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Professor Ian Plimer, the University of Newcastle, Australia | by UON Library,University of Newcastle, Australia
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Professor Ian Plimer, the University of Newcastle, Australia



This photo appeared in the University News in 1985. The text was:


"Prevention from being poor


Professor Ian Plimer chose the title, Gold, for his inaugural lecture on March 13, because since the floating of gold in 1971 economic interest in the metal has led to extensive research and exploration.


South Africa provides 54 per cent of the 1,300 t annual production of gold, Communist countries 18 per cent and Australia only 3 per cent, Professor Plimer said. Against this, some 90,000 t of gold is available for net dishoarding and, hence, can be regarded as production.


In 1980 in Australia, 10 per cent of mineral exploration expenditure was on gold. Now it is 30 per cent. Australia’s production has increased (1981, 17 t; 1983, 29 t) and should be about 50 t per annum by 1990.


Mining costs vary greatly, according to Professor Plimer. South African costs are $US230 an oz., in contrast to Kalgoorlie costs ($US300 to 350 an oz) and newer fields costs ($US259 to 280).


South African production has decreased by 33 per cent and grades have declined over the past 15 years.


It is unlikely that any new mine production will have a substantial influence on price. Active gold exploration may be successful, but a significant increase in the supply of gold is not likely given the dominance of South Africa.


Archaeological studies, Professor Plimer said, have shown that gold has been used for jewellery for at least 8,000 years an as a unit of currency for at least 4,000 years. Events of the last couple of decades of this millennium can only increase demand.


A lesser-known chapter from the book, The Travels of Marco Polo (1296 A.D.), tells how Kublai Khan bought gold for paper money. The death penalty was imposed for counterfeit, home-manufacture of paper money, refusal to allow the Khan to expropriate gold or trading in gold instead of paper money.


The Khan had inexhaustible supply of the underbark of the mulberry tree, Professor Plimer said. The bark was cut into different-sized pieces, dyed, signed and sealed with great ceremony. The Khan was eventually driven from China and the gold standard was restored.


Today, we live in a mulberry money society, the Inaugural Lecturer said. The Third World debt and the threat it has to the banking system is still unresolved and must increase in uncertainty. Governments in most countries, including Australia, have great difficulty in controlling their expenditure and inflation is encouraged.


In 1972 the US dollar was worth 24.75 grams of gold, whereas today it is worth 1.1 grams of gold. In 1930, 20 ounces of gold bought a new car ($413).


In 1985, 20 ounces could still buy a new car, but $413 could purchase only a miserable second-hand motor bike.


An investment in gold may not make you rich, but it will prevent you from becoming poor, Professor Plimer said.


Some projections suggest by the period 1995 to 2000, the USSR will produce more gold than South Africa South Africa is the biggest world producer of gold, chromium, vanadium, diamonds and platinoids, with the USSR being the seconde biggest producer for each of these essential commodities.


Professor Plimer’s concluding point:


Inflation is not expected to disappear and hence gold will remain and important component of investment portfolios. Any rapid increase in price would cause gold to be dishoarded and adversely affect industrial demand. As a result, the price would stabilise. Therefore, gold mines look good business in the coming uncertain years."


This image was scanned from a photograph in the University's historical photographic collection held by Cultural Collections at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia.


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Taken in March 1985