutary reminder of gold’s stabilising power, which is just the very thing that the modern politician resents about it.

A strong bullish potential

The importance of gold in the contemporary world is underlined by an examination of those countries which invest heavily in it, both at the national as well as the individual level. Russia, China and India are at the forefront of this investment, with others, such as Vietnam, making significant moves in this direction. There is a useful digest of information about these countries, the role gold has traditionally played in them and how they are managing their portfolios at present. This analysis clearly establishes trends which are not going to vanish: China indeed buys enormous quantities of it, even though she also produces it.

These markets ought to assure the potential gold investor that while prices do indeed fluctuate, bullish potential is always there in gold, and has been for most of human history. Any falls in the market have identifiable causes – for example, the wedding season in India sees a rise in prices. Indeed, this analysis is testimony to the fact that we have had 6,000 years to observe people’s behaviour with gold and make it one of the easiest assets to manage.

An Investment Portfolio

Nevertheless, the author does not argue that gold should be the sole asset in one’s portfolio, far from it. Instead it should be looked on as the preserver of a portfolio’s value, that depending on the scale of one’s other investments a relevant proportion should always be kept in gold to support the rest of the portfolio.

There is a very useful chapter on investments other than gold, such as arable land and forestry, fine art and fine wines. These all have valuable potential (after all, we all need to eat), but each has significant drawbacks which are clearly and carefully spelled out. Gold’s position as being free of such drawbacks means that it is essential to invest in it, as a hedge against the dormant disasters in the rest of one’s investments.

And gold enjoys an enormous potential over any other investment, including in things such as diamonds that might seem to share some of gold’s economic potential. Gold is superbly versatile. Cut a diamond, and much of it is waste; melt an ingot of gold, and you still have the same amount of gold.

Gold Coins

The heart of the book is in its last chapter which really gets down to brass tacks – or gold coins! Coins represent gold at its most versatile, allowing even those who do not have huge fortunes to start saving in gold. While one ingot is beyond the reach of most, a single coin, perhaps purchased at the rate of no more than one a year, is a realistic and feasible option.

The book contains a wealth of information on tax regimes; storage; what to do and what not to do in actually physically handling coins and how to transport them; what to look out for as enhancing a rare numismatic coin’s value and what depletes it – all fascinating information in itself, and eminently practical.

“If we had to state only three reasons to buy: gold is a recognized and accepted safe haven throughout the world, demand from the emerging countries is strong and the total demand over the mid to long term is reliably forecast as being higher than the supply.”

The book is available on Amazon in a Kindle version (price: £5.14). Those readers who would like the printed version, should send a cheque for £12.50 (includes p+p) made out to: Ferrington, and send it to: Ferrington, Bookseller & Publisher, 24 Shipton Street, London E2 7RU. The book is also available as Buy It Now on eBay.


Thursday, December 6th, 2012

By Mark Rogers

In the wake of the concerns raised here, it appears that The Times has a few readers who are more analytical than some of its editorialists. The day after the somewhat sententious leader about the moral duty of multinational companies, the Letters to the Editor pages carried some very sensible observations.

First, Amazon’s sales to UK customers are made by a Luxembourg based company, and all buying and selling and pricing decisions are taken there. All that is operated in the UK is a delivery system, and, comments the writer of the letter, Heather Self, a chartered tax advisor based in Cheshire, “it is not surprising that profit margins are small”. As one who knows the publishing industry, I know exactly what she means.

She goes further: “The report [“Taxman targets Google”, The Times, December 3] also refers repeatedly to ‘revenues’ (ie, turnover), when – as every small business knows, this is a very different number from profit, on which tax is charged.”

As another reader points out, corporation tax is only one of a host of taxes that corporations pay, none of which are avoidable and so no-one tries: “VAT, excise duties, business rates, PAYE, employers’ and employees’ national insurance,” Julian Pilcher, Hampshire. While the PAYE is tax taken on behalf of the taxman from the employees, this is done so at the corporation’s expense.


As if the hollow moralising of MPs was not enough, on December 4, the Telegraph ran a story on how delighted Nick Clegg, the Deputy Humbug, I mean Prime Minister, is that £2 billion pounds of British aid money is finance Third World “green” projects, including wind turbines in Africa. This, says Clegg, is fantastic news.

Just the week before, some industries had some “fantastic” news: they are to be shielded from green energy costs, while households are not.

Readers curious as to why articles of this nature should be appearing on a gold investment website should read: GOLDCOIN.ORG: MIXING POLITICS AND NUMISMATICS

And for background on the writer: CONFESSIONS OF A LAW AND ORDER ANARCHIST


Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

By Charles Sannat, Resident Economist at Au Coffre

The first in a summer series of articles on the great economists

Thomas Robert Malthus was born near Guildford (Surrey) on the 13th of February 1766 and died in Bath (Somerset) on the 29th of December 1834 (at the age of 68);  he was a British economist of the Classical School as well an Anglican priest.

He is known in particular for his work on the relationship between the dynamics of population growth and production, analyzed from a “pessimistic” perspective, in full opposition to the Smithian concept of harmonious and stable equilibrium.

His name gave rise to a new adjective in common parlance, “Malthusian”, often viewed with negative connotations (describing a somewhat conservative frame of mind, anti-investment or fearful of scarcity) and a doctrine, Malthusianism, which includes an active birth control policy to control population growth.

In 1798, he published anonymously An Essay on the Principle of Population, which was hugely successful as well as controversial. Malthus then committed himself to deepening his research and travelled the continent, visiting Denmark, Sweden and Russia. In 1803, he published a new edition of his Essay, much expanded, and signed it by name. The repercussions were significant. In 1809, the fourth edition of the Essay was translated into French, in Geneva.

He met David Ricardo for the first time in 1811, the two men subsequently maintained an extensive correspondence which enabled him to develop new methods of analysis of demand.

He wrote other works, in particular Principles of Political Economy, published in 1820.

He died in 1834 and was buried at Bath Abbey, in Somerset.

Malthus and the relationship between population and production

The works of Adam Smith and David Hume soon attracted him toward political economy. He attempted to apply the theories of William Godwin, an 18th century rationalist, influenced by the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Condorcet, who believed in a perfectible society. The priest Malthus was charged with assistance to the poor in his community; the poor harvests from 1794 to 1800 resulted in misery and distress, and struck a chord.

In 1796 he wrote an essay on the crisis which England was undergoing, an essay which adopted a position in favour of social justice and proposing to expand the system of public assistance to the poor, but he did not publish it.

