Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Aug 30, 2005
Mining & Quarrying
Industry & Economy - Precious Metals
Another gold rush in the making in US?
A. V. Swaminathan
Despite all the risks associated with this mining venture, the new "gold rush" is gaining momentum with a fervour that previously lasted for more than a decade.
The present-day hunt, however, is different. Trekking to the sites in those early pioneering attempts was long and tiresome and a great challenge in itself. One had to brave undeveloped regions and vagaries of the climate, and also the constant dread of attacks from the natives. No less dreadful were possible encounters with conmen and thieves. The gullible were targeted and, in the guise of hospitality, robbed of their belongings.
Today, in contrast, it is far easier to reach the mountains, thanks to the developments in transportation. Railroads, highways and airlines can bring gold-seekers to the foothills with little discomfort.
Mining begins with the identification of a prospective spot for a claim and cover; then starts the actual digging and sifting through the rocky pieces. Though it is tough work, what sustains the adventurer is the hope of extraordinary riches as much as 12 ounces of gold in every tonne of sifted material and an additional bonus of valuable metals, such as platinum and palladium. Silver is a special feature of some reserves in East Oregon.
Above all, what is incredible is that most of the abandoned or exploited spots in the crater-like depths still have enough to satisfy the fresh appetite.
According to a report in the Oregonian, a well-known territory on these mountain slopes is believed to have an estimated 5.1 million tonnes of gold-bearing burden that could fetch 1.3 million ounces of the yellow metal and nearly an equal amount of silver. Why did previous miners leave this spot unexplored? Perhaps, the struggle in reaching the treasure through rough terrain deterred the earlier groups.
But, now, given the advances in technology, mining in these parts may not prove as much an arduous task. The thrill of the operation and, ultimately, the joy of success are experiences that miners like to talk about. It is common knowledge among veterans that Oregon has several places with rich deposits that have remained undisturbed.
A lot of hard work may be required and nuggets may not surface as readily as they used to when mud from streams was washed painstakingly in pans by the prospctors. Instances of this kind could possibly occur again and someone fortunate could receive a surprising gift, as it happened in 1952 when a miner in Washington chanced upon a sizeable find of gold concentrate.
While the rising price of gold has created the current fever, it is difficult to guess if it will be a repeat of the 19th century gold rush. Government red tape and hassles involved in getting approval to dig on federal land could be a dampener for some. But the few who proceed undaunted are the chosen ones, destined to inherit the treasure. Luck, goes a common saying, always favours those who dare and act.
(The author is a freelance writer in the US.)
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