The Secret World of Gold is a documentary exploring the power and politics of gold, a precious metal with more allure and fascination than any other. Valued for its permanence, beauty and scarcity, people will lie, cheat, steal and kill in the name of gold.
To finance the Third Reich, the Nazis went after the gold of Europe. Allied countries stored their gold offshore to keep it safe. In the first months of the Second World War, the gold of England and France was secretly shipped to vaults in Montreal, Ottawa and New York.
Those ships made it safely to port, but throughout history, many were not so lucky. It is estimated that worldwide, 3 million shipwrecks loaded with treasure lie at the bottom of the ocean. Odyssey Marine, an American company listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, spends huge amounts of money to search for that gold. But there’s always the risk they will have to hand it over to countries claiming ownership.
In recent years, economic uncertainty is giving gold a new lustre in the world of high finance. Whether it’s a few gold coins or gold bars stored in one of the many vaults around the world, many investors are taking a shine to gold. But there’s not a lot of it. It is said that, even melted down, there would not be enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool (or maybe not - see sidebar).
Some claim that much of the gold held by the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and Fort Knox is gone — that for every 100 ounces of gold traded, there exists only one ounce of real, physical gold. So, where is the gold — and who really owns it?
Directed by Brian McKenna for Galafilm with CBC-TV.
How Much Gold Is There?
If you melted up every scrap of gold in the world and place in into a cube, how large would it be? Not surprisingly, the estimates vary.
The latest figure from Thomson Reuters GFMS suggests that the current world supply is 171,300 tonnes - it would fit into the Wimbledon Centre Court at a height of nearly 10 metres above ground. They suggest that there's another 52,000 tonnes to be mined - adding another 3 metres.
But the Gold Standard Institute believes that there's much more - 2.5 million tonnes. That would make a cube that towered 143 metres over the court.
So why the difference? Gold has been mined for a long time, more than 6000 years. Nobody really knows how much was mined in ancient times and what happened to it. Tutankhamen's coffin weighed 1.5 tonnes alone and some gold experts speculate that many other such treasures were ransacked. In some countries, like Columbia, gold in being mined illegally and it's suspected that others hold reserves that aren't publicly documented.
But the bad news? For the first time in history all the world's gold is not being recycled. It's now used in such tiny quantities in electronics that it's not economical to recycle it. The British Geological Survey estimates that about 12% of the world's gold is simply being thrown away.