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mining leases with a view to creating one major
large-scale, cost-effective operation -- the Super
Pit. Current planning indicates that the iconic pit
may finish production in 2021. While the world
production of gold hasn t changed much in the
last decade, in Australian dollars, the price of this
timeless yellow metal has more than doubled.
From 2000 to 2005, the price hovered around
$550 an ounce before it started to rise rather
rapidly, reaching more than $800 in 2007. And
it has kept rising. In 2008, it was $1050 and by
2009 $1200, or more than $7000 a tonne.
Treasurer of the Perth Mint, Nigel Moffatt,
explains that in the past couple of years the price
of gold has risen on the back of the falling US
dollar as well as demand in its own right, pointing
to the collapse of global finances as a key factor.
"With concern and doubt over other forms of
investment, people are asking themselves what
HAILED FOR ITS genius, its madness and most
recently for its outstanding international engi-
neering qualities, WA's unique Goldfields Water
Supply Scheme has created history again, more
than a century after its construction.
The structure is the world's longest freshwa-
ter pipeline, stretching more than 560km from
Mundaring Weir to Kalgoorlie.
In late 2009, it was officially designated
an International Historic Civil Engineering
Landmark by the American Society of Civil
Engineers. But the pipeline that remains such a
proud feature of our state also mirrors a tragic
story. The Goldfields Water Supply Scheme was
devised by engineer C Y O'Connor to sup-
ply water to the barren and dry desert where
thousands of settlers had swarmed to search
for gold. The project was commissioned in
1896 and O'Connor oversaw the design and
most of the construction. Although supported
by Premier John Forrest, O'Connor's scheme
faced widespread criticism. Many believed the
scope of the engineering task was too great
and it would never work, plus there were fears
the gold discoveries would soon dry up and the
state would be left with a huge debt.
O'Connor's integrity and ability was attacked
in the press. Just 12 months before the final
commissioning of the pipeline, he shot himself
while riding his horse into the water at a beach
south of Fremantle. On January 24 1903, the
"impossible dream" became a reality when
water flowed into Mt Charlotte Reservoir at
Kalgoorlie. The scheme enabled the benefits of
the gold discovery to be realised and brought
immense wealth into the previously struggling
economy. The pipeline continues to operate
today, supplying water to more than 100,000
people in more than 33,000 households as well
as mines, farms and other enterprises.
they should do with their money," says Nigel.
"People look around and see that the only asset
class unaffected by any government is gold."
A lot of gold is used in industry (from the obvi-
ous -- jewellery -- to myriad other fields including
electronics, aerospace, dentistry and even cancer
treatment), but much of it is a store of wealth.
Nigel points to India, which spent $US7.4 billion
in November last year buying gold for its central
bank, for reserves.
And he says other countries and banks are
doing the same. "The intrinsic value of gold is
And it s good news for WA s gold miners. "It
is now economically possible to spend money on
exploration," says Nigel. (It is noted, however,
that gold exploration expenditure has dropped for
several years now.)
Australia s only gold refinery is here in WA, 40
percent of which is owned by the Perth Mint.
Not only does it refine all of Australia s gold,
but also around 150 tonnes from outlying areas
including New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and
Fiji. "The refinery here puts through more gold
than anywhere in the world," says Nigel.
He says our population of just over 22 million
cannot consume anywhere near the amount of
gold produced. "It goes directly into markets in
India, Asia and London," says Nigel, adding that
most of it is transported on normal passenger
The refinery, near Perth Airport, produces bars
GLITTERING ROLE: Perth Mint Treasurer
Nigel Mo at, far left, and (left and below) the
ncredible C Y O'Connor water pipeline that
made WA's goldrush dreams a reality.
One cup of gold weighs almost
5kg -- nearly 20 times heavier then
water. Lead, by comparison, is only
11 times heavier than water.
Carat is the measurement for gold
purity, with pure gold coming in at
24 carat. The word actually comes
from "carob" because carob seeds
were originally used to balance
scales in Oriental bazaars.
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