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All Portuguese shipwreck gold to be recovered
by AFP

All the contents of a 500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck discovered by chance off Namibia will be salvaged by the end of next week, the ministry of culture in Lisbon said Wednesday.

Archaeologists from Portugal, Namibia, the United States and Zimbabwe are working to raise the cargo, which included hundreds of gold coins, before October 10, which Namibian officials said was a deadline imposed by the huge costs involved.

However the Portuguese culture ministry said the deadline had been October 2, because weather conditions were expected to put a stop to work by that date.

Now new forecasts of good weather had enabled the date to be put back to October 10, it said.

Last week, the Namibian culture ministry said the rescue operation was costing some 100,000 Namibian dollars (12,500 dollars, 8,500 euros) per day.

All that is keeping the wreck intact is an artificial sand wall created by mine workers with bulldozers to push back the sea for diamond dredging.

The Portuguese government said that its "fundamental interest" is "to guarantee the complete protection" of the ship and the adjacent sea-bed's remaining cargo.

The ship was found in April during the diamond dredging operation.

It contained over 2,300 gold coins weighing some 21 kilograms (46 pounds), six bronze cannons, silver, several tonnes of copper, huge elephant tusks and a variety of weapons.

"The relics will be rescued by the expected date for the end of the operations," a spokesman for the Portuguese ministry of culture told AFP.

The abundance of objects unearthed where the ship ran aground along Namibia's notorious Skeleton coast, where hundreds of vessels were wrecked over the centuries, has amazed even hardened experts.

Under international maritime laws, a wreck and its treasures belong to the country where they were found, and the initial haul of coins is now locked in the vaults of the Bank of Namibia in Windhoek.

The government said it plans at some point to mount an exhibition of the findings and later erect a special museum in Oranjemund to house the incredible collection.

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