Thursday 4th of June 2020

gold, gold, gold, golden...

The BRICS are considering an internal gold trading platform, according to Russian officials. When this happens, the global economy will be significantly reshaped, and the West will lose dominance, predicts a precious metal expert.

In 2016, 24,338 tons of physical gold were traded, which was 43 percent more than in 2015, according to Claudio Grass, of Precious Metal Advisory Switzerland.


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About 150 years ago, a Russian scientist, called Mendeleev, started to organise our evolving knowledge of matter. Before this, we had crudely and wisely classed stuff under Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Wood and animals had been created by god or gods. The real stuff was a bit more complicated. We know now that wood is mostly cellulose — itself a combo (or combos) of various elements such as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. 

Mendeleev did not have all the tools of scientific investigation nor the complete knowledge about the elements that we have now, but for the past few centuries before him, scientists had already “broken down” matter into various mysterious elementary products. Farmers knew how to use ashes from fire or making compost to fertilise the land. It worked. The simple theory was that what came from the land goes back to the land. It's the cycle of life. Historians classified the “bronze age” and the “iron age” as to when humans were able to melt metals, after having spent milleniums descaling flints in “the stone age". . After this, more elementary products saw the light. Gold was known a long time ago. The Egyptians, the Jews, the Babylonians all valued gold. During the middle ages, the alchemists were working hard to turn lead into gold… Richness beckoned...

They could have had a better chance of doing the reverse… who knows.

In the last 150 years, knowledge about stuff had to be organised to make sense. Mendeleev made a few mistakes, but he mostly got it right. 

It’s only towards a bit before mid last century, that we got a real handle on what’s what. Surprisingly late. While the predictioning-starologers still harp on about earth, water, air and fire, the scientists have now advanced knowledge beyond the gods and the stars… This pisses-off the believers.

Basically, the whole table of elements is organised according to reactivity to other elements (mostly through chemistry) and to atomic weight (mostly through physics). Defining atomic weight was not an easy task, as some elements have isotopes. The elements that react the most are on the left-hand side and the noble non-reactive elements to the right. In the middle is an array of metals and semi-metals plus some basic stuff like oxygen, carbon and silica. The table looks simple enough, but it took a while to make sense of some of the elements...

As well, through observation of the universe — that apart the “dark matter” we know could exist but cannot be seen (did Mendeleev predict this with his 0 (zero) series and element x at the start of his table, ABOVE hydrogen?) — we know that the most abundant element (by a massive amount) is hydrogen.

So what is an element? We know that water is made of 2 hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O). We ACCEPT this proposition. We know that Carbon Dioxide is made of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. Simple enough. But to arrive to this knowledge, scientists did a lot of trial and error experiments until products such as CO2 and H2O could be broken down into Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen, etc. More complex chemicals were thus also broken down — eventually leading to the precise construct of the structure of DNA with its double-helix and billions of atoms in each single strand. massive.

So what about gold? Gold is one of those elements that sits pretty in the middle of the chart, under copper and silver, above an artificially made element, roentgenium — in the 11th column. To the right of gold  (Au), sits mercury (Hg) in the 12th column. Mercury has long been known as quicksilver, though it has nothing to do with silver. It is a liquid metal at room temperature and can “dissolve” gold. Here pure scientists will say that gold does not dissolve in mercury but form an amalgam. Pure gold is only reserved for gold bars, and most jewellery is made of gold alloys with small amount of other metals to give it more strength and various physical properties such as ductibility.

Gold is VERY stable. It is more than often found au naturel. Never found combined to other elements, though it can be part of rocky conglomerates. Arsenic is used to refine gold bearing ore, but gold does not readily combine with arsenic, though a weak "arsenic-monogold molecule" can exist.

Another property that is used to distinguish and catolog elements on the chart is conductivity. Electrical current flows through various elements, alloys and molecules with various degrees of ease. This is the area where we have developed electronics using resistance, semi-conductors, insulators, capacitors and other forms of e-storage. Variation in the intensity of the electricity current will for example change a semi-conductor into a conductor or an insulator. Welcome to computing zeros and ones. 