However, the student of Godwin rebelled against his teacher upon reading Social Justice (1793). In this utopian work, Godwin described a society where an increasing population will encounter prosperity and justice. The gap between Godwin’s ideas and the brutal reality that he observed lead Malthus to radically alter his perception.

His Essay on the Principle of Population, published in 1798, was a lampoon reacting against these ideas.

In opposition to the “moral” reformers who blamed the government for the ills of society, Malthus wanted to demonstrate that they actually arise from natural and inescapable laws. He adopted a theory put forward by Joseph Townsend in A Dissertation on the Poor Laws in 1786 or by the Italian Giammaria Ortes.

An Essay on the Principle of Population

Malthus mathematically predicts that without barriers, population grows in an exponential or symmetrical manner (for example: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32…) while resources grow only in an arithmetical manner (1, 2, 3, 4,5, 6…). He thus concludes that demographic catastrophes are inevitable by nature, unless population growth is prevented.

He also advocated the ceasing of all help to the needy, in opposition to the Speenhamland laws (a precursor of the modern welfare state, which produced many of the problems that we now experience) and the proposals of William Godwin who sought to expand assistance to the poor.

Policies of population control influenced by Malthus are known as “Malthusian”.  His fears revolved around the theory that population growth is faster than the increase in resources, resulting in impoverishment of part of the population. As the old regulators of population (wars and epidemics) were no longer playing their parts, he imagined new barriers, such as restricting the size of families and the deferring the legal age of marriage. These proposals are only currently applied in  the People’s Republic of China, which indeed views itself as being forced [not neutral] to severely restrict its population.

Malthus’s pessimistic prediction was set back, as the world experienced a large increase in resources and agricultural production (the “green” revolution),  new international means of exchange of subsistence goods and the emigration of part of the excess population to the United States or the colonies, where modern agricultural methods created new resources.

We thus went from two thirds of the world’s inhabitants suffering from malnutrition in 1950, to one in 7 by the year 2000, while over the same period the global population grew from  two and a half billion to over six billion.

Nonetheless, natural constraint re-emerged from 2009 onwards: the green revolution has resulted in the depletion of soils and groundwater aquifers.

The prospect of an exhaustion of fossil fuels in the short and medium terms is considered by many increasingly likely, particularly as a consequence of a large increase in the production of goods and services.

However, it is interesting to compare two historical cases:

1960: 3 billion inhabitants, 2 billion suffering from malnutrition (i.e. 66%).

2000: 6 billion inhabitants, 800 million suffering from malnutrition (i.e. 13.3%).

Malthus’ pessimistic predictions were promptly set back by the industrial revolution and the green revolution. Whether his analysis remains structurally valid in the long term remains to be seen.

Under the conditions as set out by Malthus, mathematically, it is maintained that it will not be possible for the global population to increase constantly and that governments will eventually have to  intervene, one way or another – demographic transition being less painful, but requiring two or three generations.

In Malthus  we find the idea that infinite growth in a finite world… could end.


Monday, March 5th, 2012

By Mark Rogers

In “Tales from a Palm Court”, Ronnie Knox-Mawer’s hilarious account of his years as a Judge in the last British colonies of the South Sea islands, he recalls his meeting with one of the island Resident officers. The living room of his Residence looked like a Victorian parlour, crammed as it was with artefacts, bric-a-brac, ornaments and furniture, including a harmonium.

The Resident, noticing the surprise on the Judge’s face, told him that the habit of keeping things ran deep in his family and recalled that on the demise of an aunt, there was found in her attic a large sack neatly tied with a label that read: “Bits of string too short to be of any use”…

The Victorian middle-class house was a place to keep things. Houses with capacious attics, rooms large enough to hold substantial wardrobes and chests of drawers, often a room given over to a library, and an ingeniously hidden safe – households were synonymous with saving and preserving. It was truly said: “The home should be the treasure chest of living.”

No room, no room!

Enter the brutalist and minimalist modernists. Surprisingly, the remark just quoted, so redolent of the sort of homes the Georgians and Victorians built, was made by Le Corbusier, more famous for his assertion that: “A house is a machine for living in”.

So which did he really believe? Well, he also said: “I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies.” So let us look at a typical drawing:


This is the “Plan Voisin” of 1925, a proposal to bulldoze most of central Paris north of the Seine, and replace it with sixty-storey cruciform towers.

Jane Jacobs, in her seminal work, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, the book that demolished the inhuman assumptions of the modern movement in architecture, the anti-planner’s bible, notes: “In Le Corbusier’s vertical city the common run of mankind was to be housed at 1,200 inhabitants to the acre, a fantastically high city density indeed, but because of building up so high, 95% of the ground could remain open.” So perhaps the home as conceived by Le Corbusier was more of a machine in which to store human beings: as Jacobs mordantly remarks this was conceiving of the city “as a collection of separate file drawers”.

The vertical city as epitomised by the drawing above does not suggest that there is any room for storing and saving, indeed the design militates against these virtues, not least because in the absence of streets, there is no room in these cities for the arts and amenities of life – no streets, no shops and so no commerce: how were people to actually maintain and provide for themselves and the generations after them? The ordinary requirements of getting and spending, mundane productive labour, all these arts are overlooked by those who plan the shining path to the radiant future.

Indeed, everything that people used to provide for themselves, was to be provided by the authorities: thus is imprudence encouraged by such designs on people’s livelihoods.

What need to save, then, least of all in the safe haven of gold, that bulwark against the authorities’ own imprudence in imagining that people should be deprived of responsiblity for their own welfare.


Monday, January 30th, 2012

Earlier this month on, we looked at hazardous gold mining operations in South America (Unclean Gold). The context was the Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto’s findings that the vast majority of the world’s poor operate in economies that give them no access to title and other capital-realizing legal arrangements. There will be a great deal more to say about these insights, but here I want to address an important distinction that needs to be made about eco-crisis and the environment. This is to clear up some of the misapprehensions voiced by critics of capitalism and free trade, such as “Occupy” and many of the rancidly left-wing organizations financed by Soros.

The anti-globalization movement has global ambitions far in excess of those entertained by the merchants and manufacturers who drive globalization. The latter want to acquire or produce their goods at the best possible costs and sell them for the best possible prices. Not only are these relatively modest ambitions, but they are also perfectly normal: merchants and manufacturers down the centuries have always traded on these assumptions.

