Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:04am EST
By Arnd Wiegmann and Lisa Jucca
MENDRISIO/ZURICH, Switzerland, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Sealed off by grey concrete walls and barbed wire, the workmen in protective glasses and steel-toed boots at this smelter cannot work fast enough to meet demand from the nervous rich for gold.
This refinery near Lake Lugano in the Alps is running day and night as people worried about recession rush to switch their assets into something that may hold its value.
"I have been in the gold business for 30 years and I have never experienced anything like this," said Bernhard Schnellmann, director for precious metal services at the refiner Argor-Heraeus, one of the world’s three largest.
"Production has dramatically increased since the middle of the year. We cannot cope with demand," said Schnellman, wearing a gold watch on his wrist.
Spot gold hit a record $1,030.80 an ounce on March 17. It fell below $700 in late October, partly because investors sold their holdings to cover losses in equity and bond markets hit by the credit crisis, and is now around $830 an ounce.