Our new commemorative £2 coin

Commemorative £2 coin

Year: 2010

Creators: Royally Minted (Mike Swan, Will Davies, Emma Christie-Miller, Becky Woolford, Meagan Wheatley, Maddie Redfern, Robbie Black, Lucy Webber, Jade Stevens, Katy Charlton, Tom Bollands)

Type: undergraduate group work, University of Exeter, UK.

Availability: free online, originally posted here, edited and posted below in full.

Page reference: Minted, R. (2010) Our new commemorative £2 coin. ( last accessed <insert date here>)


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

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

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

Weight: 12.0g
Thickness: 2.50mm

Nickel-Brass (76% copper, 4% nickel, 20% zinc)
Inner: Cupro-nickel (75% copper, 25% nickel)
(Source: Royal Mint nda link)
About Your Coin

This beautiful commemorative coin, designed by the renowned engraver Benedetto Pistrucci (Anon nda link), has been released to celebrate The Royal Mint's 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 (London Metal Exchange nd link).
The metals

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 and 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’ (Royal Mint ndb 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 (O’Shaughnessy 2007 link).

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 (ibid. link).

‘Chile is the world’s largest copper producer and hosts about 30% of the globe’s known copper resources and accounts for over 35% of global copper production ... (For) the Chilean economy, copper accounts for 45% of exports’ [Mbendi Information Services 2010 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’ (Anon 1997 link].

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

This snippet from the Trade and Environment Database Case Study outlines the effects of copper 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” [Anon 1997 link].

‘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’ [Anon 1997 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’ [Egan 2001 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’ [Soto 2009 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’ [Soto 2009 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’ [Egan 2001 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 [Stanovov 2009 link]. Norilsk Nickel sells to the London Metal Exchange; in the first half of 2010 it sold 1kton directly to the LME [Anon 2010 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 on the city by the BBC’s Richard Galpin (2007 link) and the smelter named ‘Hope’:

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’ [Galpin 2007 link]

‘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’  [Egan 2001, p.28].

‘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’ [Galpin 2007 link].

‘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’ [Egan 2001, p.28].

‘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’ [ibid., p.28-29].
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 the hospital. The damage to the miner was permanent. Now the San Jose mine collapse and got 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 when he worked with them at the San Jose mine. A geologist was killed in the same 2007 accident, 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' [Murano 2010 link].
A special Thanks
This coin has been commissioned in order to enlighten ourselves about 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 (Royal Mint nd link), which we find ironic as the construction of the coins themselves perpetuate ‘slave labour’ and unsafe working conditions.
Contrive magiscus sponte


Anon (2010) Publication on NN. Статья о "Норильском никеле". Норильский металл 30 August [ last accessed 28 February 2011]

Anon (1997) TED Case Studies: Chile Copper Exports. [ last accessed 28 February 2011]

Anon (nda) Benedetto Pistrucci. [ last accessed 28 February 2011]

Anon (ndb) 2007: Norilsk, Russia. [ last accessed 25 February 2011]

Egan, L. (2001) Investigating the Impact of Large Mines on Chilean Communities. International Development Research Centre 3 September [ last accessed 28 February 2011]

Galpin, R. (2007) Toxic truth of secretive Siberian city. BBC News 5 April [ last accessed 28 February 2011]

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Stanovov, A. (2009) Norilsk Nickel acknowledges pollution, says measures taken. RAI Novosti 20 November [ last accessed 28 February 2011]

Edited by Ian Cook (last updated March 2011). Page created as part of the ‘Geographies of material culture’ module at Exeter University.