Gold has the least resistance to electrical flow amongst all the elements. Silicon is a poor conductor as such. It can thus be manipulated to be a semi-conductor (Silicon Valley here we come) or an insulator (glass) by mixing it with various other elements. A lot of this knowledge came through trial and error — and experimentation — though since the science of quantum mechanics (1927), some properties of elements can be guessed with better prediction than turning gold into lead.

Thus gold is very useful. It beats copper hands down as a conductor of electricity but gold is very rare and pricey… Though electricity was far from the minds of conquistadors, they ransacked the Americas for the gold. Gold had become the standard of trade and being rare, highly stable and glittering, it was highly valuable. It was thus a matter of stealing as much as possible wherever gold was. Pirating was a booming business. Some spices were also very pricey, but there is no such thing as the “saffron standard” yet. Gold is it.

These days we call oil “liquid gold” or “black gold” not because of its rarity but to the contrary, because it is used EXTENSIVELY in our industrious activities, and as such has become a MAJOR trading device through the US dollar. Oil of course is not an elemental product. It is made of C, H and O in various complex assemblage. This is why we call it “hydrocarbon”. 

The atomic weight of gold is 79 which is a prime number… This could be falsely used to say that because of this, gold is “primal”. What actually makes an element lack attraction to another is the status of the top layer of electrons of the atom of such element. When the top layer is “complete” (noble gases) or minimalist (gold), it is not attracted to another element. But it’s not always failsafe. Gold has one electron on its top layer which it is happy to give up as long as it gains one. This makes gold “highly” electronically conductive.

This is where things can become complicated as we get deep into the constructs of an atom: a nucleus and various electron shells. Shells/orbital are layers of electrons that are very well defined by the arrangement of the nucleus which dictates the atomic number (based on the number of electrons and protons and the isotopic values which are dictated by extra neutrons. For example helium has two electrons in its shell, two protons and two neutrons in its nucleus. 

An atom of hydrogen is the most basic: one electron and one proton. Hydrogen with a neutron in its nucleus becomes an isotope : deuterium (D). Hydrogen with two neutrons in its nucleus becomes Tritium (T). When these HEAVIER hydrogen atoms combine with oxygen in D2O and T2O it makes what is known as “heavy water” (mostly D2O).

Transition metals, like gold, are good examples of advanced shell and orbital complexities. They have a lot of electrons and distribute them in different ways. Usually, transition metals are shiny.

Transition metals:
21 (Scandium) through 29 (Copper)
39 (Yttrium) through 47 (Silver)
57 (Lanthanum) through 79 (Gold)
89 (Actinium) and all higher numbers.

• The IUPAC definition[1] defines a transition metal as "an element whose atom has a partially filled d sub-shell, or which can give rise to cations with an incomplete d sub-shell".
• Many scientists describe a "transition metal" as any element in the d-block of the periodic table, which includes groups 3 to 12 on the periodic table.[2][3] In actual practice, the f-block lanthanide and actinide series are also considered transition metals and are called "inner transition metals”.

• Cotton and Wilkinson[4] expand the brief IUPAC definition (see above) by specifying which elements are included. As well as the elements of groups 4 to 11, they add scandiumand yttrium in group 3, which have a partially filled dsubshell in the metallic state. Lanthanum and actinium in group 3 are, however, classified as lanthanides and actinides respectively.

English chemist Charles Bury (1890–1968) first used the word transition in this context in 1921, when he referred to a transition series of elements during the change of an inner layer of electrons (for example n = 3 in the 4th row of the periodic table) from a stable group of 8 to one of 18, or from 18 to 32.[5][6][7] These elements are now known as the d-block.

Transition metals are able to put more than eight electrons in the shell that is one in from the outermost shell. Think about argon (Ar). It has 18 electrons set up in a 2-8-8 order. Scandium (Sc) is only 3 places away with 21 electrons, but it has a configuration of 2-8-9-2. This is the point in the periodic table where there are more than 8 electrons in a shell. You need to remember that those electrons are added to the second-to-last shells. 