A main platform of anti-globalizers against the despoliation allegedly caused by capitalist enterprise is environmentalism, and this vision is entirely holistic – i.e. global! They also embrace goals far in excess of what any economy can bear, especially a developing one: the grandest is the demand that carbon emissions are reduced by an improbable amount in an unachievable time…

The reason: “global warming”. However, this is an ideology and can have no bearing on what real people struggling in real economies must do to survive and prosper. Hence the refusal of India and China to sign up to carbon quotas; hence the puzzlement of Africans and South Americans that they should be sacrificed, denied the possibility to improve their lot because of the perceived “fate of the earth”.

Global warming is now a legislative fact, and it is so because the wrong science is used: the study of the “greenhouse effect” is based on the composition of gases, i.e. chemistry. However, what drives the climate is convection, i.e. physics. The Earth is 70% water, and the land mass that makes up the rest contains high mountain ranges: the effect is the creation of a planetary climate which helps regulate temperatures over time.

“Environmentalism” is merely another attempt by those who despise wealth creation, and all the benefits that flow from it, to reduce western economies and suppress emerging ones.

Yet are there not serious ecological problems such as the unclean and illegal gold mines discussed earlier? Of course there are, but refusing to be blinded by environmentalism means approaching such eco-crises more circumspectly. That is, each crisis must be seen on a case-by-case basis, and not dove-tailed into a wider and misleading perspective. Why should what needs to be done – and more to the point that can be done – to alleviate a local problem, be deferred until globalization and the environment are “fixed”? The attempt to co-opt the unclean gold mines into a productive framework, would demonstrate that such problems can be solved on their own terms – and give true value not only to the gold extracted but to the lives and work of the extractors.

By Mark Rogers

The other side of Gold mines in Peru

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Open mine in Madre de Dios

Mother Nature has been extremely generous with Peru, and has presented it with a valuable treasure such as its exuberant Amazon Forest and in the depths of its earth, the presence of the coveted golden mineral, which has given rise to the existence of numerous mines and gold washing places in the country.

Over the years, many national and international companies have heard of the treasures which may be extracted in Peru and have settled in its provinces. In this process methods have evolved and they have the Escuela de Minas, whose object is to train competent professionals, capable of offering a better organisation in order to guarantee the optimum achievement of the mining companies’ aims.

But there is another side to the story, beside the great mining companies and their expensive equipment and potential, sits the illegal extraction of this mineral in far away areas of the Amazon Forest, where control by the Government environmental and financial agencies has proven difficult. There are different reasons why this illicit activity has arisen such as shortage of employment in rural areas, increase in the gold price and tax avoidance which in turn results in an increase in profits. But all this is being done without control and the heads of these illegal extraction operations do not take into consideration environmental conservation issues provoking in turn further erosion (than that caused by any mineral extractions, even when using appropriate means) and an increase in the contamination of rivers as mercury and cyanide are being poured inappropriately into water sources.

In this scenario, problems are not only environmental but also social. According to studies undertaken by Peruvian authorities, the business of illegal extraction creates problems such as child prostitution (in the area known as Madre de Dios, it is thought that over 300 children work in prostitution in bars near the illegal mines) and that others are subject to child labour, having to work from a very early age without being paid for it. Other consequences of illegal extractions are smuggling and illegal trafficking of arms.

It is not just a matter of gold. In these crossroads, the wish of the few to quickly enrich themselves provokes serious problems, which may be more difficult to eradicate than illegal mining itself.

Article by : Lizette Paternina

The dawn over the Empire of the Setting Sun

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

An unfettered pack of lies

When we tell young people that in 1986 we were naive enough to believe the authorities who told us that the radioactive cloud had stopped at the French border, you attract, and rightly so, a few sniggers and mocking smiles.

When I tell these young students that it will perhaps be their turn in 20 years time to be the object of derision by their own children, surprise quickly gives way to incredulity and a certain amount of concern.

Let’s look again at the facts. Facts have this annoying tendency to be difficult to change although…

On 14 March 2011, a terrible earthquake ravaged Japan, following by a devastating Tsunami. Among the areas affected was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant composed of 6 reactors which have since been experiencing difficulty. Chernobyl only had a problem with 1 reactor. We can therefore summarise the situation as Russia 1, Japan 6.

Since 14 March, the information provided by the Japanese authorities has been very limited, perfectly controlled and little short of the communication methods we used to see in the former USSR.

Let’s recall the accident at the Swedish nuclear power plant in 2006. The operators almost lost the nuclear reactor in less than 30 minutes owing to a fault in the cooling circuit allied to an electricity power failure (which really takes the biscuit for a nuclear power plant which is supposed to produce electricity), which was in turn linked to maintenance work. The safety systems (to keep things simple the back-up generators) were simply not turned on. A catastrophe was assured in 30 minutes this being the time needed for the start of fusion within the core of the reactor according to the articles and the experts who were at the time in agreement about the seriousness of this incident. For 15 days, the cores of the nuclear reactors in Japan have no longer been truly cooled…..but of course this does not cause any problem.

There is smoke escaping on virtually a daily basis from one or other of the damaged reactors, but of course this does not pose any problem.

The drinking water in Tokyo is from time to time unfit for consumption but the next day when the shops have run out of bottled mineral water and the entire population can no longer be supplied…the water becomes drinkable again. The sad alternative is to either let the population drink irradiated water or to die of thirst.

In brief, this accident which is jeopardising the “survival” of nuclear reactors potentially risks being more serious than the accident at Chernobyl. As stated by the Japanese prime minister: “the situation at Fukushima is unpredictable”.

But let’s get back to our little retrospective. Check it out for yourselves by calling on your memory (you will see that this works well) or by searching the internet for all the podcasts for this period which are to a large extent still online).

On Tuesday 15 March the European Commissioner for energy stated that it is “the apocalypse”.

Financial markets across the planet are in free fall. The mega crash is fast approaching and it risks making the subprime crisis in 2008 seem like a mere trifle.

The next day, on Thursday 17, there was a great change in how information was broadcast and managed. A helicopter took off with some buckets of water to pour onto the smoking reactors “trusting to luck” (look back over the videos to understand the accuracy used).
Thanks to these wonderful images, the Press unanimously spoke with effect from Thursday of “Glimmers of hope at Fukushima “. The markets are rebounding, the main thing is safe (our money).
The Japanese can calmly go on exposing people to radiation.
Using the following link you can see around ten good definition aerial photographs of the various buildings at the Fukushima power plant. They are not very reassuring.

