Our New Commemorative £2 Coin

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Miners' £2 Coin


Front: Detailed impression of the Copper processing plant at Escondida, Chile, to enlighten the bearer of this special pieces’ origins.

Back: In leu of the traditional portrait of the Queen, this special coin features a monument to the hapless men that help fuel our economic system.

Edge: Reads Contrive magicus sponte – a fiction of magical spontaneity. Old proverb bemoaning the mystical properties given to cash and its creation.


Diameter             28.4mm

Weight                 12.0g

Thickness            2.50mm


Outer            Nickel-Brass (76% copper, 4% nickel, 20% zinc)

Inner            Cupro-nickel (75% copper, 25% nickel)                     (Link)

About Your Coin


This beautiful commemorative coin, designed by the renowned engraver Benedetto Pistrucci (Link), has been released to celebrate The Royal Mints’ dirty money and commitment to the finest quality coinage in Britain since the year 886. The design was inspired by the long-standing relationships with Escondida Copper Mine in Chile and Norilsk Nickel mine in Russia; as well as countless others throughout the developing world. Copper, Nickel and Zinc are the quality metals that are combined to bring you the iconic £2 Sterling coins that sit loosely in your pocket everyday, yet whose production remains shrouded in mystery.

All copper and Nickel exported from South America and Russia is traded for at the prestigious London Metal Exchange. Established 130 years ago it remains ‘the world’s premier non-ferrous metals market’ and a fantastic opportunity for the Mint to ensure that our tender is bought to you with minimal cost.(Link)


The Metals


Escondida mine, Chile


The £2 coin’s outer layer is made up of 20% zinc. Zinc production is linked to the exotic zinc mines of the beautiful Andean mountains, Peru. The local farmers have been fortunate enough to have livelihoods threatened, environments spoiled and communities have boasted few, if any, returns. The Royal Mint has a proud and honest vision to “contribute to millions of lives every day, in the United Kingdom and around the world” (Link).

Two fortunate people have even sacrificed their lives protesting against a potential UK mining company that could lead to their waters becoming contaminated. It is clear that for these local people the zinc mines are contributing in a huge way to their everyday lives and futures. There was an exciting opportunity in the town of Tambogrande for Canadian mining company Manhattan, which “would have uprooted 8,000 people and damaged the prized local agriculture” all for the extraction of zinc.

If it wasn’t for some 27,000 locals voting against it in a referendum the company would not have been forced to leave, Peruvians could even now be enjoying contaminated water, depleted crops and challenges over land ownership! If only Manhattan could have saved these people. (Link)


Chile is the world’s largest copper producer and hosts about 30% of the globes known copper resources and accounts for over 35% of global copper production. The Chilean economy, copper accounts for 45% of exports.  [Link]

While the government and legal system has forced environmental regulations upon the copper mines, COLDECO officials admit that copper production is damaging the environment. [Link]

The smelting of the copper ore at the factories emits arsenic and carbon-monoxide which pollutes the air and water near the mines. The parties at risk include: fishermen and farmers who live and work near the port Caldera, marine life and animals that live in the area, other people who live and work in the area (including the miners).

A snippet from the Trade and Environment Database Case Study outlines the effects of mining.

Case Name: Copper Exports from Chile.

“20.  Environmental Problem Type: MANY

The arsenic and carbon-monoxide which the copper factories

emit not only endanger the animals which inhabit the areas that

have been polluted, but also is damaging the atmosphere.

22.       Resource Impact and Effect: HIGH and MEDium

Although Chuquicamata is the largest copper mine in the

world, production peaked in 1990.  Since then copper production

at Chuquicamata has declined.  Sight managers are searching for

new locations to mine copper.  COLDECO spent five million dollars

just in 1990 to drill new pits on the north and south sides of

Chuquicamata.  Opening new mines will spread the pollution

problem other nearby areas (see CHILEAIR and CHILE cases).

23.  Urgency and Lifetime: MEDium and 100s of years

The average life expectancy in Chile was 68.5 for a male and

75.6 for female in 1994.  Because their work damages their

respiratory system, copper mine workers risk sickness and early

death.  The life spans of the animals and marine life that

inhabit the area varies from species to species.  There seem to

be little talk about the extinction of these species as a result
of the copper factories’ pollution.


COLDECO has agreed to spend between $250 million and $300 million over the next decade (published 1997) to control gas emissions at Chuquicamata alone.  In 1992, COLDECO spent US $13 million to conduct research in many areas, including environmental management. [Link]

Further impacts range from depleting water resources in the area [near to Fachinal,] an increase in prostitution and venereal diseases. Also locals had no previous mining experience- according to government statistics, 61% of the community members live in poverty, and their desire to break the poverty cycle gave them unrealistic expectations of the economic benefits that the mine would bring. “Fachinal was seen as a salvation,” says Dr Sánchez. But the actual benefits were much smaller. [Link]

With the support of strong unions, miners are able to strike effectively, a notably dominant reason is for better pay and contractual stability.

“The blockade was lifted now that the company is willing to sit down and talk to us,” Armando Silva, head of one of three unions jointly negotiating a new collective contract, told Reuters. He added the company dropped its intentions to scrap some contract benefits that sparked the disagreements. [Link]

Critics say red tape has turned Codelco, which employs 20,000 people, into an inefficient behemoth that is losing market share against other global miners.

