A South African gold mine that goes two miles beneath the Earth’s surface holds far more than just precious metals.
Over the years at “60 Minutes,” we have been in more than a few tunnels. We explored Mexican drug lord El Chapo’s subterranean escape routes, burrowed through a Roman villa buried by Mount Vesuvius and traveled the depths of the New York City subway. But nothing prepared us for a place called Moab Khotsong, a South African gold mine that extends nearly two miles beneath the surface. As we first reported last November, In their pursuit of gold, South Africans have dug the deepest holes on earth. The country was the world’s top gold producer for decades. Now the gold is running out, just as these ultra-deep mines have attracted a new breed of miner on a very different quest. We went along for the adventure.
In the early morning light, tall mine shafts loom over the Vaal River basin two hours southwest of Johannesburg. This once was a booming gold field, now most mines lie abandoned but Moab Khotsong is bustling. Long before the sun rises, thousands of miners start lining up for the triple-deck elevator called “the cage.” It’s jammed but more always push on, and early one morning, so did we.
We’re packed in as tight as sardines, the electric bells signal we’re ready, and the cage drops. Slowly at first, then picks up speed fast. We plunge 450 stories straight down. It’s the longest elevator ride on Earth.
The cage rattles and whistles as we descend, the air gets more humid the deeper we go. Our lifeline to the surface is a machine called the manwinder, massive coils of steel rope two inches thick that attach to the cage and unspool faster and faster. We dropped two miles in a couple of minutes and emerged in an underground city.
To get to the gold, miners must walk miles through a vast maze of dimly lit tunnels. Sometimes you’re lucky and can catch a ride, but mostly you just walk. For Leroy Lee, it’s in the blood. His father worked in the mines. Now it’s his turn. His family depends on his job.
The gold in these ultra-deep mines is found in narrow veins, laced through the rock. Some are no wider than a pencil. It’s cramped at the rock face and we crouch alongside the miners as they work hunched over in the dark. The noise from the drills is deafening. Massive air conditioners cool the tunnels but it can still reach 120 degrees down here.
At the end of the shift, we had to rush not to miss the elevator back up. It doesn’t wait for anyone.
And here’s where all that breaking rock pays off: the smelter. The ore is smashed and pulverized in a grinder before being fed into a furnace. Monga Kasongo, who runs the operation, told us we were the first TV crew to film the weekly ritual they call “the pour.” We all had to wear these special pajamas with no pockets so we couldn’t steal anything. The heat was intense as the furnace reached almost 2,000 degrees. The gold turned to liquid and poured down into the moulds.
Monga Kasongo: When I saw it the first time, I was like “wow.” That’s something that keeps me going. When you hear people who have never seen gold or touched it, I feel like I’m more privileged.
These bars will be refined again to 99.99 percent purity before they’re sold for coins and jewelry. The mine used to process about 60 tons of gold a year. Now it’s just a quarter of that. Still, the day we watched the pour, there was a pretty good haul.
Bill Whitaker: Wow, this is quite heavy…
Monga Kasongo: Yes, it is.
Bill Whitaker: How much is this?
Monga Kasongo: 11 million rand.
Bill Whitaker: In U.S. dollars, we’re talking seven and a half to eight million U.S. dollars for what you poured today?
Monga Kasongo: Yes, definitely.
Bill Whitaker: That sounds like a good day?
Monga Kasongo: It’s a good business.
It’s one thing to come here for the gold but now this harsh environment has attracted others: scientists hunting for what they call extreme life.
Tullis Onstott: We’ve found water that’s a billion years’ old
Bill Whitaker: A billion years old?
Tullis Onstott: A billion years’ old
Bill Whitaker: In these caves?
Tullis Onstott: Right.
An international team, led by Princeton geoscientist Tullis Onstott and Belgian biologist Gaetan Borgonie, are pioneers in the search for life buried in the rock where no one thought it could survive. Borgonie says his colleagues thought he was crazy when he took a sabbatical to try to prove there was life deep underground.