On Friday 18, some tankers from the Tokyo fire service also arrived to hose down the smouldering ruins which, I remind you, officially did not explode. In fact there were huge explosions witnessed by the entire planet, but they were not serious. Obvious they were just controlled degassing activities (hydrogen) which exploded but nothing to be alarmed about, the reactors are fine, honestly!. Thanks to this, the Press were unanimously able to lead with headlines such as “Encouraging Progress at Fukushima”!
I advise you to read the report entitled, “the Battle for Chernobyl” which provides an exhaustive clarification on the risks and challenges faced by the ex-Soviet empire in order to limit the extent of this nuclear catastrophe. It is important to note that hundreds of helicopters, thousands of armoured vehicles and more than 500,000 men were used to construct the sarcophagus around the damaged reactor. At Fukushima the problem is multiplied by six. How are they going to deal with it?

It is therefore certain at the time that I am writing these lines. We are faced with an unfettered pack of lies which we are forced to watch powerless as it unfolds. Except for the fact that the internet exists today and we have more chance to keep ourselves informed. We are experiencing a real Chernobyl 2 !!

Multiple under-estimated economic consequences

Is there any hope left? Doubtlessly there is, and being an optimist by nature, I want to believe that solutions can be found. Nevertheless, the official radioactive pollution is now spread over more than 100 km. Tokyo, the capital, is situated less than 250 m from the Fukushima nuclear plant. The entire North of Japan has been substantially affected, not to mention all the areas which have been wiped off the map by the double whammy of the earthquake and the tsunami.

The French government has just set up a special unit in order to plan as best as possible for the shortage of components which will certainly affect France starting from April leading to certain production stoppages and probably measures of technical unemployment in certain industries.

Apart from the losses in human lives, the cost of this double catastrophe (natural and nuclear) is far from being known and is certainly currently be played down. The last assessment talks about more than 28,000 who are dead or missing. There is more than 350,000 left without shelter in the North-east of Japan, 70,000 people have been evacuated within a 20 km radius around the plant. Between 20 and 30 km, 136,000 other people are waiting to be evaluated after being confined to their homes for more than 15 days.

Japan as the second largest economy in the World (or the third according to how China is classified) is a vital link for globalisation. Japan is heavily affected and faces a number of major challenges:

– A nuclear catastrophe which is absolutely not being overcome and which may eventually lead to a drama in the event of any worsening of the situation in one of the affected reactors.

– debt of more than 200% of GDP (by means of comparison, France has a debt ratio of around 80% to GDP whereas that of “bankrupt” Greece is 120%). At the time of the Kobe earthquake, the debt ratio of the Japanese state was only 85% of GDP (this was in 1995). The reconstruction effort risks leading to an unsustainable increase in this country’s debt which will speed it towards unprecedented economic difficulties. On 15 May 2010, the alarm bell was also sounded by the IMF and the rating agencies on the non-sustainability of Japanese short-term debt.

– Industry virtually at a standstill. The Japanese are the inventors of the Just in time methods which, even if they have convinced the World, demonstrate their limitations in the event of catastrophes. The consequence of the total absence of any stock is the halting of numerous production activities leading to massive shortages on supermarket shelves which still remain empty at the present time. No more water, less and less food, major power cuts which no longer make it possible to manage stocks of fresh or deep-frozen products.
With regard to the major international companies the example of aircraft manufacturer Boeing is striking with Japanese companies building 35% of some models of aircraft.

– A currency value which is spiralling upwards. The massive purchases of the Japanese yen and companies who are liquidating their overseas assets in order to repatriate them to cope with the National reconstruction effort have propelled the Yen towards an historical high. Added to the “natural” appreciation of the currency is major market speculation on fund repatriation forecasts.
The consequence is that a currency which is too strong triggers a significant decrease in exports, given that a brutal increase in the value of the currency cannot be offset by an increase in productivity especially in a country ravaged by a natural catastrophe of this size. Nevertheless, in the medium term and bearing in mind a expansionist monetary policy, the Yen should find a more acceptance exchange rate.

– Japan is a country with a very heavy population density. Many people but not many habitable spaces. On average, the price of real estate is the most expensive in the World. Banks therefore there have particularly large outstanding real estate loans. In the region of Fukushima, more than 70,000 people have already been evacuated. In Ukraine, next to Chernobyl, the town of Pripiat is still a ghost town 25 years after the explosion of the reactor. There the banks did not have any loans. There were only 45,000 inhabitants. What will become of bank debts in this case? How will the losses (because they are large) be managed? Might we again face a major international banking crisis as the extent of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe appears? Imagine the extent of the impact on real estate debts in the event of the evaluation of Tokyo which houses 35 million people…..a situation which it is quite simply unimaginable from a financial perspective. The economic system could not cope, or would cope with great difficulty. Perhaps this is why the situation in Fukushima is no longer alarming after 17 March 2011.

– Japan is an aging country, whose current population of 127 million has been decreasing since 2005 and is set to be halved between now and the end of the century to reach 60 million inhabitants.
But how can these debts be repaid without economic and demographic growth, Mechanically and mathematically, the less the number of inhabitants the bigger the total debt per head of population.

– The Fukushima nuclear accident has revived the fear about nuclear power. In the United States, no nuclear reactor has been built since the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979. After Chernobyl, there has been no further development of any nuclear power plant in USSR, the same will be true of Japan after Fukushima. In German 7 reactors have already been halted because they were deemed to be too dangerous.
The only rapid and credible replacements for energy in the short-term are Gas and obviously Petrol whose prices might be propelled to highs in the coming weeks. Economist are agreed, however, that a barrel of petrol whose price exceeds 120 dollars leads the World economy into a recession. As at 4 April the price of a barrel of petrol was still rising and seemed to have sustainably settled at over 110 dollars.

Towards an acceleration of changes which are already being felt

It is therefore to be feared that all of the cumulated factors discussed present a global systemic risk to the global economy which might be hard to redress in the aftermath of Fukushima and the slow agony of this nuclear cataclysm being witnessed in Japan. Perhaps we are witnessing the premature disappearance of a Nation, of the slow dawn on a Empire.

You wanted to save money in the short-term despite the life of mankind, you will lose mankind and you will lose money because there is no wealth without mankind.

Indeed, even oysters risk deserting our New Year’s dinner tables. Affected and decimated by a mysterious illness, our producers have ordered spats from Japan in Sendau. Japanese producers are also lacking our oysters.

