Richard Johnson has a glittering dream he hopes India's dilatory government won't thwart. The 60-year-old mining engineer wants to restart gold production at Kolar, site of one of the world's deepest mines in the heart of gold-fevered India.
* Record gold prices could make India mine economical again
* Reserves only a fraction of annual demand
* Community could be major beneficiary
* Mine harks back to Tipu Sultan
The Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka are just a two hour drive from India's IT city Bangalore and were shut a decade ago when it cost nearly 20,000 rupees (about $430) to produce 10 grams of gold there and the selling price was about 4,500 rupees ($95).
Now, gold has hit record highs of almost $2,000 per ounce -- or around 28,000 rupees per 10 grams on the domestic market -- intensifying the allure of reopening the mines.
If anyone can get this mine going again, I think I can, says Johnson, who has been mining gold for 40 years from South Africa to Australia. That's my vision.
India is the world's biggest importer of gold, buying last year a record 958 tonnes. Its 1.2 billion people, legendary lovers of the metal, buy more than 800 tonnes a year. Only about two to three tonnes are produced domestically, mostly at Hutti, which is also in Karnataka state and north of Kolar.
Johnson, who only wears gold in the frames of his glasses, thinks the Kolar mines could be profitable again and his company, Kolar Gold, is working with ex-miners to make a bid if the government does put them back on the block.
According to officials in New Delhi, India's Supreme Court could decide by next month whether a global tender should go ahead for Bharat Gold Mines Limited (BGML), the state-run firm now in charge of the mines which were nationalised in 1956.
There has been a lot of flip-flop on the part of the (central) government, which first didn't want to run the mines and then said it wants to and now finally has said again it doesn't want to. The matter is with the Supreme Court, said the official