Bre-X Scandal: A History Timeline
This infographic documents the rise and fall of Bre-X.
From initial private offerings at 30 cents a share, Bre-X stock climbed to more than $250 on the open market. Near the peak of Bre-X share prices, major banks and media were on board:
- It was touted by media and banks as the “richest gold deposit ever”
- In December 1996, Lehman Brothers Inc. strongly recommended a buy on “the gold discovery of the century.”
- Major mining companies such as Barrick Gold, Placer Dome, and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, among other top producers, fought an epic battle to get a piece of Bre-X’s Busang deposit.
- Indonesia’s Suharto regime managed to grab 40% of the deposit for Indonesian interests.
- Fidelity Investments, Invesco Funds Group, and other mutual-fund companies piled into the stock.
- J.P. Morgan bankers talked up Busang in a conference call in which Bre-X’s top geologist predicted the deposit might contain a staggering 200 million oz of gold, worth over $240 billion in 2014 prices. Morgan declined to comment.
- Egizio Bianchini, stock broker and one of Canada’s top gold analysts, said “What most people are now realizing is that Bre-X has made one of the great gold discoveries of our generation.”
1989: David Walsh founded Bre-X Minerals Ltd. in 1989 as a subsidiary of Bresea Resources Ltd.
1993: Walsh followed the advice of geologist John Felderhof and bought a property in the middle of a jungle near the Busang River in Borneo, Indonesia.
1994: Initial drill results were encouraging, and the drill program was ramped up.
1994: However, it was the project manager, Michael de Guzman, who was filing gold from his wedding ring and mixing the flakes in with the crushed core samples.
De Guzman used realistic ratios of gold to rock to not set off alarm bells, and to keep project going forward.
Over the next 2.5 years, de Guzman would buy $61k of panned gold from locals to use in salting.
Independent auditors that were sent in by large institutional investors found that the panned gold had rounded edges, but de Guzman explained it was because of “volcanic pool” theory.
De Guzman, Felderhoff and Walsh sell off a small portion of their options for $100 million
1996: Bre-X hits a snag with the Indonesian government, who claimed that Bre-X was not playing by the “rules” of the country. Bre-X’s exploration permits are revoked.
1997: January fire at Busang destroys many of the sample records.
1997: After many major miners express interest in Bre-X, eventually a joint venture is reached that gives Indonesia 40% share, Bre-X 45%, and Freeport McMoRan a 15% share of interests.
1997: Freeport begins due diligence on deposit and starts to twin holes that were already drilled.
1997: Freeport reports “minor amounts of gold” in some holes, but not much else.
1997: On his way to meet the Freeport due diligence team, de Guzman mysteriously falls to his death 600 ft from a helicopter. Police rule it a suicide.
1997: Shares of Bre-X crash.
1997: Report confirms that there is no gold at Busang, and samples were tampered with.
The Critical Minerals to China, EU, and U.S. National Security
Ten materials, including cobalt, lithium, graphite, and rare earths, are deemed critical by all three.
The Critical Minerals to China, EU, and U.S. Security
Governments formulate lists of critical minerals according to their industrial requirements and strategic evaluations of supply risks.
Over the last decade, minerals like nickel, copper, and lithium have been on these lists and deemed essential for clean technologies like EV batteries and solar and wind power.
What are Critical Minerals?
There is no universally accepted definition of critical minerals. Countries and regions maintain lists that mirror current technology requirements and supply and demand dynamics, among other factors.
These lists are also constantly changing. For example, the EU’s first critical minerals list in 2011 featured only 14 raw materials. In contrast, the 2023 version identified 34 raw materials as critical.
One thing countries share, however, is the concern that a lack of minerals could slow down the energy transition.
With most countries committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the total mineral demand from clean energy technologies is expected to double by 2040.
U.S. and EU Seek to Reduce Import Reliance on Critical Minerals
Ten materials feature on critical material lists of both the U.S., the EU, and China, including cobalt, lithium, graphite, and rare earths.
|Mineral / Considered Critical||🇺🇸 U.S.||🇪🇺 EU||🇨🇳 China|
Despite having most of the same materials found in the U.S. or China’s list, the European list is the only one to include phosphate rock. The region has limited phosphate resources (only produced in Finland) and largely depends on imports of the material essential for manufacturing fertilizers.
Coking coal is also only on the EU list. The material is used in the manufacture of pig iron and steel. Production is currently dominated by China (58%), followed by Australia (17%), Russia (7%), and the U.S. (7%).
The U.S. has also sought to reduce its reliance on imports. Today, the country is 100% import-dependent on manganese and graphite and 76% on cobalt.
After decades of sourcing materials from other countries, the U.S. local production of raw materials has become extremely limited. For instance, there is only one operating nickel mine (primary) in the country, the Eagle Mine in Michigan. Likewise, the country only hosts one lithium source in Nevada, the Silver Peak Mine.
Despite being the world’s biggest carbon polluter, China is the largest producer of most of the world’s critical minerals for the green revolution.
China produces 60% of all rare earth elements used as components in high-technology devices, including smartphones and computers. The country also has a 13% share of the lithium production market. In addition, it refines around 35% of the world’s nickel, 58% of lithium, and 70% of cobalt.
Among some of the unique materials on China’s list is gold. Although gold is used on a smaller scale in technology, China has sought gold for economic and geopolitical factors, mainly to diversify its foreign exchange reserves, which rely heavily on the U.S. dollar.
Analysts estimate China has bought a record 400 tonnes of gold in recent years.
China has also slated uranium as a critical mineral. The Chinese government has stated it intends to become self-sufficient in nuclear power plant capacity and fuel production for those plants.
According to the World Nuclear Association, China aims to produce one-third of its uranium domestically.
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