It is still not time to make the tally. Having said this, the Fukushima accident may well be the signing of the death warrant for the nuclear industry which is a dangerous industry and about which we neither know how to manage the dismantling work nor how to manage waste and whose costs are not taken into account in the operating prices for this energy which is more expensive than people think when all this indirect costs are included. This is not to mention the price to be paid in terms of a catastrophe which are quite simply unbearable both in financial terms as well as in human suffering. The “‘homo economicus ” will have to learn another form of sobriety.
From Peak Oil to the depleting of raw materials, from the challenges faced by agriculture in feeding our planet to the sharing of water (threatened resource) the World is changing.

The Japanese cataclysm will undoubtedly hasten these changes.

Translated from an article by Charles SANNAT

Gold Trends Intra Day Gold Update – April 4th

Monday, April 4th, 2011

In last nights update resistance in gold was listed at 1437.50-1446 and the high so far is 1439. Support for today was listed at 1419-1425 and the low so far is 1427.60

London Gold Fix $1432.50 +$1.50 LME

While the Dollar is slightly higher early, the Greenback remains within striking distance of last week’s lows. With the gold market overnight seeing a rather hot ECB inflation reading and seeing crude oil prices claw out another fresh new high for the move and a host of commodity prices trading higher, the gold bulls feel somewhat confident to start the new trading week.

Some players in the market expect some dovish comments from the Fed’s Bernanke today and after dovish dialogue from the Fed’s Dudley at the end of last week, the threat of rising US rates may become an issue but so far — it seems to be just talk. There is a G20 meeting mid-month so that’s something we’ll have to keep in mind.

Some players think that news of a release of RAD into the ocean in Japan is a limiting issue for gold, but one could also suggest that development could ultimately be inflationary if Japan is forced to seek alternative protein in the grain and livestock markets.

The Commitments of Traders Futures and Options report as of March 29th for Gold showed Non-Commercial traders were net long 213,983 contracts, an increase of 3,448 contracts. The Commercial traders were net short 264,085 contracts, an increase of 1,242 contracts. The Non-reportable traders were net long 50,103 contracts, a decrease of 2,205 contracts. Non-Commercial and Non-reportable combined traders held a net long position of 264,086 contracts. This represents an increase of 1,243 contracts in the net long position held by these traders.

While equity markets in Asia and Europe were mixed during overnight trading, early indications are for the US stock market to open today’s session with moderate gains.

The Bank of Japan’s Tankan survey of Japanese manufacturers projects that business conditions in Japan will worsen during the next three months as a consequence of the Sendai earthquake.

A Libyan envoy has traveled to Greece to begin discussing an end to hostilities in that nation. The US State Department is flying their employees out of Syria due to continued unrest.

Euro zone PPI during February was up 6.6% year-on-year, in line with market forecasts.

Going to the charts ……………..

On Friday’s update we discussed the tendency for gold to move higher after the USA unemployment data and after hitting a low of 1412, gold rallied back to the 1430 area for the close.

Coming into today and the 1439 high — it really comes down to whether gold is going to burst through the 1444 area this week. A WEEKLY Friday close above 1436 — and 1444 is needed to add to the upside potential. Although the trend is still up — the stronger trends we watch are due to peak here between today and Wednesday and a weaker trend is scheduled to begin and last into mid-month. Price always rules — and turn points are secondary — so we would want to see price begin to react and show weakness before we consider that the weaker trend has kicked in. But it’s something we need to be aware of should gold begin to trade lower. First Targets for this coming week to watch for is the 1440 to 1453 area. I’m looking to sell 1/2 my long short term gold positions from 1406 and 1418 should we trade up to the 1450 area.

The chart shows two red arrows —- the lower arrow shows the Feb lows how the market pulled back to 1325 on four occaisions in one week but was not able to break lower. The same condition happened last week — where there were four pullbacks to the 1410-1412 area — all of which produced a nice bounce back up. The lows were right on the lower purple channel line on the chart. This kind of action usually favors higher prices.

Thus, from a swing trade standpoint — as long as we remain above the 1408-1410 price area on a closing basis — the trend is still up.

Resistance is the 1439-1447 area today and first support is the 1427-1432 area.

In summary — the gold market trend is still up. A daily close above 1436 and/or 1444 would be helpful and favor higher prices into Tuesday/Wednesday. Going forward —- as we mentioned — the potential for gold to peak this week and begin a sideways to lower trend into mid month is a consideration when we look at short term cycles. However the seasonals do favor higher overall into the month of May so an April pullback — should still garner higher prices into month end and early May should we get a pullback. The trend is still up.

by Bill Downey

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Natural Disasters heighten Global Economic Crisis

Monday, March 14th, 2011

The impact of the growing number of recent natural disasters will inevitably provoke a deepening of the global economic crisis.
Our thoughts and hopes are definitely with the people of Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Sumatra, Brazil, China, Pakistan and all of the other regions affected in recent times by catastrophic natural disasters.

The sheer scale of these events and especially those in Japan reminds us of the fragility of humankind in the face of nature’s wrath. The trauma and tragedy of all these events are beyond comprehension unless you have survived one.
As hope still prevails that survivors may be found, what will the economic impact be of these events?
The Nikkei has already dropped over 6% in the first day of trading. The central bank has injected over $180 billion to provide liquidity.
Remember that Japan was already struggling with a debt crisis on an enormous scale. Concerns will be that Japanese foreign interests and reserves will be liquidated to service the rebuild and to try and control the debt. There is over $5 Trillion of Japanese foreign investment and any significant moves to pull out large quantities would have a serious knock-on effect around the world.
Now whole areas of the economy will be affected. Manufacturing production in Japan’s most important industries and major corporations will be hit either directly or indirectly because of suppliers disappearing. This too could have an effect on Japanese industries abroad.
Infrastructure rebuild costs will be huge and the time to undertake this will also be an influencing factor. First guestimates indicate years or even decades will be required for Japan to rebuild and recover after the Japanese Prime Minister declared the disaster as big if not bigger than that suffered during World War II.

Japanese exports will be greatly affected and Japan will have to import much more to cope with deficiencies.

Nuclear Meltdown?

The unknown is now the increasing possibility that a nuclear incident will further worsen the impact and could have environmental issues for other countries.
The human cost, trauma, lack of labour will be another factor.
Many of these factors affect all areas hit by disasters and the pressure on economies is mounting.
But in a world already at odds with itself and unrest spreading through other parts of the world where does this leave us.
Nobody knows the real costs or the real impact of any of these tragedies. Experts make a best guess.
One thing can be sure is that collectively they present the global economic picture with additional demands for investment that it simply cannot meet.
Maybe Bernanke can introduce QE3 and print more dollars for US efforts to help their neighbours but as we know this if anything is compounding the world’s problems and bits of paper are not real money or wealth.

