Saturday, March 9, 2013

Jungle Fever, A Documentary about the Bre-X Gold Scam

This is actually Masterminds - Fool's Gold (1 of 3) on YouTube, not nearly as good (or as accurate, IMO) as History Channel's "Turning Points of History": Jungle Feverno longer on YouTube. I have no idea how long this video will remain up.

Also see Fool's Gold parts 1, 2, and 3, provided by B.C. Prospectors for educational purposes; I don't know how long these videos will remain on YouTube, either, and they are not embeddable. In case they go down, check out this re-enactment.

Bre-X: Gold Today, Gone Tomorrow  (1st edition, 1Nov1997) is a book I highly recommend reading for the story itself and also for some background into the way things work (or used to work — some things have changed) in the mining/exploration industry. I found that a character list at the beginning of the book would have been useful. The book got into more than one mining scam story, mostly for background about the people involved in Bre-X, and also just as general background about what mining scams are all about (see a list of a few other scams here on page 16). Also read this review of the book by another Nevada explorationist.

I've seen a few would-be scams in my day, but they were fairly minor and easy to spot, and aimed at myself or other grass-roots and early stage explorationists looking for the next best property to pick up, drill, and turn into a mine.

I was out of the business when the Bre-X scandal hit (and when its stock price was going from nearly nothing to its peak in early to mid 1997). The price of gold already wasn't what it had been in the 1980s; it had been sliding gradually for quite some time.

Historical gold price in USD and inflation adjusted gold price in USD,
by Realterm, from Wikimedia Commons.
I went to the Northwest Mining Association meeting in Spokane in December of 1997, thinking to get back into the business after a hiatus of some few years, and found the place in a kind of hectic chaos. Funding for junior mining companies was already starting to dry up, even though the price of gold hadn't quite dropped to its lowest recent low (which it would on 20Jul1999, when it hit just below $253 USD). I had said at the '97 mining convention that if the price ever went below $250, I'd buy (oh well, I'd probably be set for life now!).

Funding for companies and projects bounced back slowly as the price of gold began to rise again into the early 2000s, and after implementation of Canadian National Instrument 43-101 (called "the NI 43-101," "the NI," or "the 43-101"; also see Wikipedia), which — although aimed primarily at properties with economic resources or reserves — became a set of standard procedures to follow for any grass-roots or later-stage exploration property one had even vague hopes of getting promoted to a Canadian or American stock exchange. I'm not sure that getting funding has ever been quite the same since Bre-X, but the 2008 market and commodities crash has also had a negative effect in more recent years.

A Few More References:
Bre-X Strikes It Rich in Indonesia (3Mar1997; with property location map)

The Bre-X Gold Scandal: First there is a gold mountain, then there is no mountain (Andrew Alden's Geology, originally posted 20Apr1997, with later updates)

Bre-X Collapses (19May1997)

Jungle Fever: The Bre-X saga is the greatest gold scam ever. But to understand the enormity of the fraud, you had to be there. Our man in Borneo tells his story (9Jun1997)

The mine, The man, And the scam (probably 1997)

Bre-X Geologist Mike de Guzman Rumoured to be Alive (13Jun2005)

Report: A review of Michael de Guzman's death (24May2007; forensic report dated 17Feb1998)

The mystery of Michael de Guzman (26May2007)

Bre-X Timeline (updated 31Jul2007)

Bre-X Scandal Ends in Acquittal (Oct2007)

Life after Bre-X (31Dec2012; Felderhoff says de Guzman "had nothing to do with it"; probably paywalled)

Updated 26Aug2016


Andrew Alden, Oakland Geology blog said...

Thanks for the link; I first published that article on 20 April 1997, when everything was still fresh, and have updated it a couple times since then as links rotted. (Back then we had to use the date for our filenames.)

Silver Fox said...

I added your original date - loved the title! :)