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Minyan Mailbag: Manufactured Gold? Part II

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For the purists, yes, gold is in seawater but economically it is so far from break-even it is a non-issue.

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Laurie,

There are a few ways that gold could be "manufactured," if it gets expensive enough.

First, there are ore deposits with very low concentrations of gold throughout the world. If the price of gold gets high enough, it will be economic to my lower-quality gold ores.

Secondly, gold is found in seawater and could be concentrated out of the water, if the price were high enough. Gold has been found in seawater at concentrations up to 50 ppt (parts per trillion). Do a Google search on the words: gold seawater concentration, for more on this idea.

Third, when thinking about elements, you have to think about nuclear chemistry. One element can be changed to another by nuclear reactions. For example, uranium-235 decays to iodine-131, etc. Gold has an atomic number of 79, which means it has 79 protons in each nucleus. It would take a better nuclear engineer than me to figure this out, but it might be possible to make gold by starting with tungsten, which is atomic number 74, and bombarding it with alpha particles or neutrons to raise the atomic number to 79. Or, start with an element that has a higher atomic number (such as uranium-235) and manage the decay process to wind up with gold-79. Of course, this would be absurdly expensive and certainly more costly than simply mining gold. But it is theoretically possible.

-Minyan Dan

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the notes. Like I said, I'm no chemist, let alone a nuclear engineer like yourself. I just know gold and silver and not a great deal more (although I do know that England can't win the World Cup!!).

In Australia we already mine orebodies at less than 1 gram per tonne. You'd wanna make sure your processing circuit gets that 1 part per million!! The incremental increase in production will be negIigible and think about what the "greenies" are gonna say when we start ripping up the Earth at 0.1 gram per tonne. That is not manufactured gold, it is just a low cut-off grade.

I spoke to a few mates who are Phd Chemists and Mathematicans and they told me similar information about seawater, but the costs would be enormous and we'd need a 5 figure price to get it rolling. My mate Squiggle pointed it out to me before I penned it but the economics are so poor that I thought it wasn't worth mentioning. For the purists, yes, gold is in seawater but economically it is so far from break-even it is a non-issue.

Sure the nuclear option is viable - the same as turning Uranium to Plutonium (as my architect brother pointed out when I was originally scribing the original response). The main thrust is that at $900 as the question/statement was put, there is no alternate supply and certainly not chemically or man made. At $9000 it may be a little different.

Theory is all very cool in all manner of spheres but so many times when push comes to shove it all falls apart. Just for kicks, why hasn't it been done - no matter what the cost - just to say it can be? They put a man on the moon and space shuttles etc. for trillions of dollars yet still no one has "made" gold. Why? I know a bloke at ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) and he just giggled when I talked about it with him. Why?

Thanks for your obviously knowledgeable input and happy to hear more.

Best regards,

Laurie

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