Financial Meltdown

What will happen to the large insurance groups who will be hit for claims on a colossal basis? Will they be able to pay? Will they indeed survive?
Are they not part of the global cycle for investing, hedging, banking etc?
Their pain will be shared and passed on but in doing so we will finally see the world wide web of debt come undone.
The fact is there is not enough money on the planet to repay all the hedges, spreads, bonds and loans.

This latest natural disaster is a forerunner of the man-made one to follow. The world is heading for financial meltdown and we are powerless to stop it.

The only thing you can do now is start to plan for the inevitable.
Ditch toxic assets, currencies and investments.

Click here to view a Special MoneyWeek presentation.

Get out of “paper promises” and get into tangible & real.
Look for a safe refuge or haven to park some “money” or wealth that may see you through the hardest times.
Don’t wait too long as hindsight is not an option.
Your insurance now rests with gold as the safest way to preserve your wealth and to survive the crisis we are facing.
Be safe, be prepared and buy now.

How Gold is Produced

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

This chart illustrates the general steps in open-pit gold mining. The specifics of the process vary from mine to mine.

1. Geologists use the latest technology, such as satellite surveys and geochemistry, to locate an ore deposit.

2. Computers are used to design the mine, which requires precise and accurate measurement of the ore deposit. Construction begins following the lengthy process of receiving permits.

3.3 Samples of ore are examined to determine grade and metallurgical characteristics. Broken rock is marked by type for efficient processing.

4. Based on its metallurgical makeup, a dispatcher directs truck operators to deliver the ore to the correct processing location.



6. The gold is absorbed (collected) out of solution onto activated carbon. The remaining cyanide solution is recycled.

7. 7The gold loaded carbon is moved into a vessel where the gold is chemically stripped from the carbon which is then recycled.

8. 8Gold is precipitated from the solution electrolytically or by chemical substitution.

9. The pure gold is then melted into dore’ bars containing up to 90 percent gold. Dore’ bars are then sent to an external refinery to be refined to bars of 999.9 parts per thousand pure gold.

Reclamation is a long-term investment made by every gold mining company, and can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per acre. It is the cornerstone of every mine plan and is considered the first and last step of the mining process.

Gold is produced at some mines as part of the process of mining and refining other metals, such as copper. At those operations, gold is refined to an acceptable purity as part of the copper production process. At most gold mines, the gold “dore” is sent to a refinery for further processing.

low grade material

High grade material

Russia – Gold mining in some of the harshest conditions in the world

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Every winter, an ice road is laid across 400 km (250 miles) of tundra to carry supplies to one of the world’s most isolated gold mines.


Kupol Russian Arctic Mine

There is no other way for heavy machinery to reach Kupol, the $700 million Arctic mine behind a resurgence in Russian gold production after five straight years of decline.”It’s one of the harshest climates I’ve worked in, and I’ve worked in the Atacama desert in Chile and at 15,000 feet in Indonesia,” said Patrick Dougherty, general manager at Kupol. “But I don’t get to pick where the gold is.”

Only South Africa holds more gold than Russia, but Moscow’s fragmented industry has struggled to access vast reserves in its inhospitable Far East. The region was first mined in the 1930s by prisoners of the Gulags set up by Soviet leader Josef Stalin.Russia is the world’s biggest energy supplier, but falling prices and reduced demand have cut income from natural resources to about 8 percent of its gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2009, from nearly 11 percent a year ago.

Gold, on the other hand, has been helped by recession. Its safe-haven appeal has shielded it from a demand slump that shredded other commodity prices, lifting it to over $1200 an ounce in December 2009

Chukotka, a region revived in the last eight years by the $2.5 billion investment of Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich, produced a fifth of Russia’s gold in the first half of this year. Gold is the region’s passport to growth after Abramovich quit as governor last July.Russia ranked fifth among the world’s gold miners last year, between Australia and Peru, with an 8 percent share of output. Production rose 13 percent in 2008, the first increase in six years, and jumped another 25 percent in the first half of 2009. “This was solely due to the commissioning of Kupol,” said Olga Okuneva, mining analyst at Deutsche Bank in Moscow. “If other large projects in the Far East start producing gold, this will be a major growth driver for the Russian gold industry.”

Kupol — meaning dome in Russian — is named after a rounded outcrop of rock that juts skyward from the tundra in central Chukotka, over 200 km (125 miles) from the nearest settlement. The mine took five years to build. It is the largest tax payer in Chukotka, a land twice the size of Germany where reindeer outnumber people four to one. “With a deposit as large as Kupol, mining’s contribution to the regional economy is expected almost to double to 37 percent this year,” said Roman Kopin, the 35-year-old who took over as governor when Abramovich resigned.

Kinross Gold Corp, the Canadian miner which owns 75 percent of Kupol, is unusual among foreign investors for holding a majority share in a major Russian mineral deposit. The government of Chukotka owns the other 25 percent. Untangling the red tape that stifles some foreign investors in other parts of Russia was one of the main achievements of Abramovich’s more than seven years as governor, Kopin said. “The investment climate here, perhaps, is a little bit different, because we understand that it’s very difficult to work in Chukotka,” he added.Kinross has been the top performing gold stock on the New York Stock Exchange for the last three years, when the company’s value rose more than 160 percent. Kupol will supply about a third of its total output this year and 15 of 24 equity analysts polled by Reuters retain a bullish rating on the stock


About 1,400 jobs are related directly to Kupol, and Chukotka’s population totals around 50,000. Miners and catering staff spend four weeks on site and four weeks off, earning an average monthly wage of 50,000 roubles, 25 percent above the regional average. “We have equipment that works here,” said Alexander Puzovets, 48, a drill rig operator who works 10-hour shifts at the pit face. “I’ve been in mines where we’ve used hammers.”The mine’s in-house electricity plant could generate enough to power the regional capital, Anadyr.In winter, miners walk the purpose-built Arctic Corridor — an enclosed, 900-meter tunnel from camp to mine — to avoid temperatures that drop more than 50 degrees Celsius below zero (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit).

