June 18, 2018
Why gold’s so expensive.
You ever seen how they mine gold?
I mean, like how they clean it with dredging machines or by hand? Or how golden nuggets sparkle in the earth? Well I hadn’t either. But when I was asked if I want to go down a gold mine, I – naturally – jumped at the chance. So down I went – way down into the bowels of the earth…
The mine handily has a lift installed. Not quite the shiny glass-and-stainless-steel affair like we have at HQ, but it does the job. Or you can take one of these here glamorous yellow vehicles that go down steep tunnels:
Of course, this ain’t no walk in the park, so before we set off there’s the full safety briefing. Then we’re given the special protective clothing and helmet and a torch. We sign on the dotted line, don said helmets, and down we go in the back of the mine-taxi:
The lower we go, the pleasanter the surroundings become – picturesque ponds appear, and the air gets filled… with exhaust fumes, oil and hot metal. Not. All that is ventilated/pumped out. But of course you can’t guarantee 100% pumping/ventilation…
These charming little vehicles to and fro around the underground labyrinths. Yes, the noise and smells they make match their appearance ).
We finally arrive at the very end of the tunnel – the
coalface goldface. Here, rock is drilled, ground up and sent to the surface for further processing. Then they strengthen the tunnel, drill some more, and seek out new seams of gold.
Btw – it’s 240 meters below sea level here, and 600 meters below the earth’s surface. And it’s hot. The internet tells me that underground temperature increases 2-3°С every 100m down you go. So 600 meters down equals +15°С. Yep – that sounds about right.
Here are the mounds of gold that sit on the surface near the mine. Gold raw material, that is. Out of every ton of that they only get 7-8 grams of pure gold! 7-8 grams out of every million (!) grams, if my sums are right! So, that there heap is 0.008 carat gold!
Next, that 0.008-carat gold is ground up even finer:
Next up – refining. It’s rinsed; some kind of acid/alkalis are added; it’s left to be ‘cleaned’ by certain bacteria that eat only the stone; other processes (I can’t remember them all); hydrolysis; electrolysis…:
After all the above processes, we get a substance that’s ready for smelting. Into the oven it goes. The heavy metal sinks to the bottom while the slag goes to the top, and out pops the day’s work: pure gold in the form of a sturdy, confident-looking 900-carat gold bar!
That’s all for today folks. But I’ll be back shortly – from Kazakhstan!…