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Some $375-million (U.S.) in gold and silver buried beneath the World Trade Center since the Sept. 11 attacks has been found and is being relocated, Bank of Nova Scotia, the custodian for the metals, said yesterday.

"We are relocating contents of a vault and the reason that we're moving the contents now is because authorities need to demolish the building," said Pam Agnew, spokeswoman for Scotiabank,the parent of bullion dealer and depository ScotiaMocatta, the bank's metals trading arm.

"The gold is in pristine condition," she said.

The vault is located at 4 World Trade Center. The building is adjacent to the twin towers, which collapsed as a result of the terrorist attacks.

The building where the gold and silver was stored was reduced to mostly rubble, just like the twin towers, the Associated Press reported.

The eight vault employees, who kept watch over the gold and silver before the attacks, escaped unharmed.

The bank declined to elaborate for security reasons, but said it was working closely with authorities to ensure a "safe and secure relocation effort" for the underground hoard.

The disaster prevented access to 12 tonnes of gold and almost 30 million ounces of silver that were stored in the facility on behalf of the COMEX metals trading division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The metal was used to guarantee delivery against futures contracts traded at the COMEX.

It is believed that other valuables were kept in the vaults, but there was no information on whether additional precious metals, jewels or securities might have been recovered or lost in the disaster.

The New York Daily News reported yesterday that emergency crews in lower Manhattan found the gold Tuesday. Workers loaded at least two Brink's Inc. armored trucks with metal.

At an afternoon news conference yesterday, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani confirmed that Brink's armored cars were at the location and that "most" of the gold had been found.

The Daily News said that a small army of heavily armed federal agents stood guard as policemen and firefighters packed the trucks.

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