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Gold Price: ETF Investors Start 2017 With Massive Offload


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Gold made the most of the first full trading day of the year, jumping to a three-week high, but investors in gold exchange traded funds continued to dump the metal in huge numbers.

Gold for delivery in February, the most active contract on the Comex market in New York, hit a high of $1,166 an ounce in late morning trade, before paring some of those gains to settle at the highest level since December 14.

Gold is up nearly $40 an ounce since hitting post-election lows of $1,124 mid-December, but remains down nearly $180 from an initial but brief surge on election night.

Since the election investors in top physical gold-backed exchange traded fund – SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEARCA: GLD) – have dumped a net 135.8 tonnes. Since November 9, GLD has not enjoyed a single day of net purchases – on Tuesday, investors pulled out another 8.3 tonnes of the yellow metal.

GLD dwarfs other physically-backed gold ETFs holding more than 45% of the global total. GLD vaults now hold 813.5 tonnes or 26.2 million ounces; worth just over $30.1 billion. That’s down more than $13 billion from the 2016 peak hit early July as the gold price retreats and investors liquidate their holdings.

GOLD: Barrick Puts Wi-Fi Underground at Cortez Mine

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NEVADA – One of the first mines to benefit from Barrick Gold’s decision to go digital across all its operations is the Cortez gold mine 100 km southwest of Elko. Here the company has installed Wi-Fi underground with many potential productivity benefits.

Barrick described the benefits in the recent issue of Beyond Borders:

Building an underground Wi-Fi network expands the amount of data that can be collected and analyzed from underground. For example, operators will be able to track data such as equipment and personnel locations in real time, the number of bucket scoops per haul truck and where ore is going.

Safety will also be bolstered, as Wi-Fi will facilitate the use of tele-remote and autonomous technology that will allow miners to operate equipment from the surface via remote control. This will enhance safety because it will significantly reduce the amount of time miners spend underground, reducing their exposure to mining related risks. The use of these technologies will also minimize interruptions in the mining cycle because mine personnel won’t have to be cleared from the underground in order to blast. Wi-Fi will also allow the installation of technology that empowers shift supervisors to more efficiently deploy personnel and equipment at the beginning of a shift. This will reduce shift changeover and start-up times.

In terms of maintenance, the goal is to provide on-demand service in real time. If a piece of equipment breaks down, communication with a subject expert or vendor located on surface, or even off site, via a Wi-Fi-enabled tablet, will be possible. The expert will be able to see the equipment, help identify the issue and deliver a solution. If required, a part could be ordered directly through the mine’s Oracle database system from the tablet that the underground technician is using. The work order would be processed automatically, and the service disruption would be kept to a minimum. While full integration of back office systems is the longer term goal, underground operators are already able to communicate with and receive support from experts in Elko – or anywhere else in the world –  using real-time video chat.

To enable Wi-Fi underground, Barrick partnered with Cisco to standardize equipment and create a robust network that is simple to install. No specialized equipment or specialists are needed to install it.

Network cables were threaded 365 metres below the earth’s surface. These cables connect to one of six main distribution frames that service different levels of the mine. These frames collect data from different equipment underground such as pumps and air quality stations. Internet connectivity is delivered via the access points, which are made by Cisco. The access points transmit Wi-Fi signals approximately 100 metres, from one point to the next. However, as the system goes into the deeper, in parts of the mine where access points are farther from the distribution frame, data transmission speed is reduced.

To resolve this issue, copper wiring was used to buttress data transmission speeds between access points when the network was first rolled out. However, it is more costly and difficult to install than fiber or cat 5e wiring, a type of Ethernet cable.

Another challenge is to maintain data transmission speeds with equipment operating on the fringes of the network. The introduction of a combination of fiber optic cables and battery solutions is used to resolve the problem. The fiber optic cables will maintain data transmission speeds and also power access points. Specialized batteries that can last up to seven days will power portable access points installed on the equipment itself. This will allow equipment to transmit data from the rock face while maintaining data throughput speeds.

Revolution-Era New York Mine Could Produce Hydro Power


Mine in Mineville, 100 miles from Albany, contributed iron for one of the first naval battles of the Revolutionary War

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Flooding a mine is a closure strategy that mining companies often use as part of a rehabilitation plan usually decided at the beginning of a mine’s operating life.

Once the tunnels are flooded, the mine and its workings become submerged, not just in a physical sense but in the minds of the public, who then regard that mine as finished, and the lake that fills the former pit probably assigned a recreational use.

An abandoned mine in New York state seemed to be destined to a similar, ignominious fate, but for a group of engineers who saw the historically-significant iron ore mine serving a more useful purpose.

