"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Saturday, September 10, 2011

All That Glitters Sure is...GOLD!

We had an interesting opportunity to visit a commercial gold mine.
Kathleen saw the notice in the local paper and got tickets for us and herself
only to learn that children under 9 weren't invited.
But Jack and I boarded the bus and took a trip to Fort Knox north of Fairbanks.
The mine is open pit and a huge hole in the ground about 1600 feet deep.
All the gold mined there is microscopic and no pics nor shovels used.
It is blasted out of the earth once daily at 3 pm.
For that very brief time all work ceases for safety sake.
Otherwise the big, BIG trucks rumble up and down, in and out, 24/7.
Day and night. Summer and winter. Ice and snow.
These giant bruisers hold over 400 tons of stone. The orange light on the side
of the bed is a digital scale and this one read 429. That's TONS!
That adds up to 858,000 pounds. A whole lotta rocks.
And that's just one of the dozens of trucks hauling and dumping.
Our energetic and talkative tour guide put out lots of numbers and I can't begin to recall them. But I remember that one tire on those trucks cost $80,000.
To try and gain a little perspective, a school bus top would barely reach the top of the tire.
A tall man would come to the hub in it center.

The chunks of rocks from the explosion are carried down into the rock crusher.
It is rather like a washing machine agitator and we watched these big, heavy pieces disappear into the bottom of a building with a lot of grinding and chugging.
The whole building trembled like an earthquake.
Then the ground rock traveled up a conveyor belt and poured out onto a heap.
This is going on over Jack's left shoulder.

Somewhere in the process the gold-laden stone (that looks just gray and dusty) goes into a
refining bath of cyanide. The poison.
These tanks in the distance all hold cyanide.
Gives me the shivers.

The stone is sorted early on into gold quality.
How, I don't know.
But these humongous grinders spin around at a fast pace.
In them are steel balls, some 3 inch and some 9 inch.
We had to wear earplugs as you can imagine the sound of rocks being spun
around with steel balls in 3 of this giant grinders.
When they come out, the rock pieces are only 3/4 inch around.
Mighty effective, I'd say.

The finished product-a gold brick.
This one is for demonstration purposes and only an inch thick.
The real deal is 4 times thicker.
I'd never be able to hold the real one as it weighs 80 pounds.
This "sample" is real gold but weighs in at a mere 20 pounds.
It was HEAVY, believe me.
If you dropped it it could definitely break a toe.
Fort Knox produced one brick a day, most of the time.
All that blasting, hauling, crushing, grinding and refining of tons upon tons
of rock to produce ONE gold brick.
Something to ponder...
But note---in today's market, that one brick=$2,000,000.00
That's a lot of zeroes, isn't it?

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