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Another Gold Rush to Start in India?

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Gold Rush to Start in India

Recently Discovered Bacterioform Goan Gold

Photo: Dr. Nandkumar M. Kamat, Goa India, 2010

Significant Recent Gold Discovery in Goa

The discovery of gold in the Northern part of Goa was announced in January 2011.

Mineb reported in January "a very large tonnage of secondary gold deposits reportedly lie just 60 meters below the ground, spread over 40,000 hectares".

Despite an estimated gold concentration of 1 to 2g/MT, the gold deposits would amount between 3,000 to 6,000 MT.

Beyond the size of the reserve itself, it is worth stating that gold naturally formed by bacteria was first discovered in India and Asia. Along Dr Kamat definition, Bacterioform gold is "deposited by action of metal tolerant micro-organisms".

Dr Kamat has asked the local authorities for a more comprehensive and systematic prospecting and mapping of the potentially huge Goa's gold resources.

Karnataka Closed Operations to Reopen?

Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) are located 120 kilometers from Bangalore, in Karnataka State, South West India. The Kolar gold fields were the second deepest gold mines in the world, at a depth of 3200 meters with 1,400km access tunnels for ore exploitation.

The antiquity of gold mines in Karnataka is quite impressive. The tradition of mining gold in the region, and particularly in Kolar, started at least as early as the first millennium BC with linkages to the Indus Valley Civilization.

Renewed interest in the Kolar gold fields occurred towards the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, large-scale mining only came in the 1850s under the British John Taylor & Company which did much of the prospecting and mining with more skilled manpower and sophisticated machinery.

The mood was rather different in KGF on August 15, 1947 when the entire nation celebrated its Independence. The British left KGF only in 1956.

The mines were taken over by the Government of Mysore the very same year and by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India in 1962. They were handed over to the government company Bharat Gold Mines Limited under the Ministry of Mines in 1972. Bharat Gold Mines Limited (BGML) has thus come out of various combinations and permutations.

The gold mines of KGF were closed down by BGML in 2001 due to reducing deposits and increasing costs.

“GSI survey and reports of the British government explain that 72km of gold reserves are yet to be explored. For 121 years, only 8km were exploited. Gold mining can continue for another 100 years,” said K. Anbalzhagan, former trade Union leader of BGML. KGF has produced 800 tons of gold over 121 years.

According to international experts, the resources now remaining underground do not exceed 3 million tons of low quality ore (<4 g/t). If re-opened, the mine may provide a yield of about 15 tons of gold or about 1 ton a year for 15 years. The cyanide dumps, waste from the gold mining process, contain also significantly high residual gold.

At this stage it is hard to believe that the Kolar mines can be revived. Visiting it in January 2011, it seems obvious that the government has let the assets slide too far (to be compared to the minutes of a visit dated from 1991). The mines would require substantial investment in dewatering and installation of new equipment.

Major subsidence events occurred two years ago in the area, reminding the hazards attached to such a long underground mining history.

Gold price and Indian consumption of the yellow metal nevertheless maintain New Delhi’s interest in KGF’s future reopening. So far three parliamentary standing committees constituted in 1994, 1997 and 2000 to explore gold deposits in KGF have submitted reports stating that huge gold reserves lie unexploited. In 2010, the Union cabinet cleared the proposal to revive Kolar mines.

A practical outcome of this decision is still to come, but it could lead KGF to contribute to India’s forthcoming new gold rush.

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