Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Australia's new gold rush, courtesy of China

China's insatiable demand for steel is turning Western Australia into a land of billionaires and boomtowns.

From Fortune:

I'm wedged into a corner of the Wild West Saloon in Kalgoorlie, Australia, listening to a couple of investment bankers from Sydney discuss the tight market for Maseratis, when my new pal Ashok Parekh, the saloon's owner, interrupts.

"Hey, Fortune," he shouts over the AC/DC on the jukebox, placing a racquetball-sized piece of raw gold in my hand. "Take a look at this."

Parekh, 51, is a local kid who made good -- more precisely, a local of Pakistani descent who was born in Dublin and moved to this mineral-rich part of Western Australia as a teen. By day he runs an accounting firm that keeps the books for hundreds of private gold miners. (Thus the supersized $30,000 nugget, which he bought from a client two years ago.)

But it's his role as the proprietor of the Exchange Hotel, which houses the saloon -- he also owns the Palace Hotel and its Gold Bar across the street -- that makes him possibly the most popular man in town. He also has an awesome middle-part haircut, which looks to be modeled on that of Journey singer Steve Perry, circa 1981....MORE