By Ransdell Pierson
(Reuters) - A cache of gold dust has gone missing from a Pfizer Inc laboratory in suburban St. Louis, and police say they are investigating whether it was lost or stolen.
Police in Chesterfield, Missouri said they began an investigation a week ago after an employee of the drugmaker conducted inventory at the laboratory and could not find the precious metal bought for $700,000 last year. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported the news on Friday.
"They went to check on it and found out there was a quantity missing," Capt. Steven Lewis of the Chesterfield, Mo. police department told Reuters.
Lewis said some of the gold may have been used for "legitimate business." He declined to say whether all of the dust, or just part of it, was gone.
Pfizer said it would be inappropriate for the company to comment until police completed the investigation. It did not say how gold is used in the laboratory. Pfizer has three research sites in Missouri, including the Chesterfield Lab.
"We are taking this matter very seriously and working closely with local law enforcement authorities," said Pfizer spokesman Steve Danehy.
In the meantime, the investigation has given authorities in St. Louis a break from their normal routine.
"We have never had a report of missing gold dust before," Lewis said. "Fort Knox may have, but we never have."
(Reporting By Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Jilian Mincer and Leslie Gevirtz)