Gold price settles at $1,200 per ounce

The year 2013 hasn’t been good for the price of the yellow metal, with gold price set to witness its worst plunge in 30 years by the time this year gets over in a couple of days. Bullion which started this year at around the $1,700 per ounce levels will do well if it manages to remain above $1,200/oz on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.

Even that level will mean that gold will be down about 28 per cent from since the beginning of the year. Spot gold price recovered from a low of $1,187 per ounce on Thursday, December 19, to end last week at $1,205/oz, reflecting the investor community’s faith in the yellow metal.

The metal wasn’t doing very well even before December 18, 2013, when, according to Ole Hansen, Head of Commodity Strategy at Saxo Bank, “the last major roll of the financial dice in 2013 was carried out by the US Federal Reserve.”

On that day, the US Fed “sprang a semi-surprise on the market deciding to begin tapering its asset purchase program. Although the market had spent the past six months getting ready for this announcement, precious metals took it badly and ended up being the worst performing sector on the week,” Hansen noted in his weekly commodities report.

According to him, “a potential break [below the current levels] will put the next level at $1,155/oz. into focus”. The forthcoming New Year, at least initially, doesn’t bode too well for the metal, he said.

“The early stages of the New Year will undoubtedly become another challenging time for precious metals as positive fundamental price drivers are hard to come by. Investment holdings in exchange traded products backed by gold have seen increased reductions during December and whether this is a sign of investors gearing up to another year of losses or just some long liquidation in order to book losses and meet 2014 with fresh eyes remains to be seen,” he wrote.

Interestingly, analysts still remain split on the direction of gold price in 2014, with guestimates ranging between $900/oz and $1,500/oz. “I believe 2014 will be a year of consolidation following a dramatic slump at the end of a 12-year bull market. We could see some additional weakness during the first quarter as the taper theme and some potential dollar strength erode support but later in the year, gold could well recover as some of the negative drivers fade and finish up on the year,” said Hansen.

Despite its price demolition this year, we can be sure that no one will mind getting a bit of free gold, now would you? Yes, there’s gold to be mined in your old gadgets, and we can tell you how to do it.

It’s no secret that most electronic devices contain at least a small amount of pure gold – that, in fact, has been one of the primary reasons why gold has managed to remain above a threshold as more devices (think smartphones, tablets, notebooks, TV sets, etc.) mean that industrial demand for gold will remain good.

With more and more people owning at least one smartphone, one tablet and one laptop PC, we all own a bit of gold without actively investing in it. And as we occasionally move on to the next frontier in our devices, we tend to just discard the old ones. Precious mistake?
Let’s look at how five ways we can extract gold from our old gadgets.

#1 Burn It

This is the most harmful (yes, harmful and therefore not advised) way of extracting gold from gadgets. You burn the device down using an extractor, which will isolate gold from the other metals in the gadget. But burning plastic and other materials will emit fumes, some of them will be toxic. It’s bad for you, and the environment. Avoid this route.

#2 Make a soup

Well, not really a soup, but you could break the device (with a hammer, for instance), and after physically removing plastic etc., mix the rest with  a cornstarch solution, then isolate or distill gold ions. What’s best is that this, according to Popular Science magazine, is one of the greenest ways to extract gold from anything.

#3 Melt it

This is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to recover gold from e-waste. The aqua regia solution can be prepared by mixing one part of nitric acid and three parts of HCL (hydrochloric acid). Remember, though, that these acids are very corrosive and produce toxic fumes. So be careful while mixing them and avoid splashes as they can cause burns. Check out the entire process here. In any case, this is a messy process and you must be prepared to extensively tidy up behind you.

#4 Electroplate it, in reverse

This is the most effective way to reclaim gold from scrap components is to use a process referred to as reverse electroplating, or so says eHow. It involves ionisation and is the reversal of the process by which gold is fixed to the devices. The gold is attached to the siphon, and this is done by adding a battery. Later the gold is extracted by making it attracted to another metallic object.