Chile’s conservative presidential front-runner, billionaire Sebastian Pinera, tipped to lead Sunday’s vote and win a January run-off, wants to sell up to 20 percent of Codelco to improve company efficiency. However, the plan is seen as a non-starter due to resistance from Codelco’s powerful unions and an expected divided Congress.

Copper prices rising by 125 percent in 2009 has emboldened mine workers across the world to demand more of the windfall from mining companies. [Link]

In its community, Escondida created a non-profit charitable foundation to support educational, health, and technological development projects. As a result, it was more successful at injecting long-term benefits than the other mining companies, which focused more on economic activities with time frames limited to the mine’s productive life. [Link]


The Nickel for your commemorative coin is likely to have been sourced from Norilsk Nickel, which controls one-third of the world’s nickel and accounts for more than 20% of global nickel output. (Link) Norilsk Nickel sells to the London Metal Exchange; in the first half of 2010 it sold 1kton directly to the LME. (Link) The mine is situated in the city of Norilsk which in 2006 the International ecological fund “Blacksmith Institute” entitled the City of Horror.

The following passage is a report of the city by the BBC’s Richard Galpin on the city of Norilsk and the smelter named ‘Hope’ (Link).  From a distance it looks like a front of bad weather moving in and obscuring the otherwise pristine Arctic sky. But drive closer and the source of the long streams of “cloud” flowing over the city and far beyond becomes clear. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the chimneys pump out a toxic cocktail of pollutants which the company responsible openly admits is mostly sulphur dioxide. Our guide, acting chief engineer Igor Dmitriev said, “Nine hundred thousand tons of sulphur dioxide are emitted by this plant that is the amount agreed with the government.”  “In the summer the winds change and often the gas falls onto the city,” says local cameraman Andrei Razdevilov. “It’s felt by everyone and it becomes difficult to breathe.”

The nickel in your coin could well have come from ‘Hope’, the name of one of the smelters. The inner sanctum of ‘Hope’ is a deafening, choking cauldron. Vast furnaces roast the ore extracted from the mines, eventually disgorging streams of red-hot liquid metal into containers that dwarf the workers standing nearby.

Mining and smelting operations began in the 1930s and this city now contains the world’s largest heavy metals smelting complex, where nearly 500 tons each of copper and nickel oxides and two million tons of sulphur dioxide are released annually into the air. The environmental organisation Greenpeace Russia says the pollution has created a 30km (19 mile) “dead zone” around the city and quotes scientists as saying the acid rain has spread across an area equivalent in size to Germany.

It is a city where the snow is black, the air tastes of sulphur and the life expectancy for factory workers is 10 years below the Russian average. A 1999 study found elevated copper and nickel concentrations in soils in as much as a 60 km radius of the city. By some estimates, 1 percent of the entire global emission of sulphur dioxide originates here.

The local population is severely affected by the air quality where air samples exceed the maximum allowable concentrations for both copper and nickel. Children suffer from numerous respiratory diseases. Investigations evaluating the presence of ear, nose and throat diseases among schoolchildren revealed that children living near the copper plant were twice as likely to become ill than those living in further districts. Similarly, children living near the nickel plant were shown to become ill at a rate 1.5 times higher than children from further districts. Mortality from respiratory diseases is considerably higher than the average in Russia, accounting for 15.8% of all deaths among children. Premature births and late-term pregnancy complications are also frequent. Sulphur dioxide emissions contribute to chronic diseases of the lungs, respiratory tracts, and digestive systems – and can result in lung cancer. Incidences of cancer (especially lung) have increased. Some estimates state that air pollution is responsible for 37% of children’s morbidity rates and 21.6% of adult morbidity.(Link)



Meet Your Miners

Gilberto Angulos does not need to say a word to tell the tale of working 30 years in Chile’s mines. His broken body does all the talking for him. A jagged scar runs down his forehead. A metal plate keeps his fractured left forearm together. A bone never properly set juts from his left shoulder. The injuries are the remnants of a mine explosion that nearly killed him. In 2003, Angulos was driving excavation equipment in a large copper mine when he felt a rush of air. Instead of being killed, Angulos was taken 1,300 miles (2,092 km) south to Santiago, where he spent a year in hospital. The damage to the miner was permanent.

Most recently came the San Jose mine collapse that trapped 33 men in Chile. The owner and operator of that mine, the San Esteban Mining Co., did not complete promised improvements to the mine where the men were trapped for 70 days, 2,300 feet (701 meters) underground. Many of the 33 trapped miners and their peers had had numerous brushes with death in the depths of a mine. Mario Gomez had two fingers sliced off by falling rocks. Victor Segovia spent a year recovering after a rock slammed into his back. Franklin Lobos was trapped for three hours during a previous cave-in. Hector Avila worked 20 years in the mines and became close friends with several of the recently-trapped miners at the San Jose mine; until a 2007 incident killed him and a geologist, prompting the closure of the San Jose mine. But the mine was reopened soon after.

Since 2000, 374 miners have died practicing their trade in Chile, according to government statistics. (Link)


A Special Thanks

This coin has been commissioned in order to enlighten our conscious towards the histories and sources of everyday objects. Furthermore it is a satirical re-creation of the 2007 coin ‘Am I not a Man and A Brother’, whose inscription reads: An Act For The Abolition Of The Slave Trade, which we find ironic as the construction of the coins themselves perpetuate ‘slave labour’ and unsafe working conditions.

Royally Minted x



Contrive magicus sponte











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