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Driving to the Gold Rush

In these mountains, where conquistadors once gouged gold from open veins in the mountainside, the hardened gold miner of film lore is giving way to a new breed of prospector: geologists and engineers, armed with sophisticated equipment and millions of investor dollars.

Largely American and Canadian, they toiled for global mining giants for years. But, now that the price of gold is near record highs, they are leaving their companies, raising capital to start their own prospecting start-ups and heading for Mexico. On Tuesday, an ounce of gold hit $929.30, up from $665 a year ago. Back in 1980, oil shock and economic gloom drove the price to $875 an ounce; that would be more than $2,000 today.

Much of the recent run-up has been caused by economic uncertainty and rising anxiety about the risks of global inflation.

“Gold hit bottom in 2001 at $250 an ounce and it has been going up ever since,” said Craig Stanley, a gold mining analyst at Desjardins Securities in Toronto. “That keeps dragging

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