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By Keith B. Homan
er name is Kristy McLennan. She is
twenty-ish, blonde, lean, pretty, has a
grand Australian accent, and wonderful
pouty lips. Model? Fashion designer? Ready to go
into rehab aer a mercurial lm career? Not quite,
as Kristy drives a vehicle so much more massive
than anything you or I ever will—the contrasts
are almost comical. Her ride is 15 metres high
and has six ve-metre-high wheels, each of
which costs £8,000. She works a 12-hour shi,
almost every day, in the middle of the Australian
outback. Each day she moves two million kilos
of dirt and rock. Yes, you read all that right. Ms.
McLennan is the master and commander of an
epic dump truck in the largest open-cut gold mine
in Australia, the “Super Pit” in Kalgoorlie. How
do Kristy’s toils relate to you? e Super Pit is
one of the most productive mines in the world,
and therefore, it may just be that the end product
of her eorts is adorning your lady’s neck—or
possibly your own.
How crazy do we humans get for this shiny
stu? Well, the ancient Inca had such reverence
for the metal that some actually drilled holes in
their skulls and covered their exposed mental
meat with gold. As a reminder, these drastic
eorts were performed many centuries before
the advent of antibiotics and sterile operating
techniques. ese surgical astrologers claimed
the procedure would bring them spiritually closer
to their sun god. (A risk-reward ratio this author
would only imagine to be attractive under the
fog of a serious mental disorder or some really
amazing psychotropic Inca-cured contraband.)
IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT…
Simplied commercial production recipe: First,
one needs to nd a Kristy to bring you kilo upon
kilo of a certain class of rock known as high-grade
gold ore which you then pulverise into a ne
powder. Oddly, and probably infuriatingly, your
naked eye will not see any evidence of gold in the
ore or the powder. Now, add water to your trodden
rock to get a grey, muddy sludge. To this muck add
some murderous cyanide, which will trigger a
chemical reaction leading to the precipitation
of a gold-enhanced sludge. Next, bake
the sludge to get a muddle of about 85
percent gold. en pour this gunk into
molds, let cool, and you’ve produced a
prized Dore bar. Just don’t eat it. Not
yet, at least.
ese bars are then heated to an
impressive 1,100 degrees centigrade,
and then forcibly infused with a gas
in order to rid the metal of remaining
impurities. e nal, pure gold is then treated
to the exciting business end of a amethrower to
add extra shine. Rock-grind-powder-water-mud-
= pure gold. We’re talking 24-karat perfection.
Ironically, you won’t want to adorn this stu on
your neck, ngers, ankles or ears. It’s virtually
soer than cream cheese and easily damaged.
Usually, it’s kept in bar form with the family
jewels in the bank vault.
Another curious way gold is harvested is
via computer mining, which is the process of
extracting gold and other precious metals from
the discarded carcasses of outdated PCs. What
is the point of this? Turns out that there are
approximately 3 ounces of gold in each tonne of
discarded computer parts. Shockingly, this is a far
larger weight percentage of the metal than that
found in any of the most highly prized gold ore
deposits on the planet.
e simplest way, however, is to go to a river,
get a gold pan, and pantomime the wacky arm
gesticulations you’ve seen in almost every Wild
West movie. Or, you could take a very long desert
walk while waving a metal detector around until
your arms drop o. One chap who did so heard
a beep-screech-beep he’ll never forget, which
yielded a 156-ounce nugget worth £45,000.
CULINARY ADVENTURES WITH “XAU”
Gold leaf, dust, and akes are used in drinks,
baking and as shiny condiments to varied
foodstus. Due to the astonishing malleability
of gold, the amount of metal contained in the
leaf is so small that it adds very little cost. It has
absolutely no taste because, unlike many metals
that might nd their way into your inbox, it does
not readily ionise. Hence gold doesn’t dissolve
in your mouth, or anywhere else along the
gastrointestinal voyage. I, quite fortunately,
do not know of any commercial operations
to reclaim gold spent in this manner.
Back in my youth I fell victim to a malevolent
marketing campaign that added gold leaf to
really poor schnapps. True, it was not a
particular sophisticated start for me, your trusted
GOMmelier. Luckily, I jammed enough of the
vile brew down my gullet in an amazingly small
time frame to trigger a life-long physiological
rejection of the stu. e gold, however, still
• e ocean is ripe with gold, busting at the
seams. is vast liquid treasure trove has never
been tapped with any monetary success. An
incalculable payday awaits the innovator who
nally does it. at day will come.
• e term ‘acid test’ is derived from the fact
that gold, unlike almost all other metals, does
not dissolve in nitric acid. So, in days past,
merchants would pour some acid on your
oerings to ensure they were not buying
• e deep underground railways in South
African gold mines contain more track than
all of SA’s above-ground railways combined.
• 500 kilos of gold are orbiting the earth, right
now, in satellites.
• Talk about malleable… a single gram of 18-
karat gold can be mercilessly beaten into a one
square meter sheet.
• Up to 30 percent of the expenses of an
underground gold mining operation are used
to pay for ventilation and cooling, as the deep
rock radiates impressive amounts of heat from
the earth’s interior.
• Five tonnes of ore usually amounts to just
one ounce of gold.
• About £35 million of gold each day are
rened around the world. A single processor,
the Rand renery in South Africa, handles a
third of this.
• Fueled by a massive gold rush, Johannesburg
claims the record for fastest growth of a city
• Because it is an exceptional electrical
conductor and doesn’t rust, gold forms a key
part of varied products, from DVDs to cell
phones, electronic circuitry, space rockets, etc.
• Coin collectors, like art collectors, can loose
all sense of reality, as a single rare gold coin
can fetch almost £3.5 million, while the gold
contained in the coin can actually be worth
only a few hundred.
• Gold is the ultimate recycled product. It is
estimated that over 85 percent of the gold ever
mined is still in circulation today.