Gold Mania! Yukon & Afghanistan Edition

Here's some weekend reading, courtesy of the gold bubble boom.

1. "Gold Mania in the Yukon," from the NYT Magazine.

Excerpt:

At Dawson, the Yukon is opaque from mixing with the water of the silt-laden White River. But in the winter the White is frozen solid. Therefore, the Yukon runs clear, and a daring prospector could dive in and find the riches he sought just lying there, in plain sight.

...The Yukon is covered in winter by eight feet of ice, under which is another eight feet of slush. ...

Deschenes ... took scuba lessons, bought a tank, a wet suit and a cheap face mask from Canadian Tire. He chopped a hole in the ice with an ax and a chain saw, inserted a cable to the river bottom to keep him from drifting downstream, tied a rope to his waist and jumped in. ...

...Royal Canadian Mounted Police actually caught a glimpse of Deschenes's body stuck in the slush. But they couldn't reach him on the first try and had to give up when the search became too perilous. ... Deschenes's body was never found.

2. "J.P. Morgan's Hunt for Afghan Gold," from Fortune.

Excerpt:

The four Black Hawk helicopters sweep down on this remote river valley, flying fast and single file. Snow covers the mountains' peaks, but the lower slopes look like rust — dry, rocky, and bare. As we bank around the river bend, we see our first flash of green in the fields below and then the rectangular mud huts of the village, where hundreds of Afghans mass to greet us.

"That's the mine over there," one of my companions says, pointing to the cliffs rising above the village.

That's it? That's the gold mine? It doesn't look all that different from the forbidding country we've been traversing: just another pile of rocks and scree. The jet-lagged man in the seat across from me knows better. His sleepy eyes are suddenly alert. If anyone can wrest a fortune from Afghanistan's rubble, it is this man, Ian Hannam.

For more:

* Planet Money bought a gold coin to investigate a surprisingly confusing question: What is money? Read (and listen to) our gold series.

* Some economists are worried that Afghanistan might be harmed by its mineral wealth — a problem known as the resource curse. For more, see our story, "Resource Curse Solution: Give Money Away."

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