Gaetan Borgonie: Oh, come on they said. You’re going to go to South Africa for a year, you’re gonna go look for something that does not exist there.
They’ve lost count of the number of trips to the bottom of the mines searching for life hidden in the ancient water, seeping through the rock.
Gaetan Borgonie: This is a completely different world down there. There are different rules.
Bill Whitaker: How so?
Gaetan Borgonie: The temperature is different; the pressure is different. I mean, it’s a tough world down there for life.
The next day we went along with them to the deepest level of the mine. For them it was just another day at the office, for us it was an eye-opener.
With just the light from our headlamps, we waded through a tunnel that had been flooded with cold water to cool it down. Then we grabbed a chairlift cut through a channel of rock, except this one went down.
Picture five of New York’s World Trade Centers stacked on top of each other. That’s how deep in the Earth we are.
When the chairlift stopped suddenly we had to hike down the last 50 yards to the bottom. Then, at the end of an abandoned tunnel our scientists found something amazing.
Tullis Onstott: I’ve been looking for 20 years for a salty water deposit like this. Never found it until now.
White patches on the wall turned out to be salt.
Bill Whitaker: Is that edible?
Bennie: I don’t know, he’s tried it.
Bill Whitaker: This is ancient salt?
Tullis Onstott: That’s the question. Has to be– has to be ancient salt.
Bill Whitaker: Very salty. Salty salt.
And the source? This dripping salt water.
Bill Whitaker: What does that tell you?
Tullis Onstott: It tells me this water is extremely old. Cause in these rock formations they were formed three billion years ago. There weren’t salt deposits back then.
They believe this water could be all that’s left of an ancient ocean and where there’s water, there can be life.
Tullis Onstott: We could be looking at something which has never seen the life that has evolved on the surface of the planet.
Bill Whitaker: All from this cave two miles down in South Africa?
Tullis Onstott: All from gold mines in South Africa. Exactly.
In 2011 they found what no one thought possible: these tiny worms living in a pocket of water 5,000 years old. What you’re seeing is magnified. These worms are no bigger than a human hair. It was a species never-before-seen. It survives without sunlight, deep in the hot underworld, so they called it Mephisto or, “the devil.”
Gaetan Borgonie: That’s where my worms live. They eat bacteria.
Bill Whitaker: The first worm you found was in something like that?
Gaetan Borgonie: Yeah
Using an endoscope camera, they were the first to film this deep inside the earth’s crust. This is the devil worm’s home. Before this, no one thought animal life could exist this deep.
Bill Whitaker: You’ve made a big discovery.
Gaetan Borgonie: For me it is big, because for me personally, I had to fight quite a lot of people to be able to do this. On a personal level, that was the biggest victory for me. In the total grand scheme of things, it’s just a worm.
Bill Whitaker: It’s just a worm …
Gaetan Borgonie: It’s just a worm.
They were surprised to find other living creatures too, so many they called them a zoo. A crustacean, about one sixty-fourth of an inch. An arthropod, a flatworm, and single-cell bacteria. It set off a storm of speculation about where else extreme life might exist, perhaps even on Mars. NASA helped fund their research.
Gaetan Borgonie: If there is life here in the deep, then you should definitely dig on Mars because if life was ever there you will find some life form, I believe very strongly, still on Mars.
Bill Whitaker: So the Martians we meet in the future could be these single-cell organisms you’re–
Gaetan Borgonie: I think that would be the–
Bill Whitaker: –you’re talking about.
Gaetan Borgonie: –that is– yes, indeed. I think that would be the most likely. But be prepared to be surprised, I would say.
South Africa’s gold mines are now so deep they might as well be on another planet.
Bernard Swanepoel: I’m not sure that we really want to send human beings much deeper.
Bernard Swanepoel started his career underground and ended it as the CEO of Harmony Gold, which now owns Moab Khotsong.
