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Gold Mining Resumes in Poland

Klodzko, Western Poland, May 27 (RFE/RL) -- Gold is about to glitter again in a once-disputed teritory in a valley of the Sudeten Mountains near the Czech-Polish border.

Polish authorities are preparing to resume gold mining at and around Zloty Stok - the Golden Slope - a village in the Klodzko Valley in Poland's southwest. Geologists already have located 30 gold sources in the valley, estimated to contain several dozen tons of gold. Poland would become the fourth country in Europe to mine gold. France, Sweden and Finland are the others.

The Polish State Geological Institute estimates that from the 13th Century through the end of World War Two, up to 18 tons of gold came from the Sudeten region.

Institute Chief Stanislaw Specik says that 30 years ago, mines that failed to yield at least 40 grams of gold per ton of ore were closed as uneconomical. Now, he said, it is feasible to mine for gold if the yield is 1.5 grams per ton. Exploiting the Sudeten gold will be inexpensive because the deposits are close to the surface, he said.

Specik said that in South Africa, gold is mined from below depths of 2,000 meters. The deepest known Zloty Stok deposit is 174 meters deep, he said.

The government has granted prospecting licenses to two companies. One is the Polish copper company, Polska Miedz, the other a small Australian firm, Silesia Gold Mine. Authorities expect an annual yield of about three tons from four or five mines.

The first mine to be opened will be an old German mine, last operated in 1958. The mayor of Zloty Stok hopes to open a museum there, then commence mining.

A major beneficiary of the golden slope will be local jurisdictions, through fees and taxes. Zloty Stok Mayor Wiktor Lubieniecki put it this way: "It is not at all peanuts."