The engineers are “pitching a plan to circulate some of the millions of gallons of groundwater that have flooded the mine shafts over the years to power an array of 100 hydroelectric turbines a half-mile underground,” reads a story about the centuries-old mine, located in the Adirondacks mountains of upstate New York, carried by Associated Press.

The mine which closed in 1971 apparently notched its mark on history for contributing iron for one of the first naval battles of the Revolutionary War on nearby Lake Champlain. According to Wikipedia, the Battle of Valcour Island, also known as the Battle of Valcour Bay, took place on October 11, 1776, on Lake Champlain. Some more colour is provided by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, which sets the stage for the battle on its website:

The American fleet, commanded by Arnold, consisted of eight gondolas, three row galleys, two schooners, one sloop, one cutter and bateaux. The vessels in the British fleet were not only larger with better sailing characteristics, but they were also crewed by professional sailors under the command of skilled naval officers.

Electricity produced from the turbines would feed into current solar and wind producers, who lack a source of uninterrupted power, according to AP:

Engineers would drain roughly half of the water from the shafts and pump the remainder into an upper chamber. The water would then be released into a lower chamber, powering turbines and creating electricity. The turbines would be reversed to pump the water back up to repeat the process.

The project is basically an underground version of big outdoor projects that rely on the same principle. The New York Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project in the Catskills and the proposed Eagle Mountain project in southern California, for example, use outdoor, hilltop lakes as the upper reservoirs.

While pumped hydro power has been used for decades in the United States as the primary source of energy storage used to meet periods of peak electricity demand, mines are not typically used as reservoirs. If approved by federal authorities, the Mineville Pumped Storage Project would be one the first of its kind in America. AP points out that a similar project has been proposed for an abandoned mine and quarry in Elmhurst, Illinois.

North of the border, Northland Power is considering a pumped power project involving a decommissioned open-pit iron ore mine on the former Bethlehem Steel site between Ottawa and Toronto. The Marmora Pumped Storage facility would produce 400 megawatts of electricity for five hours, and create a waterfall nearly five times the height of Niagara Falls, Clean Technica reported in 2013.

Descend Into The World’s Deepest Gold Mine

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The Money Project is an ongoing collaboration between Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals that seeks to use intuitive visualizations to explore the origins, nature, and use of money.

Humans will do almost anything for gold.

In fact, they will even suspend themselves 2.5 miles into the Earth – braving extreme temperatures, armed thieves, and constant seismic activity – just to mine a 30-inch gold reef.

Welcome to another day at Mponeng, the world’s deepest gold mine.

The Depths of the Witwatersrand

If you own any gold, there is about a 50% chance it comes from the Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa. Gold was first discovered there in 1886, and it is speculated that the discovery may have only been possible because of an asteroid impact. The Vredefort crater, the world’s largest impact crater at about 200 miles in diameter, is now 2.02 billion years old and potentially helped reveal the Witwatersrand gold outcrops.

The Mponeng gold mine, located west of Johannesburg and owned by AngloGold Ashanti, takes advantage of some of the deepest and richest areas of this deposit. Mponeng also represents the extent to which people are willing to go to take advantage of this region’s unparalleled mineral wealth.

Going Down…

Each day, roughly 4,000 miners take the plunge to get to the bottom of the mine. The journey includes taking the world’s tallest elevator, which hits a top speed at 40 mph, to make their way down.

That far into the Earth’s crust, conditions are intense. Rock walls in the Mponeng mine reach temperatures of 140°F (60°C) and humidity levels often exceed 95%. To keep things cool, the mine uses a novel cooling system to manage temperatures. Over 6,000 tonnes of ice slurry are pumped into underground reservoirs, and giant fans help to spread the air flow.

Every day, about 5,000 lbs of explosives are blasted in the mine, and 6,400 tonnes of rock are excavated.

Breaking New Ground

Gold production at the world’s deepest gold mine has been declining each year, so miners going even deeper to try and get gold.

The continued search for gold in Mponeng has led to scientific discoveries. A bacterium called Desulforudis audaxviator was found in groundwater – and it’s quite unique. The bacterium exists independently from the sun, using energy from natural radioactivity to create food. Some experts think that similar life forms could exist on other planets.

The wealth of the mine has also created an unusual crime problem. Armed, illegal miners called “ghost miners” descend into the mine for months at a time, which turns their skin pale due to a lack of sunlight. This has helped create an underground (pun intended!) marketplace, where legitimate miners profit from the ghost miners’ existence. They can sell a $1 loaf of bread for $12 underground, where it is in high demand.

Mission Accomplished

At the bottom of the world’s deepest gold mine, there is a 30-inch seam of gold called the Ventersdorp Contact Reef.

This is what the miners came for, but soon they will have to dig even deeper. In fact, plans are already in place to tap into neighboring gold reefs, which would extend the life of the mine beyond 2040.