Business News: Gold Fraud Scheme; Icy Lakes Close Steel Mill; More US Oil Rigs

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- Police in Guyana have closed a government office that regulated the sale of gold after discovering that millions of dollars worth of gold had been laced with silver.
The South American country's Natural Resources Ministry says the office in the southwest jungle town of Bartica would gold plate the mix of silver and gold and then ship it to the capital as pure gold.
Officials said late Friday that several government employees have been detained. No one has been charged yet, and the investigation is ongoing.
The office was in charge of buying raw gold from miners in the area.

GARY, Ind. (AP) -- U.S. Steel has temporarily halted steelmaking at its massive northwestern Indiana mill because the ice-covered Great Lakes have cut off the mill's access to vital iron ore.
The company says in a letter to its customers that it has idled the Gary Works complex's blast furnaces and steelmaking due to "unprecedented ice conditions on the Great Lakes."
The Times of Munster reports that treacherous ice covering much of Lake Superior has prevented ships from hauling iron ore from Minnesota's Iron Range to northwestern Indiana steel mills.
The Gary Works complex is the nation's largest steel mill, stretching seven miles along Lake Michigan. It can produce 7.5 million net tons of steel a year.
More than 5,800 employees who work at the mill continue to report to work.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Wildlife and environmental groups are claiming victory when it comes to conservation under the new farm bill.
Two of their top priorities made it into the law, which set federal farm policy for the next five years.
One is "conservation compliance," which means farmers will have to use good conservation practices on highly erodible lands and protect wetlands to qualify for crop insurance premium subsidies.
The other creates "sodsaver" protections to discourage farmers from plowing up native grasslands in the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and Nebraska.
It wasn't a total victory, though. The $57.6 billion in the farm bill for conservation programs over the next 10 years represents a net reduction of $4 billion. And conservationists are disappointed that fewer acres can be enrolled in the popular Conservation Reserve Program.

HOUSTON (AP) -- Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose by nine this week to 1,818.
The Houston firm said in its weekly report Friday that 1,498 rigs were exploring for oil and 316 for gas. Four were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,738 active rigs.
Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas gained 11 rigs, Oklahoma increased by five, Pennsylvania gained three and New Mexico increased by two.
Louisiana lost six, Alaska fell by three, Kansas lost two and California, Colorado and Wyoming lost one each.
Arkansas, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah and West Virginia were unchanged.
The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.