#5 Bioleaching

Bioleaching is the extraction of metals from their ores through the use of living organisms. This is much cleaner than the traditional heap leaching using cyanide, which was used before the make-a-soup method was stumbled upon. Bioleaching is one of several applications within biohydrometallurgy and several methods are used to recover copper, zinc, lead, arsenic, antimony, nickel, molybdenum, gold, silver, and cobalt.

Whatever method you choose to extract gold from your gadgets, be extremely careful, and make sure you know what you’re doing before actually starting off. One final tip – older electronics, like an old 386 or 486 computer, contain more gold than modern computers.

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Mining threatens unique culture of Sweden’s reindeer-herding Samis

As winter approaches, the Samis of northern Sweden move thousands of reindeer down from the snow-covered mountains for lowland grazing. They have done so for centuries, but they wonder how much longer they can continue.

The mining industry is one of several modern threats to the unique way of life of the Samis, the only indigenous people in the European Union.

But one small, tightly knit community has decided to fight back.

The roughly 100 residents of the Jaahkaagasska area near the sub-Arctic town of Jokkmokk are deeply worried what will happen if the proposed Kallak iron mine, an open-pit project mostly located inside the district, is allowed to go ahead.

“There’s no way our reindeer herding will be able to continue,” said Niklas Spik, a spokesman for the Jaahkaagasska Sami community. “The natural straying won’t be possible if the reindeer can’t move freely.”

Roughly 80,000 Samis inhabit a huge swath of land stretching from Norway across Sweden and Finland to Russia.

Friction with the 21st century economy is not unusual, but rarely is it played out as dramatically as here.

Samis and environmental activists have protested against the plans for the mine the entire year.

Malin Norrby, 27, was fined 2,000 kronor ($300) this month for an incident in July when she and other activists tied themselves to a self-built wooden tower that blocked access to the mine.

“I went to Jokkmokk to protest against the mining boom and the unsustainable use of finite resources,” she said.

Norrby and other activists argue that the mine makes no allowances for the shape of a Sami district such as Jaahkaagasska, which is long and narrow, stretching through different types of vegetation suitable for different seasons.

Spik said a mine located in the passage between the mountain pastures in the west and the eastern winter grazing areas would prevent the animals from moving between the seasonal pastures, leaving them to starve.

“Sami villages already encounter so many forms of encroachment on their areas, from roads to windmills, that they just can’t take anymore,” said Mattias Aahren, head of the human rights unit of the Sami Council, an umbrella organization of Sami groups.

Mines in Kiruna and Roennbaeck, also in northern Sweden, likewise cut the reindeer grazing land in half and affect nearby areas with dust and transport, critics said.

“The mines are located at the worst site possible for reindeer herding,” said Aahren, who represents the affected villages, including one in Roennbaeck that submitted a petition to the U.N.’s human rights committee in September.

But Fred Boman, CEO of British Beowulf subsidiary Jokkmokk Iron Mines, Jimab, said he thinks the fears are exaggerated.

He expressed confidence the mine will be approved by the government.

“This is a very solid and large ore find, and the economic value of this weighs more than the local reindeer herding business,” he said.

“But (reindeer herding) has important cultural value, and we are absolutely convinced that we can get on with this together.”

The conflict between cultural heritage and mining is still being debated, and advocates of the mines argue that the industry will create jobs in areas otherwise troubled by high unemployment.

In Jokkmokk, with a population of 5,000, the Kallak mine would lead to 500 jobs, for at least 14 years, according to advocates.

But Tor Lundberg Tourda, a local activist, is not impressed, and sees it all as a continuation of a pattern of exploitation.

“The Swedish state has colonized these areas for over 300 years, [on] land that has been used by Samis for thousands of years,” he said, standing by one of the test holes on top of the kilometer-long deposit of iron ore.

What is more, it is not just the natural environment that the Samis seek to preserve.

They also hope to keep their culture, which has undergone enormous changes over time but has always maintained one constant: the close relationship with the reindeer.

