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Australian police seize 30 tonnes of stolen gold ore from bikie gang

The rising gold price on a global stage has made it an attractive asset for organized crimes with Australian authorities busting a backyard refinery.

According to media reports, after a three-day operation between Jan. 15 and 17, Western Australian police in Kalgoorlie-Boulder seized 30 tonnes of gold-bearing ore and charged 20 people with 56 offenses, including theft of the ore, possession of firearms and drugs. The investigation led police to raid 17 locations in the city.

It is alleged that the illegal backyard refinery was being run by an Australian bikie biker gang. Investors said that it is believed the gold was to be laundered and used to buy illicit drugs. It is also thought that the backyard refining had been going on for some time.

In an interview with Australian broadcaster ABC News, Detective Inspector Adian Vuleta said the operation posed risks for the Kalgoorlie community. Mercury, an extremely toxic metal, is often used to separate gold from ore in make-shift operations.

“Unlike businesses involved in the gold extraction processes, who have well-established safe processes and control measures in place to protect their staff and the community, people who engage in improvised extraction processes in their back gardens are not only exposing themselves to increased health risks from the chemicals used, but they potentially expose their neighbours to those same risks,” he said in the interview. “This operation was not only important to protect the community from those extraction-related risks, but to prevent the stealing of the end gold product, which we believe was being laundered to obtain cash to fund the purchase of illicit drugs such as methylamphetamine to sell in the community.”

It’s not surprising that gold continues to be a target for organized crime. Gold is trading close to record highs against the Australian dollar. Spot gold last traded at $3,059.80 an ounce against the Aussie dollar.

It is unclear how much gold was in the 30 tonnes of ore that was seized by authorities.

Kalgoorlie is a major gold district in Western Australia and home to the Fimiston Open Pit, also known as the Super Pit, one of the country’s largest open pit gold mines.

Source: Kitco