This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.
Yes, there is no denying the gold price has taken a beating lately. However, by the pure share of news it receives, there is ample evidence to show that this commodity still mesmerizes mankind. The earliest gold jewelry dates back 6,000 years. By 325 BC, the ancient Greeks were mining gold from all ends of the Mediterranean Sea. Gold fever has sent men on treks around the world to “moil for gold.” In Canada, would we have Robert Service and Pierre Berton as renowned authors if not for this precious metal?
In recent years, gold has been the target of more than 50% of global mineral exploration budgets – in excess of $9 billion was aimed at gold targets in 2011 and more than $10 billion in 2012. Closer to home, in Ontario in 2011, more than 50,600 kilograms of gold were produced with a value of about $2.5 billion. Gold has a historic monetary role. It is used as currency; it backs up currencies and people invest in it with the hopes of making more money.
Jewelry stores and vaults of central banks, financial institutions and investors show that the biggest uses for gold are as items of adornment and for monetary purposes such as coins and bars. While the use of this precious metal, which is number 79 on the periodic table, goes back thousands of years, gold is a metal that because of its valuable properties and characteristics is a metal for the future.
Often lost amidst the financial news stories about gold are the technological applications of this metal and how they enhance our lifestyles. Approximately 12% of gold finds its way into industrial and technological applications. This precious metal possesses a rare combination of qualities. It is highly reflective and an excellent thermal and electrical conductor, which is also malleable, corrosive resistant and biocompatible.
Let’s present some examples of these other uses of gold. It is the metal of choice in many critical electronic applications where safety and dependable performance are essential. Gold bonding wire provides the connections in many semiconductor chips and in high performance electronics.
On the environmental front, gold is used in catalytic converters to deal with the oxidation of harmful by-products from engine exhaust. Gold is finding its way into the exhaust systems of cars, trucks and heavy duty off road vehicles. We can all breathe a little easier with gold playing a role in helping to reduce air pollution from internal combustion engines.
The earliest recorded medical use of gold was by the Chinese 2,500 years ago. There is something to the mythology linking gold with gods, immortality and health. Gold compounds are used in the treatment of diseases ranging from small pox, ulcers, measles, HIV to cancer. Life sustaining medical equipment such as pace makers and stents contain gold. The metal is also used in many medical diagnostic procedures.
Etruscans started using gold in dentistry in the seventh century BC. Gold’s bio-compatibility, malleability and resistance to corrosion make it ideal for numerous dental applications. Modern dentistry has redefined and refined the discoveries of ancient civilizations. Gold plays a significant role in 21st century oral hygiene.
Engineering uses for gold include applications in jet engines, fuel cells and architectural glass. About 70 kilograms of gold coats all 14,000 windows in both towers of the Royal Bank Plaza in downtown Toronto. The gold glazing provides high-grade reflection of heat radiation, which keeps the buildings warm in winter and cool in summer, an important energy saving role.
Gold is helping us expand what we know about the universe. A gold-coated telescopic mirror on the Mars Global Surveyor helped to map the surface of the red planet over a two year period. Also, the $1.5 billion Hubble Telescope has gold coatings protecting it from corrosion and making sure its electrical connections can be relied upon to work.
The United States Columbia Space Shuttle contained 41 kilograms of gold mainly in its electronic systems. Astronauts and space travelers use helmets containing visors with thin layers of gold to guard against lethal doses of radiation while working in that harsh environment.
The science of nanotechnology is embracing gold. Research is showing that gold on the nano scale has an intriguing and exciting potential in the world of chemistry and medicine.
Gold is an ancient metal. It use in jewelry and its monetary role have been with us for millennia. However, in the world of industry and technology, gold is likely to have an ever expanding role going forward. This precious metal with its attractive qualities has a promising future that is yet to be totally envisioned.