Pole to Pole
Day 126: Johannesburg
Before we leave Western Deep we're allowed limited access to the Holy of Holies - Number 2 Gold Plant - where at temperatures of 1600 Centigrade one of history's most ancient, magical and mysterious processes comes to its conclusion as black pudding is turned into gold. Security is tight; a steel-mesh doorway is locked behind us. Every camera angle is checked by armed security men, and Nigel is given strict instructions: 'You must shoot nothing west or your camera will be confiscated.'
Tension builds as the crucible is slowly upturned and the molten material begins to flow.
'Is that gold? . . . Is that gold?' we first-timers keep asking, but the experts peering through the green visors that enable them to look at the quality of the smelt shake their heads. For the first minute only slag appears. I should have remembered from the rivers of Lapland that gold is always at the bottom. Then a lighter, whiter stream comes through and everyone breathes a sigh of relief as each ingot tray is filled with gold worth £150,000.
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