February 28, 2003

There's GOLD in them thar (Linux) Hills!

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -

The company name is Linux Gold. The URL is linuxgoldcorp.com. This name is brand-new. It used to be LinuxWizardry (Google Cache), and before that it was called Flame Petro-Minerals. What does the company do? It owns gold mining claims in Alaska. But, says CEO/President John Robertson, "We still use the name 'Linux' because we have Linux antispam and antivirus solutions in the company, and we don't really want to disappear from the Linux scenario."

Ummm, okay. The story, according to Robertson (and old press releases and news stories we found) goes something like this:

Once upon a time there was a private company called Flame Petro-Minerals based in Vancouver, Canada, whose prime asset was a trio of oil wells in Texas that Robertson says produced 1.5 million barrels of oil. On the strength of its oil revenue, the company went public, and managed to acquireLinuxWizardry of Boca Raton, Florida, (makers of the Magic Passage(TM) DSL/Cable Router) along with some ISP and Internet portal-type "properties" that seem to have died and left behind nothing but a few dead or obsolete Web pages.

In April, 2000, the (no longer maintained) Wide Open News site ran an article headlined "Panning for Linux" that said, in part:

John G. Robertson, president of the shell company, is upfront about his motivations for switching from gold mining to Linux. "The one thing public companies have in common is the mission to make shareholders money," he told Wide Open News. "It doesn't make any difference whether it's gold or whether it's tech."

"Right now," says Robertson, "there's a real slump in mining companies.... Linux is hot. You've got to go with the trends."

The article explains in detail why LinuxWizardry -- which had a real product they displayed at LinuxWorld 2000 in New York -- chose to merge with what was essentially a "shell" company rather than do its own IPO. Instead of repeating the whole tale here, just go to this sendmail.net news link, where (for the moment) the story lives on even though it has disappeared from the Wide Open News archives.

The company's stock trades under the LNXWF symbol. According to historical price data from Yahoo, share prices peaked at over $3.50 in March, 2000, have been as low as one cent, and are now around seven cents. This is, sadly, a not uncommon share price pattern for companies that tried to strike it rich during the dot-com boom and are still hanging on one way or another. Except most of them don't happen to own gold mining claims in Alaska, as Linux Gold does.

Stocks down + political instability = gold prices rise

This is a rather common historical trend. And this article -- from a biased source, namely a gold trading company that wants you to buy from them -- claims gold prices are up, up, up, and will continue to rise. There may even be some truth to this: As of February 26, 2003, gold was going for around $350 per ounce, up from under $300 per ounce in February, 2002.

Robertson says this combination of higher gold prices plus the fact that Linux Gold's Fish Creek Claims are next to a property where another company, Teryl Resources, which is doing the actual drilling on Linux Gold's property in exchange for a major stake in the profits, has reportedly found some very interesting gold deposits. Robertson also says there's a gold refining mill conveniently located only six miles away, operated by big-time Kinross Gold Corporation, that is hungry for new ore to process.

From Robertson's perspective, just as the move from mineral extraction to Internet and Linux technology was a Good Thing when those areas were hot with investors, a move back to gold -- especially at today's high prices -- is also totally logical. He claims he's not down on tech, that "the only problem with tech stocks today is that no one pays attention to them, while gold is moving to higher ground."

Gold today, Linux tomorrow (perhaps)

"We still think the Linux operating system is going to be one of the best operating systems out there, but one of our best properties is our Fish Creek claim, so we're working on that right now," says Robertson.

"It doesn't hurt to be diversified," he points out, "when you have these changes in the outlook of companies. Before, there was an Internet boom. Now there's a gold boom."

As far as moving back into the Linux business, he says, "Once we raise enough money [from the gold operation] we'd like to do some advertising in that area."

But for the moment, the company's Web site has nothing "Linux" about it except the company name. And on the day this article was written, the site's Business Vision page had only three words on it:

Coming Up Soon


Editor's note: We were not able to find former LinuxWizardry CEO Mike Carpenter while researching this story. If you know where he is, please ask him to contact editors@newsforge.com. We'd love to talk with him.

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