Police in Western Australia have seized 30 tons of stolen gold ore from the backyards of residential homes where, they say, motorcycle gang members were engaged in illegal refining to extract gold. Twenty gang members were arrested in the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and charged with stealing the ore from several mining sites and running backyard refineries to produce gold that would be laundered to generate cash for illicit drug operations. Police Minister Paul Papalia described the scheme as “incredibly dangerous” and “stupid”.
Unlike professional gold refiners that have safety measures in place to protect their workers during the refining process, illicit refining involves the use of toxic chemicals, including mercury, that can contaminate the environment, including drinking water.
“People who engage in improvised extraction processes in their back gardens are not only exposing themselves to increased health risks from the chemicals used, but they potentially expose their neighbors to those same risks," Papalia said.
The raids took place at 17 different locations. Members of the “Mongols” motorcycle gang were prominent among those arrested. They face charges that include possession of stolen property, firearms, ammunition, and illicit drugs.
Western Australia Police Commissioner Col Blanch believes the illicit refining had likely been ongoing for some time. “We get a lot of stories about what the outlaw motorcycle gangs get up to around Western Australia," Blanch said.Authorities say the motorcycle gang members have been engaged in the distribution and sale of methamphetamine.
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