Bernard Swanepoel: If you are in a successful mining team, it must be like a successful sports team. I mean mining is one of those activities where at the end of every shift you know whether you won or lost.
Gold was the lifeblood of South Africa. The way it’s dug out has changed little since apartheid when underpaid black miners often worked in mortal danger. At its worst, more than 800 workers a year died in mining accidents. No coincidence the struggle that led to apartheid’s defeat started underground.
Bill Whitaker: Gold and gold mining seem to be in the DNA of South Africa.
Bernard Swanepoel: South African gold mining especially has always been at the center of all political and other activities in our country. I mean our bad apartheid history is intertwined with gold mining. I mean a lot of the– a lot of the legislation to dispossess black people of land was in order to create cheap labor for South African gold mines.
Bill Whitaker: You grew up in a small mining town, during the era of apartheid. What are your strongest memories?
Bernard Swanepoel: Well, ultimately I’m a privileged person that, because I was white and I was male, those were the two requirements at the time to become a mining engineer.
Bill Whitaker: So are you the new face of South African mining?
Monga Kasongo: I will say yes. We are the new generation in the mining.
Just a dozen years after apartheid ended, engineer Monga Kasongo started managing the smelter. He told us he chose to move here from the Congo to work in the mines.
Bill Whitaker: Has that wound in South Africa been healed?
Monga Kasongo: Not 100 percent healed. But there is some healing happening, there is some healing, yes because you have a different– different people working in the mines and the mindset has been changing.
Now safety is paramount. You’ll find women underground and blacks are senior managers. Once some of the lowest-paid laborers are now among the highest. But this generation of gold miners know they may be the last. Of the 11 gold mines that once flourished around here, only three still operate. The mines are now so deep, it’s becoming too expensive to get the gold out. The story of the ultra-deep mines is nearing its final chapter. To dig the riches from such astounding depths took grit and brute force. Now South Africa’s resolve must be deployed to solving the next challenge: what to do when the gold runs out.
Siamo chiari. Qualche politico italiano avrà ben dovuto andare in Russia a trattare la questione.
Che poi lo si voglia bastonare perché Saipen ha tolto una gran bella fetta di lucro alla Total, società francese, è cosa capibilissima: i francesi sono suscettibili, così come gli altri partner dell’Unione Europea. E nemmeno i giapponesi sono rimasti troppo soddisfatti: anche la Mitsubishi è fuori dall’Lng-2.
Italian oil and gas services group seals joint venture in the west of Siberia.
Saipem reached a deal on Friday to participate in a joint engineering venture for a liquefied natural gas project in the west of Siberia. The contract awarded by Russian gas producer Novatek and a subsidiary assigns the Italian oil and gas services company a €2.2bn share in a joint venture with France’s Technip and Russia’s NIPIgaspererabotka to construct three LNG trains — facilities to liquefy and purify the gas — as part of the Arctic LNG 2 project. Each train will have the capacity to process approximately 6.6m tonnes of natural gas per year. The deal is the latest in a string of agreements secured by the company for construction services on gas projects, winning in June a record $6bn contract for an Anadarko LNG project in Mozambique. After some difficult years for services companies since the oil price plummeted in 2014, Saipem reported positive results for the first half of this year with a net profit of €14m, compared with losses of €323m in the same period a year earlier. The company has put a strategic focus on growth driven by gas, positioning itself for the energy transition to low carbon sources, with the latest deal meaning non-oil business accounts for nearly 70 per cent of its €22.5bn backlog. Stefano Cao, Saipem’s chief executive, said that the project “reaffirms Saipem’s strategic choice to consolidate its leadership across the entire natural gas value chain”. Saipem has emerged stronger from its restructuring by focusing on contracting on projects that make the company money and technical solutions — for example, helping the Zohr offshore field in Egypt go from discovery to first gas in the short timeframe of just over two years. The agreement with Novatek, building on the deal reached in December 2018 for Saipem to construct gravity based structures for the LNG plant, will be paid on a lump sum and reimbursement basis and the first train is expected to come online by 2023. Some analysts say that there are concerns, however, that the project could be hit with sanctions, as the US continues to ramp up punitive measures against Russia. The Yamal LNG project, Russia’s first foray into developing its Arctic resources for shipping overseas, was targeted with US sanctions in 2014. A day earlier Japanese trading house Mitsubishi announced it would not invest in the Arctic LNG 2 project.