There could be no more than 60,000 tonnes of gold on the entire planet. About 20,000 tonnes is held in high security spaces like Fort Knox (8,000 toones +). Some is kept as jewellery — and the case of Venezuela, the Bank of England is placing an embargo on Venezuela’s legitimate government’s wishes to move its gold out of there — on pretext of demanding “regime change” in Venezuela. This is highly illegal and can be regarded as an act of piracy in the modern age. But, what can you expect from a country that does not know what it stands for anymore — with a German Royal Family, now marrying into American commoners and voting for Brexit which apparently nobody there wants. Actually, the UK knows what it stands for: money/cash/mula/pounds. The rest of the Pommy behaviour is a conglomerate of hypocritical excuses to explain its excentrics, its nut cases and Ms Thatcher — and while it DEMANDS freedom of the press in Venezuela, it is incapable of administering freedom for Julian Assange… Ugly. Gold rules.

Had we not discovered radioative elements we might still be able to live happily in a tree with stuff like Earth, Air, Fire and Water. A bit limited but then we could still fertilise the land with compost, shit and ashes. 

Greed came in. Gold came in.

Greed has become the essence of humankind. It is not the milk of kindness. It is the driver our our madness as if we were cursed, but we’re not. We act just like moths attracted to light — to gold (or dollars) and we lose our brain as we become more comfortably selfish and bourgeois.

So what about some of the other elements?
Some of the elements open for discussion will be boron, tungsten and silicon. All are playing important roles in our next.

Gus Leonisky
your local golden oldie...

sometimes cheating with tungsten...

Firstly, I wouldn't be surprised if someone has attempted to do the substitution. It's been known for a long time that the densities of tungsten and gold are close enough that in theory, drilling out a hallmarked gold bar and replacing the interior with tungsten could fool all but the most sophisticated of tests.

You can see the purported photos of the bar that has been found hereFollowing the story around the claim is made by ABC Bullion that a Swiss refiner (and producer of good delivery bars to the London gold market) MKS had sent out the warning email last week. Which, at least as of lunchtime today was something of a surprise to MKS as when I spoke to them they had no idea about it all. There were quite a lot of people like me asking about it but they had no idea whether the story was true, whether someone in their company had sent it, no real idea of what was going on at all. They were quite mystified in fact.


But as I've said, in theory this sort of thing is possible even if it would be very difficult to do in practice. Further, I'm not really sure that the economics of it quite work out either. Sure, tungsten is vastly cheaper than gold but this would be very skilled work with a low success rate and the gross profits are a few thousand $ per 1 kg bar so treated. It's most certainly not a 5 minute job either. Nor mechanisable. Just not sure that it would be worth it.

Where the story goes off into fantasy though is here (and Felix is correct in the questions he asks to try and work out prevalence):

If there are 1.3 million salted 400 oz bars in existence, and each one is 75% tungsten, then that makes 390 million ounces of gold which in truth isn’t there. At $1,660 per ounce, that’s over $600 billion which people think they own but don’t. To put that number in context, it’s roughly half the total quantity of subprime mortgages which had been issued at the height of the housing bubble.

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the hell of gold...

From Andre Vitchek


No one can agree how high above the sea level that La Rinconada really lies at: 5,300 meters or 5,200 meters? On the access road, a metal plate says 5,015. But who really cares? It is indisputably the highest settlement in the world; a gold mining town, a concentration of misery, a community of around 70,000 inhabitants, many of whom have been poisoned by mercury. A place where countless women and children get regularly raped, where law and order collapsed quite some time ago, where young girls are sent to garbage dumps in order to ‘recycle’ terribly smelling waste, and where almost all the men work in beastly conditions, trying to save at least some money, but where most of them simply ruin their health, barely managing to stay alive.

I decided to travel to La Rinconada precisely during these days when the socialist Venezuela is fighting for its survival. I drove there as the European elites in Bolivia were trying to smear the enormously popular and successful President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, while the elections were approaching.