Johan Andersson may just be 18 years old, but he is determined to help take the proud Sami heritage through the 21st century.

With other young Samis, he attends a boarding school in Jokkmokk where he learns the materials and techniques of traditional handicrafts and is taught how to distinguish between different kinds of reindeer and even between different types of snow.

“I like the handicrafts, studying the Sami language, the reindeer herding business and learning about nature guiding,” he said. “There are so many things that are useful to know.”

Germany repatriated 37 tons of gold in 2013

Jens Weidmann, president of the Deutsche Bundesbank, said Germany brought back nearly 37 tonnes of gold from its reserves in New York and Paris this year and that the final goal is to store half the national reserves of the precious metal, or about 3,400 tons, in its own vaults by 2020.

In an interview with the Bild newspaper (in German), the executive said the bank got back an estimated US$1.5 billion in gold, as part of a plan unveiled in January to increase the reserves held in Frankfurt. By 2020, it wants to have 700 tons back from the US and France.

Weidmann also said the decision had nothing to do with how safe or not are the American and French vaults.

During the cold war, West Germany followed a policy of storing its gold as far west as possible, in case of a Soviet invasion.

German reserves peaked in 1968 at about 4,000 tons, several years before the end of the so-called Bretton Woods system of fixed international exchange rates, which was underpinned by gold reserves.

After Germany’s central bank completes the transfer in about six years, half of its gold will remain abroad, with an estimated 37% in New York and 13% in the Bank of England.

Olympic Dam no SA panacea: business leaders

It would be a mistake to view expansion of BHP’s Olympic Dam mine as the panacea to South Australia’s economic woes, business leaders contributing to a post-Holden jobs and growth plan have warned.

Maurice Crotti, the managing director of iconic SA business San Remo, said the state needed to seize opportunities in a range of areas, including food manufacturing.

“The name of the game is to work with what you’ve got at the moment,” he said. “If [Olympic Dam] happens that’s great, but if it doesn’t you’re still powering ahead.”

Mr Crotti’s comments come as the federal government pins hope on BHP Billiton going ahead with an expansion of its Olympic Dam mine, 550 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. BHP shelved plans for a multi-billion-dollar expansion in August 2012. The project’s revival would more than cushion the blow due to be inflicted by Holden in 2017, when it stops making cars in Australia.

But South Australia had already learned the hard way not to rely on Olympic Dam, said former Rio Tinto executive Ian Gould, who is now a member of the Economic Development Board of South Australia and chancellor of the University of South Australia. “There is an understanding in SA you can’t depend on it, neither should we,” he said.

Mr Gould and Mr Crotti were among the business leaders who met with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill on Monday to discuss ways to make up for an expected 1600 Holden job losses. Mr Gould said there ware exciting opportunities in oil and gas, but so too was there potential to encourage more international students to study in South Australia. “For those at the meeting there was certainly a recognition that we have to take appropriate measures and they have to be ones that work,” he said. “There was a strong emphasis on moving South Australia into areas where we have a genuine advantage.”

As the Financial Review reported earlier this year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott remains optimistic that the Olympic Dam expansion will go ahead. It would be the “best thing that could happen to the economy of South Australia”, Mr Abbott said at the time.

Mr Weatherill agreed the expansion was “looking positive”, but was not a near-term proposition.

“They’ve got two critical pieces of technology that they need to prove up,” he said on Monday.

“They’re on a long-term trajectory and they’re all going quite well.

“But they have a certain timeline, which is a bit immutable in terms of their success.”

Mr Weatherill said Mr Abbott’s recent comments about the project prompted the state government to contact the company again, but it responded by saying its plans had not changed.

His comments came as a Newspoll survey showed that the SA Liberal Party is set to seize power in the state for the first time in 12 years, less than four months out from the state election, The Australian reported on its web site.

BHP Billiton put the $30 billion expansion, which would have created the world’s largest open-cut mine, on hold late last year, declaring it unviable at the time. Mr Abbott was quick to blame Labor’s mining and carbon taxes but BHP rejected that.