PAO Novatek announced that Arctic LNG 1, a wholly owned subsidiary, won the auction for geological survey, exploration and production license for the subsoil area including the Soletsko-Khanaveyskoye field located on the Gydan peninsula in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region. The license area has estimated hydrocarbon resources of 2,183 billion cubic meters of gas and 212 million tons of liquids, or 16 billion barrels of oil equivalent according to the Russian resource classification system. The license term is 27 years and the auction resulted in one-time payment for the subsoil use in the amount of RR 2,586 million.
The new license area borders Novatek’s Trekhbugorniy and Gydanskiy license areas on the Gydan peninsula, and allows to create the resource base for the next LNG project similar to Arctic LNG 2, with liquefaction trains to be located at the Utrenniy terminal.
The Gydan Peninsula is a geographical feature of the Siberian coast in the Kara Sea. It takes its name from the river Gyda that flows on the peninsula. It is roughly 400 km long and 360 km wide. This wide peninsula lies between the estuaries of the Ob and Yenisei Rivers. The southwestern corner of the peninsula is limited by the Taz Estuary. The climate in the whole area of the peninsula is arctic and harsh.
The $21 billion Arctic liquefied natural gas (LNG)-2 project led by Russian private gas producer Novatek won a green light on Thursday, the latest in a raft of new projects aimed at meeting a likely doubling of LNG demand over the next 15 years.
Arctic LNG-2 is expected to launch in 2023 and will aim to export 80 percent of its LNG to Asia, Novatek Chief Executive Leonid Mikhelson, Russia’s richest businessman according to Forbes magazine, said after the project’s partners signed a final investment decision (FID) at an economic forum.
At nearly 20 million tonnes per annum (mmpta) of LNG it would be largest single project to reach FID, according to Wood Mackenzie, and take total LNG volumes sanctioned this year to about 63 mtpa, beating the previous record of 45 mmtpa in 2005.
Arctic LNG 2 will be the third LNG project for Novatek, which hopes to match Qatar in production of the super-chilled fuel.
“Novatek is clearly driving home their ambitions to be a global LNG power house,” said Chong Zhi Xin, associate director of gas, power and energy at IHS Markit.
“It adds another 12 million tonnes to their portfolio on an equity basis. They are emerging as one of the largest LNG suppliers in the market.”
The project’s equity partners include French energy producer Total, China’s National Petroleum Corp [CNPET.UL], CNOOC and the Japan Arctic LNG consortium, made up of Mitsui & Co and state-owned JOGMEC, formally known as Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp.
“This is an important project for Russia and follows our strategy to create capacities for LNG production,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said, adding that investments in the project had been set at $21 billion.
Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said the project is one of the largest in the history of Japanese-Russian relations.
“It will unite Japan and Russia even more, as well as Europe and Asia. The Japanese government will provide all necessary assistance for the realization of this project,” he said.
The Arctic LNG 2 project will include construction of three LNG trains with a capacity of 6.6 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of LNG each and at least 1.6 mtpa of gas condensate, according to Novatek’s website.
Located on the Gydan peninsula in Russia, the project is expected to export its first LNG by 2023 with the second and third train to start up by 2024 and 2026, Total said in a statement.
It will help Russia reach its goal of producing 120 to 130 million tonnes of LNG a year in the coming years and raise its share in the global LNG market to up to 20 percent.
