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November 17, 2001
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Buried WTC gold returns to futures trade

A fortune in gold trapped for seven weeks in the ruins of the World Trade Center officially returned to the global bullion trade Friday, but dealers had already closed the book on the tale of tragedy and buried treasure.

"You could in theory say that if things had gone much worse since September 11 and there had been rampant demand or something like that, that it might have been a story that affected the price. But at this point, I don't think it really was," said a metals specialist at a large commodity brokerage.

The $230 million in precious metals has been moved from the basement vaults of ScotiaMocatta Depository at 4 WTC, where it was stored on behalf of the New York Mercantile Exchange when the September 11 attacks brought down the twin towers. All warehouse staff got out safely.

In a joint statement Friday, NYBOT and ScotiaMocatta, the metals trading division of Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia, said the metals had been relocated and were again available to guaranty delivery of futures contracts exchange traded at the COMEX metals division of the NYMEX.

"All of the silver, gold, platinum, and palladium stored in its vaults at 4 World Trade Center have been successfully relocated by an Exchange-approved carrier to a newly Exchange-licensed Brink's Inc depository in Brooklyn," they said.

Spurred by authorities who wanted to demolish the building, by the potential for crime, and by whatever has always driven men to hunt for gold, emergency crews dug through the rubble and got a first glimpse of the gleaming booty on Oct 30.

Guarded by a small army of heavily armed federal agents, city policemen and firefighters began the massive task of moving about 12 tonnes of gold and 30 million ounces of silver. The hoard was estimated to be worth at least $230 million.

There were about 3,800 100-Troy-ounce registered gold bars in the underground COMEX warehouse. While gold is very dense, the task of loading the indestructible yellow metal onto armoured Brinks trucks was not nearly as cumbersome as moving the silver.

Experts said it would take some 50 tractor trailers to transport 30,000 1,000-ounce silver bars.

On top of that, it is believed that other treasures were kept in the vaults, including additional precious metals, jewels and securities. But there has been no information on whether these valuables were there or recovered.

ScotiaMocatta has applied to establish a new exchange-licensed depository in New York for silver, gold, platinum and palladium. Upon approval, the metal being held in ScotiaMocatta's custodial account at Brinks will be relocated to this facility, they said.

The NYMEX has another warehouse in Manhattan, operated by HSBC Bank USA.

Despite initial concern among precious metals dealers, the temporary lack of access to the metal hardly caused a ripple in the markets. The buried gold amounted to about 2 per cent of the 600-tonne-a-day global bullion market.

The metal was insured and supply was available from facilities at refiners elsewhere in the United States, though some may have been remelted into the 100-ounce bars of 99.5 per cent pure gold to meet COMEX delivery specifications.

The exchange said it plans to rescind its emergency rules which allowed an individual or firm taking delivery of metal under the terms of a futures contract to reject a warrant -- a document giving title -- for metal on deposit at the buried ScotiaMocatta vault.

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