As in so many places in the turbo-capitalist and pro-Western Peru, La Rinconada is like a tremendous warning: this is how Venezuela and Bolivia used to be before Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. This is where Washington wants the entire Latin America to return to. Like those monstrous and hopeless slums surrounding Lima, La Rinconada should be a call to arms.

Just some five years ago we thought: This is how Latin America was never supposed to look again. We thought so, before the extreme right-wing forces in Washington managed to regroup and to deploy old dogmas of the Monroe Doctrine back to the frontlines, against Latin American independence and socialism.


A driver refused to take me to La Rinconada, alone. For me, the fewer people involved the better. Even in Afghanistan, I work alone, only with my trusted Pashtun driver. But here it is different: the reputation of La Rinconada is that “you can enter, but you will never manage to leave.” I am told about the new mafia that operates there, and about the totally deteriorating security situation. In the end, I had no choice but to accept a crew of two men: a driver and a person “who is familiar with the situation related to Peruvian mines”.

We leave the city of Puno in the morning, passing along the magnificent shores of Lake Titicaca, which with a surface elevation of 3,812 meters, is the highest navigable lake in the world, shared by Peru and Bolivia.

“From the Peruvian side, the lake is getting poisoned by mercury,” explained Freddy, a mining expert. “La Rinconada and its gold mines are still very far, but the River Ramis is now bringing contaminated water from the area, particularly from the mining town of Ananea, directly into the lake.”

There is some sort of a motorway between Puno and Juliaca, a ‘center of commercial activity’ in the region; in fact, a huge, unkempt dusty city full of slums. Right after Juliaca, it is just rural misery.

I used to work in Peru during the so called ‘Dirty War’, fought between two Communist guerillas (the Maoist Shining Path and the Marxist, pro-Cuban MRTA) and the Peruvian state, which officially ended in 1992. Since then, the rural misery of Peru has not changed: dwellings made of earth, the desperate faces of villagers, and almost no social services, have remained. Right across the border, in socialist Bolivia, life in the countryside improves dramatically, continuously. But not here; not in Peru. And so, tents of thousands of anxious men are ‘going up’, reaching tremendous heights, risking their lives and ruining their heath, for at least a tiny chance to find gold, and to escape the endemic misery.

“My wife saved me,” I was told by a driver who, two days earlier, took me from the Bolivian border of Desaguadero, to the Peruvian city of Puno:


I was totally broke. We just had a baby. I had no idea what to do. And so, I told my family that I am going to La Rinconada. My wife stood up and said: ‘If you go, you will never return. And if you do, you will not be the man that I love, anymore. You stay in Puno and work here. I will work, too. We will somehow manage. Don’t you know: La Rinconada is a death sentence.’ I stayed. She was right. I saw people who went and came back totally destroyed.”



It is getting cold. Our Toyota Hilux climbs up, grumpily, with badly damaged suspension, but going nevertheless. The higher we climb, the colder it gets. It rains, then it stops.

The views are magnificent, but the countryside is covered by garbage. The river is filthy. The Llamas are eating garbage, cars are being washed in the rapids, and entire villages appear to be abandoned, turned into ghost towns.

After more than four hours of driving, after insane, neck-breaking serpentines, the first mines appear on the horizon. Then more filth, primitive machinery, and a mining town – Ananea.

Ms. Irma, the owner of a local eatery, prepares strong coffee and coca leaves soaked in hot water, the best remedy for altitude sickness. She is chatty, realizing that we represent no danger:


Sometimes, miners from La Rinconada, escape here. Ananeo is a bit below, and safer. We have water here. There, it is all poisoned; by mercury and other horrible stuff. You know the concept, how they work up there: 29 days they are laboring for free, and then for one day a month, they are allowed to grab what they find. It is a gamble: if they are lucky, they get rich during that one day. Or they find very little, or nothing. And even if they do, at night, it can get stolen from them.”


She sounds old, maternal, compassionate, concerned. She has seen it all, it appears.

We pay and drive up.

