Posted on March 16, 2018
Remember when your parents took you to the corner store or local pharmacy as a kid and you begged for even a dollar to spend on some junk toy? If you had the typical parent, odds are good they asked you “do you think money grows on trees?” Well, money might not grow on trees, but apparently in Russia it does rain down from the skies above. OK, that’s not entirely true either, but with the help of some faulty equipment on an aging aircraft, millions of dollars in gold, platinum, and jewels did come raining down on the country’s far-eastern region.
The web was buzzing yesterday with the news out of Yakutia, a federal subject of Russia with a population of 958,000 people, where a cargo plane departing from the Yakutsk Airport suffered a hatch malfunction that sent some $380 million (USD) in precious metals and jewels scattering across the landscape. The plane made an emergency landing at nearby Magan Airport, but much of the damage was done by that point. Here’s a more in-depth look at what happened!
What Exactly Happened?
The plane in question was a Nimbus Airlines An-12 plane that was hauling a total of nine tons of material from the Yakutsk Airport (destination unknown). The An-12, full name Antonov An-12, is a Soviet-designed four-engined turboprop transport plane that first took to the skies in 1957. The most recent planes to roll off an assembly line anywhere were produced in 1973, making the current fleet aged to say the least.
As of today, it is believed that the rear hatch of the cargo plane was not entirely secured during takeoff. As the plane taxied down the runway for takeoff, the rear hatch opened as the plane took off into the skies. The unsecured cargo within naturally shifted as the planed lifted skyward, and it went crashing right through the loose hatch. The result was a golden field of debris that spread across the runway and over the surrounding area stretching some 15 miles around the airport. The hatch on the rear of the plane eventually broke off entirely under the weight of the metals crashing into it, sending the hatching crashing down into the parking lot of a nearby auto market.
An estimated $368 million worth of gold bars, platinum bars, and jewels (mostly diamonds) came raining down to earth as the plane made its turnaround. Police and security services sealed off the airport and conducted a wide search around the 15-mile debris zone to secure the precious metals and gems. Russia’s Interior Ministry reportedly told the state-run TASS news that 172 gold bars totally 3.4 tons went flying out the back hatch. Twitter users around the world temporarily rejoiced, with comments on airfare to Yakutsk surging in the aftermath as users joked about taking part in a massive gold hunt.
Before you board a plane to Russia though, the government has said the area is cordoned off and most of the metals and jewels are now secure. When the folly was discovered, the plane made a turnaround for an emergency landing at the nearby Magan Airport, a village airfield just 7.4 miles away from Yakutsk Airport. So, whose gold, platinum, and gems were temporarily lost in the debacle?
Ownership of the Bars
The gold and platinum bars involved in the incident come from the neighboring region of Chukotka, which is not only home to various gold mines, but also the largest diamond producing mines in Russia. The cargo all belonged to the Chukotka Mining and Geological Company, of which 75% of the capital is owned by Canadian Kinross Gold. The Yakutia region of Russia is one of the most influential diamond production centers in the world. Some 99% of Russian diamond mining takes place here and accounts for more than 25% of global diamond mining.
The region is no slouch when it comes to precious metals. Across Yakutia you’ll find massive reserves of gold, silver, and platinum as well. As of January 1, 2017, Kinross estimated the operation gold reserves at its mines in the region around 74 tons of gold and 745 tons of silver. Another Canadian firm, Silver Bear, is actively expanding silver mining operations in the region, with its Mangazeisky Project featuring an open-pit mint with an estimated 14.1 million ounces of silver and an underground portion with an additional 8.4 million ounces. (No Silver Bear metals were involved in yesterday’s incident though)
On a final note, those gold and platinum bars from Kinross that spilled across the region from above on Thursday were not the refined types of gold bullion you would find searching through the JM Bullion gold bars for sale. These bars were roughly refined for easier transport to facilities that would refine them further into gold bullion bars for investment purposes.
It’s Not Raining Bars, but You have Options to Buy
The JM Bullion online catalog might not be raining down gold bars, but you’ll still find plenty of options to choose from. Don’t forget to give our list a look and follow us on Facebook to find out instantly when we have new products arriving, learn more about upcoming releases, and stay in-the-know as our blog posts release. Whenever you have questions for a JM Bullion customer service representative, feel free to contact us. We’re available on the phone at 800-276-6508, online using our live chat, and via our email address.