About 60 percent of Kupol’s gold is mined underground. Zurab Samteladze, a 55-year-old Georgian more than 7,000 km from home, hauls 45-tonne rock loads to the surface in a Caterpillar truck.In deeper parts of the mine, skilled operators maneuver drill rigs by remote control. This avoids the need for miners to work long hours beneath areas vulnerable to rock falls.

“With all the video games they play, the younger generation has a better chance of operating these units,” said Dougherty, a native of Arizona. Alcohol is banned. Miners pass their time playing pool, in the gym or watching television. Popcorn is a popular snack, while eight tons of reindeer meat was served up last year. “I play guitar — they have a music room. I like basketball — they have a sports hall,” said Andrei Aksanov, 34, a mechanic in the truck shop.Like 80 percent of the miners at Kupol, Aksanov comes from Magadan, the port city 1,500 km (940 miles) to the southwest.

russia miner

A worker cast an ingot at the Koylma refinery Magada

This is where mining began in Russia’s Far East. Stalin, needing bodies to unearth new-found gold reserves, sent hundreds of thousands of prisoners to slave in the region’s labor camps over two decades from the early 1930s.From such grisly beginnings, Magadan has developed into the hub of gold processing in the Russian Far East. Kupol flies its dore  (bullion bars)  to be processed into almost pure metal to be refined at the Kolyma Refinery to the north of the city. Vladislav Feoktistov, the refinery’s 71-year-old director, raised a glass of vodka to visiting officials from Kinross Gold. Supplies from Kupol will guarantee the plant’s biggest turnover in its 11-year history, he said.”This a business that’s only as good as its suppliers,” he said. From here, 15 kg (33 pound) gold bars worth more than $450,000 each at current prices are delivered to Russian banks.

Kinross report – The production at Kupol mine was started during the second half of 2008. During the second half of 2009, Kupol mine reported production of 234,265 gold equivalent ounces. Out of this, Kinross has produced 75% or 175,699 gold equivalent ounces. The production includes 151,327 ounces of gold and 1,633,673 ounces of silver. Kinross says that, with a cost of sales of about $205 per ounce on a co-product basis using a gold price of $400/oz and a silver price of $6/oz, Kupol will become one of the lowest-cost gold and silver mines in the world.

Processing – The Kupol mill is a conventional gold/silver cyanidation plant that incorporates a CCD thickener washing circuit and Merrill-Crowe zinc precipitation because of the high silver ore grade. Cyanide destruction is accomplished with calcium hypochlorite. The Kupol mill is designed to process about 3,000t of ore per day (1,100,000t per year). Run-of-mine ore is crushed in a jaw crusher and conveyed to a crushed ore storage bin. The crushed ore is ground in a SAG grinding mill followed by a ball mill. Gravity separation of free gold and silver will be carried out with a Knelson concentrator in the grinding circuit.


There should be more to come. Polyus Gold, owned by billionaires Mikhail Prokhorov and Suleiman Kerimov, plans to launch Natalka, the world’s third-largest gold deposit, in 2013. Annual production of between 25 and 30 tonnes will put Natalka on the same scale as Kupol. Beyond 2017, Polyus plans to raise output to more than 40 tonnes a year. “It’s a deposit with reserves of more than 1,000 tonnes that will create jobs, infrastructure and become a major center for Magadan region,” said German Pikhoya, Polyus Gold’s deputy chief executive for strategy and corporate development. If Chukotka is to retain its leading position, it must do more. Current reserves at Kupol will last only until 2016. To extend the mine’s life beyond this date, more reserves must be found, mapped and registered with Russian authorities. Kinross and others are already exploring. “Chukotka is definitely a key gold-producing region, particularly in the long term,” said Vitaly Nesis, chief executive of St Petersburg-based miner Polymetal. His company plans to launch the Mayskoye gold deposit in Chukotka by 2011.

Maurice Hall from Sources Reuters, Kinross and

Carlin Trend’s gold

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
carlin PIT

Carlin Trend pit

The USA was the fourth  largest world producer of gold  in 2009 with the most prosperous mining region located in the state of Nevada. Millions of years ago, hot springs laden with flecks of gold boiled up through deep fractures in the earth’s crust. But the golden residue did not accumulate in rich veins, instead, it disseminated throughout the sedimentary rock laid down by an ancient ocean

The vast bulk of this production is from large mines where the deposits consist of microscopic particles principally hosted in this sedimentary (or sometimes volcanic) rock. Many of these deposits lie along a few well known geologic trends, and the two best known are the Carlin Trend, and the Eureka trend. Its tiny size also explains why the old timers never found these deposits as their principal means of exploration was the gold pan.

Carlin Trend’s largest mine is the Goldstrike Property. The two o clock siren indicates that it is time to leave the pits so that the daily explosions can begin in the mine.  Before the dust has time to settle, routine work resumes in the pits, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The best way to achieve high productivity is to use the most advanced technology, and the bigger it is the better.  These six storey high shovels can load a truck with four shovel loads.  Each truck carries 190 tons of ore equalling about 107 kilos of gold but what differentiates Goldstrike from a conventional open pit is a computerised management system run from a tower located on the edge of the pits.

What we are trying to do here is to optimise the efficiency of all the equipment we have to run the mines.  All operations are computerised; each transportation or loading vehicle is fitted with a computer which communicates with the system in the tower.

carlin cranes

Cranes and giant trucks extract gold from Goldstrike mine. Around 100 kilos of gold per truck

This screen shows us which shovels are available and unloading areas to which we can send the trucks, we can see which trucks are leaving the shovels and those which are leaving the unloading areas to return to the shovels.

To extract gold from such low-grade deposits, miners must crush tons and tons of rock, which is piled into mammoth heaps and irrigated with cyanide. The cyanide percolates through the heap, extracting the gold. In the early days of the invisible-gold rush, a ton of ore might contain a few tenths of an ounce of gold. Today that minuscule amount would be considered high grade. Nevada mines are now digging up a ton of rock to get back as little as 0.025 oz. of gold which would have been considered waste rock back in 1961.”

After this process, the purified ore is melted and cast into ingots with a purity exceeding 92%.  Carlin Trend has become the industrial mining centre of America and has enabled the country to become the second biggest producer of gold in the world.

Timothy S Green, author of The World of Gold: “The boom in gold mining in the USA has created thousands and thousands of jobs.  Somehow it has enabled Nevada to be reborn as a State.  There is a whole life surrounding this industry which didn’t exist when I started being interested in gold in the mid 60’s.  In North America, you will find Homestake mine plus one or two small producers.  In Canada this industry lived off state subsidies and in the North of the Country we really struggled to keep mining towns standing.  Today, this industry has been totally transformed, it is alive and dynamic.

