Solid Gold Mountain

Gold and money seem to be a hot topic around here. Well, there was an article today about a little studied mountain range in Antarctica. What if a solid gold mountain was discovered there? What impact would this have on world economy? Would the world powers declare this gold off limits to anybody? Would just knowing it exists destroy the gold market?

Or how about this scenario- an alchemist discovers the secret to turn lead into gold. It is a relatively easy process it turns out. He creates as much pure gold as exists already in the US before he is discovered. What would happen next? And if the secret hit the internet?

Gold would become really cheap.

If you had a lot of gold, it would be worth a lot less than you bought it for.

That’s about it. It’s not like the stuff is the backbone of the world economy.

Total global shrieking panic for 20 years.

Then, we wire our toasters & lightbulbs with gold.

Seriously, something like this has happened twice before.

Aluminum was once the rarest metal on Earth, as the ore was very uncommon. Then, we learned to extract Aluminum from Aluminum Oxide–i.e. clay. Value vanished.

Amethysts were once worth more than Diamonds. Until a huge strike in South America made them as common as Turquoise–or a little more so.

Amethysts, no kidding? As in, quartz with a pretty color? I once bought one of them the size of my fist for five bucks. I had no idea they were valuable once.

What are you talking about? Metal ores ARE oxides. Aluminum ore is all over the damn place; it’s the third most common element in the Earth’s crust after oxygen and silicon. The difficulty is the extraction, since aluminum re-oxidizes extremely readily. Finding the ore is practically as easy as kicking a few rocks.

I’m not even going to touch aluminum oxide = clay except to say, “no.”


Also ahem.

Re clay & Aluminum–see Bentonite.

And further–

Clay can be & has been used as a source of Aluminum.

Bosda, I think Q.E.D. was reacting to your statement that “the ore is very uncommon.” On the contrary, aluminum ore is very common. The difficulty is in producing elemental aluminum metal from the ore.

It would be more precise to state that “aluminum is one of the rarest metals found in its free state on Earth” and omit the part about the ore being uncommon.

Well, gold would definitely plummet, no question. Many folks don’t realize how little of the stuff we actually have. If you took every scrap of gold ever mined by man since the dawn of time, it would make a cube about 65 feet wide on each edge. A whole mountain of the stuff would increase the world supply by, what, a few thousandfold?

On the plus side, I guess certain electronics would become a whole lot cheaper. Gold is an excellent electrical conductor, and completely resistant to corrosion.

Arthur Clarke once wrote a story (titled Element 79, if I recall correctly) where a solid gold asteroid landed in England, with subsequent impact on England and the world’s economies.

I only remember the statement that “nobody finishes a cricket match anymore” - one of the various indirect effects.

Along with space elevators, evolution-manipulating aliens, and bisexual space crews, this seems to be a common thread in many of Clarke’s works. The entire plot of his novel 2061 surrounds a South African (!) plot to land on forbidden Europa in order to claim possession of a mountain-sized hunk of diamond that was ejected from Jupiter’s core when it turned into a star during the events of 2010. They tried to do this because it was the only way to guarantee scarcity of diamonds, and thus continue to secure their financial wealth.

A mountian made of gold being discussed on the SDMB and no one mentions the physical issues at hand. Wouldn’t it, like, flatten out under it’s own weight and softness or just sink into the ground?

The idea of a mountain-sized diamond is not original with Clarke. F.Scott Fitzgerald got there first in 1922 - The Diamond as Big as the Ritz

Pun intended?

Why would a big lump of gold have this effect?

Nope. Not much of a pun, either.

The net effect would be zero as the entire world would collapse into eternal war over who’s mountain of shiny, shiny gold this was to become.

I almost started a GD thread about what will happen if the polar ice caps melt and Antartica becomes a more accessable land mass. Sure, nobody wants it now, but just wait until it’s the new frontier and as untouched as a place on the planet as you’ll find. Total all out war IMHO.

Bentonite is not an ore of aluminum. It does make fantastic cat litter, however, and if you’re lucky and the chemistry is just right, it makes drilling mud instead of cat litter. (Drilling mud commands a much better price than cat litter, but I suppose that goes without saying.)

The common ore of aluminum is bauxite, which is not a mineral but a collection of several aluminum hydroxides, not oxides. None of which are clays, strictly speaking, either, since “clay minerals” are phyllosilicates (like montmorllionite, which is indeed the most abundant clay mineral in bentonite).

Aluminum oxide is corundum, which is not an ore of aluminum, either. It makes great sandpaper, however, and again if you are lucky and the chemistry (and clarity) is just right, a great gem (ruby or sapphire).

I once posed the question to a class (it was History of mathematics and not especially relevant), what would happen if you and everyone else in the country woke up one morning with $2 in your pocket for every dollar that had been there, with your bank balances and everything else doubled? They agreed that after some dislocation nothing would happen. All prices and wages would be doubled and things would go on as before. Now suppose that this happened to half the population, but not the other half. They soon saw that the first half would be somewhat better off and the second half would be somewhat worse off. Now try to do it by a factor of 10 (with only 1/10) of the population benefitting? Then 10% would be a lot better off and 90% a lot worse. Suppose the factors were 100 instead. They eventually saw that the economy would be ruined.

Something of this sort happened to Spain 500 years ago and it took them till recently to recover. Rampant inflation, wars of conquest and all this without any real increase in productive capacity. If the gold mountain were equally divided, then probably not much would happen, but if 1% of the population were able to grab it (and you know that something of the sort is bound to happen) it would ruin the economy.

Incidentally, to get an idea of the scale, I once read that if all the gold then entire human race had ever extracted from the earth were put into a cube it would be about the size of a small barn.

As Hari points out something similar did happen 500 years ago. Spain gained access to the Americas - a source for massive amounts of new gold. They thought they were going to be rich forever because they didn’t foresee that the price of gold would drop as the supply of gold increased.