Then, we see it: enormous lakes, yellowish, brownish, with streams coming from their surface. Long blue hoses. Everything is ruined and poisoned. Freddy says that there are some new technologies that could be used to extract gold, but the miners here use mercury, as it is cheaper. Primitive machinery is at work, just like on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan/Borneo; there, illegal mining is poisoning mighty rivers, here, it is leveling entire mountains, creating huge lakes, and moonscapes at some 5,000 meters of altitude.

The guards are obviously very unhappy about our presence. Still, I manage to film and photograph, and then we drive even further up.

The piles of garbage appear. Behind them, two tremendous mountains covered by snow. And an ironic metal sign: “Welcome to La Rinconada, Do not litter.”


I have seen a lot, on all the continents, but La Rinconada is truly ‘unique’.

Mountains and valleys are dotted with metal shacks, with makeshift structures. The filth is everywhere. There is no water supply. Electricity is scarce.

Garbage even covers the humble graves of a local cemetery.

In the main square, heavy drinking is in progress. It is dangerous to photograph here. I hide; use zoom. Two plastered miners are lying on their stomachs, and someone is throwing food into their open mouths, as if it was feeding time in a zoo.

Prostitution is rampant. Children are doing odd jobs. At one of the garbage dumps, I ask two young girls about their age.

“25,” comes the ready answer. I guess 15, at most. But their faces are covered.


“How dangerous is it here?” I ask one of the miners.

He replies readily: “Very dangerous, but we have no choice.”

“Do people get injured on jobs? Do they get killed?”

“Of course. It happens very often. We are all taking risks. Some people get horrible injuries, others die. If they cannot treat them here, they take them to Ananeo, and if they are lucky, to a Juliaca hospital. Others are left here to die. It’s life. Some get saved, some don’t.”

Do they blame capitalism, the extreme savage pro-market system, adopted by their country?

“It’s life,” I hear the same fatalistic reply.


Do they know about Bolivia; about the great changes just across the border? Do they know that some 30 kilometers away from here, ‘as the condor flies’, on the Bolivian side, there is the pristine Uila Uila National Fauna Reserve?

Some know that it is much better ‘there’, in Bolivia, now. But they do not associate it with socialism or with the independent and pro-people policies of President Evo Morales. And they know very little about Venezuela.

All they know is that they were barely surviving on Altiplano, and that they are fighting for their lives, here, in La Rinconada.

Like in Indonesia, another savage pro-Western capitalist regime, people here are too preoccupied with their immediate essential problems; they cannot be bothered with ‘abstract’ thoughts about the environment, or lawlessness.

I see people pissing in the middle of the street.

“It is not just mercury,” I am told. “Everything here is mixed: poisons related to mining, urine, shit, urban waste…”

The altitude is hitting me hard. 4,000 in Puno is bad; over 5,000 here is fatal. I am being held by two people as I film on the edge of a ravine, in order not to fall down.

Somehow, in a very twisted way, I acknowledge that the vistas around me are beautiful, stunning. I am impressed. Impressed by the ability of human beings to survive under almost any conditions.

Virtually all of this is illegal. But hundreds of millions are made, and washed.

People gain nothing; almost nothing. A miner makes 800 to 1,000 Soles (roughly $250 to $300) per month. Private companies and corrupt government gain billions. Once again, Latin America is getting poorer. But the West is not pushing for ‘regime change’ in Peru, or in Paraguay, or Brazil. This is how it is supposing to be; this is how Washington likes it.

Another miner dares to talk to me:


“Most of the gold goes abroad. But before it does… If gangs do not rob us, miners, at night, they often murder small middlemen, those who buy gold directly from us.”

Is he scared?

“Everyone here is scared,” he confirms. “Scared and sick. This is hell.”

“It is like a war…” I utter.

“It is a war,” he confirms.

But almost nobody comes here to report and to investigate. The life of a poor Peruvian person is worth nothing; nothing at all.

I film, I document…It is all that I can do for them. And for Bolivia, for Venezuela.

While I work, I feel that hell is near, it is here. It is not abstract, religious: it is real. But it could, it should be stopped.


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