The company said it needed to develop new smelting and extraction technologies to cut costs and offset lower commodity prices.

Dredger “MOUSTAKBAL II” Launched (Spain)

The dredger “MOUSTAKBAL II”, designed and built entirely by Nodosa Shipyard, with capacity of 1,500 m3 and the biggest of its kind ever built in Spain, was launched today.

This vessel reaches a more precise and rapid unloading of dredged material, and is especially intended for the extraction of sand from maximum depth of 30 meters.

The ”MOUSTAKBAL II”, number 278 of Nodosa Shipyard, has been classified by Bureau Veritas Notation BV I + Hull • MACH, Split Hopper Dredger.

This design makes the vessel very operational and easy to use for various maritime works, primarily for suction dredging.

 

Read more: Singapore: Serangoon Harbour Dredging Underway

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has informed the shipping, harbour craft and pleasure craft communities in Singapore’s waters that the Serangoon Harbour dredging program is currently underway.

This development project will be carried out by the grab dredgers which will be held with 2 spuds as anchors.

The dredging vessels, with hopper barges in attendance, will have a circular safety working zone of 50 m radius centered at the dredgers. The dredged materials will be transported to the designated dumping ground by the hopper barges.

During the operation, the dredgers will be attended by tug boats, which will be used to shift the dredgers.

A safety boat will be deployed in the vicinity of the working area to warn other crafts of the project.

The completion date is scheduled for June 8, 2014.

Singapore: Serangoon Harbour Dredging Underway

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has informed the shipping, harbour craft and pleasure craft communities in Singapore’s waters that the Serangoon Harbour dredging program is currently underway.

This development project will be carried out by the grab dredgers which will be held with 2 spuds as anchors.

The dredging vessels, with hopper barges in attendance, will have a circular safety working zone of 50 m radius centered at the dredgers. The dredged materials will be transported to the designated dumping ground by the hopper barges.

During the operation, the dredgers will be attended by tug boats, which will be used to shift the dredgers.

A safety boat will be deployed in the vicinity of the working area to warn other crafts of the project.

The completion date is scheduled for June 8, 2014.

South African labour: Unions at war

The National Union of Metalworkers in South Africa (Numsa) has “declared war” on its sister union, the National Union of Minerworkers (NUM), and by extension, the country’s biggest trade union federation Cosatu.

Numsa’s General Secretary Irvin Jim announced that his union would “openly recruit in the mining industry and welcome NUM members,” South Africa’s Mail & Guardian reports.

Numsa, like NUM, is an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSTAU).

Mail & Guardian writes that during a speech at the Numsa special congress on Wednesday, Jim told those who oppose the idea of Numsa recruiting from among NUM’s membership to “go to hell.”

The organization will now openly recruit members away from NUM, in direct violation of Cosatu’s principle of “one union per sector.”

Currently Numsa’s membership includes members of the engineering, car manufacturing and electronics sectors.

In a release published ahead of Numsa’s special congress, Numsa criticized Cosatu, saying a state of ‘paralysis’ had emerged.

After not receiving an invitation to address Numsa’s congress earlier this week, Cosatu published a respectful warning, noting that though an invitation is not a “constitutional requirement,” it has been the “custom and practice” for years. The Federation added a reminder that its affiliates “must abide by the COSATU constitution.”

It’s certainly not the first time Numsa has created a schism with Cosatu. In November the organisation was accused of “conniving with the rival Association of Mineworkers and Constrcution Union (Amcu),” as reported by Independent Online.

But NUM’s membership issues are much deeper. Over the past year the union has lost many workers its rival, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). During the summer Amcu ousted NUM as the official union of the world’s third biggest platinum miner, Lonmin.

Just last week the world’s biggest platinum miner, Anglo American Platinum, said that after five months of recruiting Amcu now represents 60% of its shaft workers.

The turf war between Amcu and NUM has killed dozens of people. Last month a former NUM shop steward was gunned down – the fourth person with ties to NUM to have been murdered over a three-month period.