It follows FIDs announced from Canada, the United States and Mozambique over the past year and plans to target Asian demand driven by major economies shifting towards greener fuel to combat pollution.
The project will benefit from extremely low cost gas, helping it compete against LNG from the United States and Canada, said Wood Mackenzie analyst Nicholas Browne.
LNG from the project will also be delivered to international markets by a fleet of ice-class LNG carriers that will be able to use the shorter Northern Sea Route and the trans-shipment terminal in Kamchatka for cargoes destined for Asia and the trans-shipment terminal close to Murmansk for cargoes destined for Europe, Total said.
“Arctic LNG 2 adds to our growing portfolio of competitive LNG developments based on giant low cost resources primarily intended for the fast growing Asian markets,” Total’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanné said in the statement.
The increase in supply from Russia and more intense competition may push down LNG prices and help move Asia towards a more gas-based economy, said IHS Markit’s Chong.
Central bank buying and ETF inflows boosted H1 demand
Gold demand was 1,123t in Q2, up 8% y-o-y.
H1 demand jumped to a three-year high of 2,181.7t, largely due to record-breaking central bank purchases.
Central bank buying and healthy ETF inflows were the driving forces behind gold demand throughout the first half of 2019. Growth in H1 jewellery demand was largely the product of a more positive environment for Indian consumers. Shifts in bar and coin investment were very much price-related: as the gold price powered its way to multi-year highs, profit-taking kicked in and retail investment all but dried up. The technology sector reduced its usage of gold due to challenging global conditions, although the outlook is for this element of demand to establish something of a floor over coming quarters. Solid growth in both mine production and recycling fed into a 2% increase in total H1 gold supply.
H1 gold demand boosted to a three-year high by record central bank buying
Healthy Q2 inflows (+67t) were largely directed towards European-listed ETFs, which grew to a record high of 1,184t.
Central banks bought 224.4t of gold in Q2 2019. This took H1 buying to 374.1t – the largest net H1 increase in global gold reserves in our 19-year quarterly data series. Buying was again spread across a diverse range of – largely emerging market – countries.
Holdings of gold-backed ETFs grew 67.2t in Q2 to a six-year high of 2,548t. The main factors driving inflows into the sector were continued geopolitical instability, expectation of lower interest rates, and the rallying gold price in June.
A strong recovery in India’s jewellery market pushed demand in Q2 up 12% to 168.8t. A busy wedding season and healthy festival sales boosted demand, before the June price rise brought it to a virtual standstill. Indian demand drove global jewellery demand 2% higher y-o-y to 531.7t.
Bar and coin investment in Q2 sank 12% to 218.6t. Combined with the soft Q1 number, the H1 total ended at a ten-year low of 476.9t. A 29% y-o-y drop in China accounted for much of the global Q2 decline.
Gold supply grew 6% in Q2 to 1,186.7t. A record 882.6t for Q2 gold mine production and a 9% jump in recycling to 314.6t – boosted by the sharp June gold price rally – led the growth in supply. H1 supply reached 2,323.9t – the highest since 2016.
Gold prices shot to multi-year highs. The gold price broke through US$1,400/oz for the first time since 2013. Among the factors driving this rally were expectations of lower interest rates and political uncertainty, with further support coming from strong central bank buying.
Dovrebbe essere evidente come si stiano fronteggiando due grandi banche centrali, una rialzista e l’altra ribassista.
Si tenga presente che sotto il periodo dell’Assunzione il mercato abbia volume ridotti rispetto la norma, per cui anche movimenti di modesta entità possono determinare significative variazione della quotazione.
La Cina potrebbe far crollare i prezzi del greggio. A dirlo sono gli analisti di BofA.
La decisione cinese di far ripartire gli acquisti di petrolio iraniano potrebbe portare a un crollo dei prezzi del greggio. È quanto si legge in un report elaborato da BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.
