Precious Metals Refinery Security

Precious Metals Refinery Security

“Highgrading” a polite word for stealing gold and silver for your refinery, has been a way of life since the metals in native form have been mined or produced. Unfortunately, in the past, highgraders were not always severely prosecuted or even looked upon unfavorably in their communities. Recent high metal prices with attendant world wide publicity, however, has made highgrading or thievery again a serious problem in mines and plants.

When a small button of gold the size of the end of one’s little finger has a value equal to about one week’s wages, the safeguarding of gold production by enforcing tight security measures becomes a prime responsibility of management. The higher the gold price, coupled with unrestricted ownership, the greater the temptation to “get-your-cut”, and diligence by management must become an integral part of plant security.refinery-security

Primary security begins by knowing the expected gold production and the sampling of a gold ore mill feed for this determination has proved not reliable. However, solution flows can be accurately sampled and measured thereby closely predicting the gold recovered each day as precipitate. The progressive record of total ounces of gold contained in the precipitation press, referred to in cyanidation plants as “solution call” predicts the accumulated production. The “call” is an important adjunct to security and extreme caution must be used so that the pregnant solution meter and sample are confined in a security area. It should be recognized that this key sample may be the target for “doctoring” by trusted insiders (assay office employees) as a preliminary step for stealing precipitates and/or metal.

Security measures similar to the following were adopted after one operation experienced a sizeable theft of gold precipitate and metal by trusted employees.

The refinery area where precipitates are handled and melted to bullion and all other gold products are kept should be completely enclosed with a tight security fence preferably of solid construction. Access to this enclosure should be through one of two electrically controlled gates, one for personnel and another for occasional truck entrance. Admittance should be restricted to essential personnel who are required to sign a register in and out with the date and time. If there is a “back gate” to the restricted fenced area, it should remain locked except in an emergency and then opened only by a supervisor. Television monitoring cameras viewing the gate entrance and other sensitive areas connected to a viewing screen located in the general office afford visual observation at all times.

At strategic points, such as the office, vault, etc. , electrical alarm switches should be located. In the event of an unusual circumstance, a switch can be actuated to sound a general alarm to the plant security office and in some cases directly to local law enforcement offices.

The refinery fenced area should have sufficient room for ample flux and spare parts storage, change rooms, slag treatment equipment, etc. , that once the refinery crew enters the enclosure, they can remain there until the end of the shift. Some refineries can be adequately operated by one man and a helper; larger operations, of course, require more men. It is advisable to have on duty within the refinery an extra high level staff member as security supervisor who reports directly to management. This added cost affords protection at a time when gold is at its highest price ever with “Highgrading” becoming a very real temptation.

Accountability for all gold samples in and out of the refinery should be accurately maintained and double checked. The amount of gold in assay samples can vary from a few hundred to over 1, 000 ounces per year. This can be adequately handled by the staff member refinery supervisor.

Past records of refinery personnel should be carefully checked by local law enforcement agencies. The “honor system” of trusting employees should not replace tight security enforced by management.

Transportation of the bullion production to shipment points should be in the hands and under guard of trained professional law officers and not mine employees.