The industrialisation of gold mining operations – The history of gold

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Gold mining operations soon went through an industrial revolution.  The gold rush in Australia resulted in the largest nugget ever being found, a 70kg block of gold.  At the end of Winter and beginning of Spring in 1876, whilst General George.A.Custer was preparing for his infamous meeting with Little Big Horn, brothers Fred and Moses Manuel began looking for gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Born in Quebec, the Manuel brothers spent most of their lives surveying the West of the USA in the unlikely search for gold.  Like many before them, they had heard rumours that General Custer’s geologists had found gold in the Black Hills.  On the 9th April 1876, the two brothers discovered what they were looking for in a known area called Bobtail ravine.  Moses relates their discovery in his diary: “finally the snow began to melt on the hill, water drained from the filter through the pipe.  There, I saw quartz! I took hold of a pick to try and break off a block but it was very compact.  I still managed to break off a piece and returned to camp to crush it and wash it.  It was full of gold”

homestake mine

Homestake gold mine in 1877

In just a few months, Fred and Moses Manuel extracted five thousand dollars worth of gold, a small fortune at the time.  One year later, the two brothers sold their mine for 45000 dollars.  The deposit became one of the first properties owned by the Homestake Mining Company.  The creation of the Homestake mine signalled a revolution in gold mining operations.  In the centuries that followed, the solitary gold hunter equipped with just one pan and one shovel gradually gave way to larger companies using new technologies.  One of the most efficient methods but also the most destructive for the environment consisted of hydraulic mining operations.  It consists of sending water through an enormous hose nozzle and projecting it with extreme force against a rock to break off large pieces.  By literally sweeping away the quartz, gold appears.”

The water canons destroy millions of cubic metres of earth and rock on hillsides, using pressures which could mutilate or kill a man from 30 metres.  In less than a day, a clean sweep can be made of a riverbed which would take an army of prospectors armed with shovels and pans a month to sift through.  Old mining sites dating from the first gold rush came back to life.

Another aid came in 1889 for mining companies in the form of cyanide, a deadly poison for humans but a great help for industry.  “We realised that cyanide had the power to dissolve rock around gold.  It became very economic for industry to use large scale techniques and therefore recover small deposits of gold.” Gold cyanidation  is a metelurgical technique for extracting gold from low-grade ore by converting the gold to water soluble aurocyanide metallic complex ions. It is the most commonly used process for gold extraction. Due to the highly poisonous nature of cyanide, the process is highly controversial and its usage is now banned in a number of countries and territories.

These technological advances turned the mania at Homestake into the richest mine in US history.  For over a century it has continued to produce gold in regular quantities.  It represents 10% of all gold extracted from mines in America.  Fred and Moses Manuel discovered one of the largest reserves of gold scattered across Western America.  Many years later, geologists discovered a gold field of more than 1600 metres deep and 1600 metres long in the mountains of Nevada, but the gold remains invisible to the naked eye

Today the mining company Barrick uses innovative techniques to recover microscopic grains of gold just a few thousandths of a millimetre in size.  To see them, they need to be enlarged about 2000 times.

After the discovery of deposits in the Carlin region as well as the implementation of modern technologies, the US has become the second largest gold producer in the world.

The discovery of the largest gold reserves are located in one of the most profitable and outstanding geological environments on Earth.  Thieves know that the gold is capable of revealing their fingerprints using a new type of chemical analysis which is most notably capable of precisely indicating where the metal comes from.

Alchemy damages the Amazon Basin

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

amazonBefore they even enter a gold mine, travellers are surprised by the logistical ability of the countries in the Amazon region to transport everything that is needed for the miners, from food through to petrol. Extracting about two hundred and fifty tonnes (and probably more) gold per year as chips, fine grains or nuggets, transporting the precious metal and its ingredients, fuel and mercury all represents a highly profitable business whether using dugout canoes, quads or small stunt planes. Attempts to protect the Amazon require the involvement of the region’s countries to implement campaigns, to ban  illegal mining and the use of mercury, but are faced with the complete hypocrisy of these countries’ representatives irrespective of whether it is Brazil, France, Surinam or Venezuela.

Why criticise the business when these same country representatives are using every available means to extend it, by a laissez-faire attitude, by turning a blind eye or even by their active involvement. Not only is the situation in the Amazon rain forest not improving but it is worsening to the point where you have to wonder if even the countries are profiting from its destruction. Part of the problem stems from how the gold is pulled from the ore. Across Brazil, thousands of garimpieros, itinerant gold miners, remove ore by washing a rock face with a high-pressure stream of water. The ore is then broken down in a hammer crusher, and the gold-bearing ore is sluiced with mercury in a process known as amalgamation. The amalgam is filtered manually and then retorted to release the mercury from the gold. The mercury vapor that results is distilled and reused, although a small fraction remains bound to the gold, to be released by the gold dealers during processing. The Brazilian Gold Rush began in 1980 when gold was discovered in Serra Palada in Palá state. Most of the incoming population (at least 250,000) worked for a low wage in very crowded, highly competitive gold mines with very lax environmental practices. Up to 9000 tons of mercury, used in the mining process, has been washed into the region’s rivers, along with huge quantities of sediment. The miners have also polluted the rivers with oil, litter and human sewage. All around the vicinity of the mines, vegetation, animals and settlements have been destroyed.

The profits to be made from providing transport are often as great as those to be made from mining. The town of Maripasoula in French Guyana controls an area the size of Belgium and gains a large part of its revenues from the gold. However, in Brazil, the transporters do not care as they send their goods to the other side of the river Oyapock, on the Guyana side, and wait for their commissions. The same occurs with Surinam, where the gold money ends up in bank vaults or on casino tables. Why bother saying that the gold helps the local population when everyone from Caracas to Cayenne, from Rio to Paramaribo, knows perfectly well that it provides no local benefit and is removed to foreign countries?  The gold leaves whilst the mercury penetrates into the Amazon basin. The alchemy is damaging for the forest and is affecting the human population particularly those who eat mercury contaminated fish.

Includes exerts from the book J’Aurai de l’Or by Olivier Weber. See video clip  curse for gold



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"For a mountaineer, the important things are the effort, the posture and the muscles. The rope that holds him serves no purpose when everything works but it gives him a sense of security. In the same way, all gold does is ensure confidence; it's a safe haven."