Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
It was most fatal if ships broke down in the Arctic Ocean, and many accidents in the history of the Arctic had been caused by stopping there too long.
Fortunately, the temperature was relatively high at this season, so there was no need to worry about freezing for the time being, and Li Du was prepared for emergencies. He took out the satellite phone and dialed a number which was given to him by Big Ford.
After waiting for a day and a half, they saw a powerful tugboat with a blue flag emblazoned with the letters FM Inc.
FreeportMcMoran Inc., or Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold, was one of the world’s top ten integrated mining groups with mines worldwide, including subsidiaries in the Arctic.
The company, founded in 1912 to mine copper, gold and molybdenum, employed 35,000 people and had an annual output of about $24 billion. A fifth of the company was owned by the Ford family.
When Li Du left Severnaya Zemlya, Big Ford had given him the contact information of FM’s Arctic branch, saying that he had talked to them and that they would respond to any calls.
Now that his ship was anchored in the Arctic Ocean, Li Du called the general manager of the Arctic branch, who sent a rescue ship at once.
Two boats approached, and a small boat was lowered from the tugboat. Several men clambered into the boat, rowed swiftly, and boarded the icebreaker. The team leader was a big man with a big beard.
Seeing Li Du, the bearded man laughed and stretched out his hand for a shake. “Hello, hello, are you, Mr. Li? I’m Mike Dunford. Nice to meet you.”
Li Du smiled too and said, “Hello, Manager Dunford, sorry to trouble you. To tell you the truth, I am very happy to have you here.”
“It is our pleasure, and I’d like to apologize to you. We don’t have any spare parts for your ship at our base, so we’ll have to tow it there first and have the necessary parts delivered by my companions so that we can fix the ship,” said Dunford apologetically.
Li Du had no inclination to complain and said, “Okay, thanks, and sorry again for the trouble.”
Towlines made of nylon wrapped in steel cables were tied to the bow of The Hammerhead Shark, and the heavy towlines straightened as the boat hit full steam and went forward.
It took them two and a half days of slow sailing to reach FM’s gold mine in the Arctic, southwest of the invisible graveyard.
The mine was located on an island in the Arctic. The land area was small, but a lot of ice surrounded it, so it was a pretty big area.
When the two ships stopped at the pier, Li Du said, “So there’s gold in the Arctic? I’m so ignorant.”
“Gold has been mined here for a long time, and the mine is quite rich, but the natural conditions here are so bad that it is difficult to work, and the company didn’t set up a permanent base here until the year 2000,” said Dunford with a smile.
The gold mine island was rocky. Surrounded by ice all year round, it had very difficult work conditions. The FM company set up a cluster of buildings, making a new settlement in an ice land.
There were many buildings at the mining station, but not many people could be seen outside. Li Du and his company drove into the camp in an anti-skid car.
The camp had no visible security measures, but there was probably no need for them despite the valuable mineral the mine produced. Because the surrounding area had an extremely harsh climate, and the winter temperatures could reach 40 or 50 degrees below freezing, it was unlikely any intruders would come.
However, Brother Wolf pointed out to Li Du a machine gun on a small building, which showed that the camp was protected by more than just environmental factors after all.
Li Du asked, “How many workers are there?”
“Usually around twenty, but in the summer there are more, about forty men. There’s more work during the summer,” said Dunford.
Li Du was surprised. “So few people? The mining industry needs a lot of labor, doesn’t it?”
“Mechanization, my friend. We use full automation here, so we don’t need a lot of people. Of course, not many people want to come here in the first place. People go crazy if they stay here too long,” said Dunford.
Li Du understood this very well and said, “That’s right, I only came to the Arctic for half a month, and I can already feel the effects. Staying inside the enclosed space of the ship every day, seeing nothing but sea and ice and snow, really saps one’s joy of life.”
“Yes,” said Dunford with a bitter smile. “However, we are here not for half a month, but at least half a year. I’ve been here for two years!”
“Two years? That’s too long!” Li Du exclaimed.
Dunford sighed sadly. “Indeed. So, Mr. Li, you are an important man. If there is an opportunity, could you please help me talk to the company so that the management would let me leave this place soon?”
His words were sincere and Li D wanted to help, but he only knew the Ford brothers and was not familiar with the FM management.
He could not refuse such a request, however, so he said, “I’ll mention you to my friend and if he can influence the company’s personnel allocation, I think he can help you.”
Dunford laughed and said, “That’s great. Come with me. It is not that dull here actually, we do have some entertainment.”
He took Li Du into a building, an activity room with a kitchen, where five cooks worked. The kitchen was full of vegetables. To diversify the miners’ diet, FM Company built a vegetable greenhouse on the island.
The restaurant included a cafe and bar, as well as a variety of recreation rooms, game rooms, a billiards room, a small basketball court, and even a church.
Seeing the church, Sophie went to kneel and pray, while Li Du continued to look around.
He only saw a part of the island, and most of the company was underground, where gold was hidden in the mine.
There were many underground tunnels underneath the island now, and automatic mining vehicles were constantly shuttling through them. The employees mainly had to supervise and maintain the machinery.
By contrast, Li Du’s diamond mine in Amanda, South Africa, was primitive. He wondered, however, how much gold the mine would have to produce to recoup this investment.
Dunford told him that the mine did not cost FM a lot of money to build, and that modern mining equipment was in the pilot stage, funded by the U.S. government to check its usefulness.
Besides, FM Company did not really want to produce so much gold here. It was more a place for the company to show its strength and show the investors that they could operate globally in any corner of the world.