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Golden Age
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By Keith B. Hoffman

H
er name is Kristy McLennan. She is IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT…
twenty-ish, blonde, lean, pretty, has a Simplified commercial production recipe: First,
grand Australian accent, and wonderful one needs to find a Kristy to bring you kilo upon
pouty lips. Model? Fashion designer? Ready to go kilo of a certain class of rock known as high-grade
into rehab after a mercurial film career? Not quite, gold ore which you then pulverise into a fine
as Kristy drives a vehicle so much more massive powder. Oddly, and probably infuriatingly, your
than anything you or I ever will—the contrasts naked eye will not see any evidence of gold in the
are almost comical. Her ride is 15 metres high ore or the powder. Now, add water to your trodden
and has six five-metre-high wheels, each of rock to get a grey, muddy sludge. To this muck add
which costs £8,000. She works a 12-hour shift, some murderous cyanide, which will trigger a
almost every day, in the middle of the Australian chemical reaction leading to the precipitation
outback. Each day she moves two million kilos of a gold-enhanced sludge. Next, bake
of dirt and rock. Yes, you read all that right. Ms. the sludge to get a muddle of about 85
McLennan is the master and commander of an percent gold. Then pour this gunk into
epic dump truck in the largest open-cut gold mine molds, let cool, and you’ve produced a
in Australia, the “Super Pit” in Kalgoorlie. How prized Dore bar. Just don’t eat it. Not
do Kristy’s toils relate to you? The Super Pit is yet, at least.
one of the most productive mines in the world, These bars are then heated to an
and therefore, it may just be that the end product impressive 1,100 degrees centigrade,
of her efforts is adorning your lady’s neck—or and then forcibly infused with a gas
possibly your own. in order to rid the metal of remaining
How crazy do we humans get for this shiny impurities. The final, pure gold is then treated
stuff? Well, the ancient Inca had such reverence to the exciting business end of a flamethrower to
for the metal that some actually drilled holes in add extra shine. Rock-grind-powder-water-mud-
their skulls and covered their exposed mental deathpill-sludge-cool-inferno-gas-flamethrower
meat with gold. As a reminder, these drastic = pure gold. We’re talking 24-karat perfection.
efforts were performed many centuries before Ironically, you won’t want to adorn this stuff on
the advent of antibiotics and sterile operating your neck, fingers, ankles or ears. It’s virtually
techniques. These surgical astrologers claimed softer than cream cheese and easily damaged.
the procedure would bring them spiritually closer Usually, it’s kept in bar form with the family
to their sun god. (A risk-reward ratio this author jewels in the bank vault.
would only imagine to be attractive under the Another curious way gold is harvested is
fog of a serious mental disorder or some really via computer mining, which is the process of
amazing psychotropic Inca-cured contraband.) extracting gold and other precious metals from

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GOLDEN RULES
• The ocean is ripe with gold, busting at the
seams. This vast liquid treasure trove has never
been tapped with any monetary success. An
incalculable payday awaits the innovator who
finally does it. That day will come.

• The 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
offerings to ensure they were not buying
fool’s gold.

• The deep underground railways in South


African gold mines contain more track than
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the discarded carcasses of outdated PCs. What foodstuffs. Due to the astonishing malleability • 500 kilos of gold are orbiting the earth, right
is the point of this? Turns out that there are of gold, the amount of metal contained in the now, in satellites.
approximately 3 ounces of gold in each tonne of leaf is so small that it adds very little cost. It has
discarded computer parts. Shockingly, this is a far absolutely no taste because, unlike many metals • Talk about malleable… a single gram of 18-
larger weight percentage of the metal than that that might find their way into your inbox, it does karat gold can be mercilessly beaten into a one
found in any of the most highly prized gold ore not readily ionise. Hence gold doesn’t dissolve square meter sheet.
deposits on the planet. in your mouth, or anywhere else along the
The simplest way, however, is to go to a river, gastrointestinal voyage. I, quite fortunately, • Up to 30 percent of the expenses of an
get a gold pan, and pantomime the wacky arm do not know of any commercial operations underground gold mining operation are used
gesticulations you’ve seen in almost every Wild to reclaim gold spent in this manner. to pay for ventilation and cooling, as the deep
West movie. Or, you could take a very long desert Back in my youth I fell victim to a malevolent rock radiates impressive amounts of heat from
walk while waving a metal detector around until marketing campaign that added gold leaf to the earth’s interior.
your arms drop off. One chap who did so heard really poor schnapps. True, it was not a
a beep-screech-beep he’ll never forget, which particular sophisticated start for me, your trusted • Five tonnes of ore usually amounts to just
yielded a 156-ounce nugget worth £45,000. GOMmelier. Luckily, I jammed enough of the one ounce of gold.
vile brew down my gullet in an amazingly small
CULINARY ADVENTURES WITH “XAU” time frame to trigger a life-long physiological • About £35 million of gold each day are
Gold leaf, dust, and flakes are used in drinks, rejection of the stuff. The gold, however, still refined around the world. A single processor,
baking and as shiny condiments to varied shines through. the Rand refinery in South Africa, handles a
third of this.

• Fueled by a massive gold rush, Johannesburg


claims the record for fastest growth of a city
in history.

• 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.
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