BofA, che per l’anno prossimo stima prezzi sostanzialmente in linea con i livelli attuali a 60 dollari il barile, ritiene che “la decisione cinese di riavviare gli acquisti di petrolio iraniano potrebbe innescare un forte calo dei prezzi”.
Petrolio: possibile crollo di 20-30 dollari
In rosso dello 0,8% a 61,38 dollari il barile dopo il nuovo incremento della tensione sul fronte commerciale, il petrolio potrebbe perdere 20-30 dollari il barile nel caso in cui Pechino decidesse di “bilanciare” le misure statunitensi riprendendo in grande stile gli acquisti di petrolio da Teheran.
Negli ultimi tre mesi, secondo quanto riportato dal New York Times, sono numerosi i carichi di petrolio partiti dall’Iran in direzione dei porti cinesi (le rilevazioni della testata sono iniziate il 2 maggio).
“Le sanzioni statunitensi non hanno fermato le consegne di petrolio iraniano nel Mediterraneo ed in Asia”, ha detto Noam Raydan, analista di ClipperData, società che si occupa di monitorare i flussi di prodotti energetici.
Petrolio: in arrivo crollo dei prezzi?
“Se da un lato confermiamo la view a 60 dollari il barile per il 2020, dall’altro riteniamo che la decisione cinese di riprendere gli acquisti di petrolio iraniano possa innescare un crollo dei prezzi”.
Quella dello shopping da Teheran potrebbe far parte delle misure di ritorsione annunciate dal Ministero del Commercio cinese dopo che Trump ha minacciato tariffe di 10 punti percentuali su 300 miliardi di “made in China”.
Quella di acquistare petrolio iraniano “rappresenta un decisione che va a minare la politica estera statunitense e che rappresenta un modo per alleviare, nel breve, gli effetti sull’economia cinese dell’incremento delle tariffe statunitensi”.
Petrolio: metà dell’export finisce in Cina
Secondo i dati elaborati da S&P Global Platts, nel mese di giugno, l’Iran ha messo sul mercato circa 550 mila barili giornalieri di petrolio, contro gli 875 mila di maggio ed i circa 2,5 milioni del giugno 2018.
Gli analisti di S&P stimano che circa la metà dell’export stia finendo nel Celeste Impero.
Gold prices gained almost 1% on Wednesday in Asia amid the ongoing Sino-U.S. trade war.
Gold futures for December delivery, traded on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, were up 0.9% to $1,496.65 by 12:50 AM ET (04:50 GMT).
The safe-haven gold was buoyed by safe-haven demand amid the intensifying U.S.-China trade war and falling stock markets.
On Wednesday, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the midpoint reference for the yuan at 6.9996.
The PBOC said in a statement earlier in the day that the “United States disregards the facts and unreasonably affixes China with the label of ‘currency manipulators,’ which is a behaviour that harms others and oneself.”
The statement came after the U.S. labelled China a “currency manipulator” following the People’s Bank of China’s decision to allow the yuan to fall below 7 to the dollar on Monday.
Tensions between the two sides intensified amid U.S. President Trump’s decision last week to impose a 10% tariff on $300 billion of Chinese imports from Sept 1.
Some also believe the ongoing trade war increased odds of more easing from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which further supports gold prices as lower interest rates boost the appeal of non-interest yielding assets.
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Stiamo vivendo una nuova guerra mondiale, per il momento combattuta ancora con mezzi politici, economici e finanziari.
Un primo fronte è quello che contrappone un Occidente in declino sociale ed economico ai paesi emergenti, Cina in testa: questi vogliono il loro posto al sole. La guerra dei dazi e quella delle valute è solo agli aperitivi: presto verrà il pranzo consistente.
Il secondo fronte è quello interno all’Occidente, ove stiamo assistendo alla agonia dell’ideologia liberal socialista .
Tuttavia sarà ben misera soddisfazione quella di governare un Occidente debosciato ed immiserito: il trono si è ridimensionato ad uno sgabello traballante.