It is not only investors who are suffering sleepless nights in the
unfolding tale of the Busang gold mine, once - erroneously - thought to
be worth dollars 50 billion (pounds 31.25 billion).
In the world of PR, I hear Hill and Knowlton’s New York office is also
relearning the truth of those irritating proverbs about counting
chickens, and grass being greener on the other side.
The Borneo mine, once reckoned to straddle the richest gold strike this
century, hit the news recently after independent drilling revealed only
’insignificant amounts of gold’. The mine’s owners Bre-X Minerals, which
employs Hill and Knowlton, then admitted the strong possibility that the
mine’s reserves had been overstated.
Soon after its chief geologist apparently committed suicide en route to
a meeting where he was to explain why new tests showed up minimal
All of which was a severe blow for thousands of investors, whose panic
saw the value of shares plummet from from dollars 32 to dollars 2 on the
Toronto Stock Exchange, causing trading to be suspended twice - once
because of the freefall and again because fresh selling caused the TSE
computer system to crash.
But spare a thought for Hill and Knowlton. Not merely is its client
taking a pasting but it must now be regretting its decision, three
months ago, to resign its international account of 11 years standing
with a company called Barrick Gold in order to take on the Bre-X
That’s the same Barrick which is the largest gold mining company in the
world outside South Africa and owns the most valuable gold mine in the
All that glisters.