The Pacific Ring of Fire
From bubbling pits of lava to deep ocean sinkholes and everything in between, the Earth is full of geological wonders. The Pacific Ring of Fire is a prime example of one such marvel. Like a necklace of pearls, this long belt of active and inactive volcanoes spans 40,000 km along the tectonic plate boundaries of the Pacific Ocean.
While many people see volcanoes as something to fear, for the mining industry, they can present huge potential. In fact, ancient inactive volcanoes could eventually become profitable mines. With 75% of the earth’s volcanoes and 90% of all earthquakes, the Pacific Ring of Fire is home to many rich mineral deposits, such as gold, copper, molybdenum, and other metals.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Kalo Gold and highlights how the Pacific Ring of Fire’s geology enables the potential for mineral discovery.
Magmas to Metals: Mineral Deposits on the Pacific Ring of Fire
Volcanic activity at tectonic plate boundaries reveals the natural processes of creation and destruction that shape the Earth along its Pacific Rim. The Pacific Ring of Fire is built on two types of tectonic plate boundaries:
Two tectonic plates moving towards each other, where the oceanic crust often subducts under the continental crust.
Two tectonic plates moving away from each other, often resulting in rifts and earthquakes.
It is at these subduction zones where volcanic and seismic activity aids the formation of mineral deposits. The subduction of one plate under the other creates immense pressure, forcing the hot magma that lies beneath the crust to rise towards the surface. This magma transports minerals that solidify when hydrothermal fluids (or magmatic water) rise and cool off, sometimes creating mineable deposits of valuable minerals.
Subduction zones in the Pacific Ring of Fire host the vast majority of the earth’s porphyry deposits and several epithermal deposits. Porphyry deposits contain copper, gold, and molybdenum, whereas epithermal deposits typically bear gold and silver.
However, turning a deposit into a mine requires much more than just the presence of minerals. Although mineral deposits are found all around the Ring, some regions have produced many more discoveries than others.
The Edge of Discovery: The South Pacific
The South Pacific has proven itself as one of the most productive regions for gold and copper mining along the Ring.
The region hosts the famous Grasberg mine, one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines, along with other prolific discoveries like the Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea, and the Cadia mine in Australia. But as these existing mines deplete, the opportunity lies in making new discoveries.
Fiji: The Next Edge of Discovery on the Pacific Ring of Fire
Fiji has a lot to offer to the mining industry with its prime location along the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The Fijian islands are endowed with rich deposits of gold, copper, and zinc. Fiji’s history of gold mining goes back to the 1930s with the Vatukoula mine, which is still in operation today. Furthermore, Fiji topped the Fraser Institute’s 2018 rankings of mining jurisdictions in Oceania in both investment and policy attractiveness.
Fiji’s government supports ethical exploration because the mining industry brings economic benefits to the country. In fact, gold has consistently been one of Fiji’s largest exports:
|Year||Amount of Gold Exported||Gold (as % Share of Total Exports|
Following a period of steady decline between 2010-2015, Fiji’s gold exports peaked in 2016 at 3,777 kg—making up 6.26% of its total exports. In 2019, gold was Fiji’s sixth-largest export, generating more than $50 million in value.
Fiji: Ready for the Next Big Gold Discovery
Fiji remains a hub of exploration activity with several mining companies on the hunt for its next big discovery.
The presence of Vatukoula, Fiji’s largest gold mine containing 10 million ounces of gold, suggests that other large gold deposits are waiting to be found. Although recent discoveries in Fiji do not come close to the Vatukoula’s grand size, it’s only a matter of time before Fiji reveals its treasure.
Smashing Atoms: The History of Uranium and Nuclear Power
Nuclear power is among the world’s cleanest sources of energy, but how did uranium and nuclear power come to be?
The History of Uranium and Nuclear Power
Uranium has been around for millennia, but we only recently began to understand its unique properties.
Today, the radioactive metal fuels hundreds of nuclear reactors, enabling carbon-free energy generation across the globe. But how did uranium and nuclear power come to be?
The above infographic from the Sprott Physical Uranium Trust outlines the history of nuclear energy and highlights the role of uranium in producing clean energy.
From Discovery to Fission: Uncovering Uranium
Just like all matter, the history of uranium and nuclear energy can be traced back to the atom.
Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, first discovered uranium in 1789 by extracting it from a mineral called “pitchblende”. He named uranium after the then newly discovered planet, Uranus. But the history of nuclear power really began in 1895 when German engineer Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays and radiation, kicking off a series of experiments and discoveries—including that of radioactivity.
In 1905, Albert Einstein set the stage for nuclear power with his famous theory relating mass and energy, E = mc2. Roughly 35 years later, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman confirmed his theory by firing neutrons into uranium atoms, which yielded elements lighter than uranium. According to Einstein’s theory, the mass lost during the reaction changed into energy. This demonstrated that fission—the splitting of one atom into lighter elements—had occurred.
“Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy which we use today.”
—Winston Churchill, 1955.
Following the discovery of fission, scientists worked to develop a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. In 1939, a team of French scientists led by Frédéric Joliot-Curie demonstrated that fission can cause a chain reaction and filed the first patent on nuclear reactors.
Later in 1942, a group of scientists led by Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard set off the first nuclear chain reaction through the Chicago Pile-1. Interestingly, they built this makeshift reactor using graphite bricks on an abandoned squash court in the University of Chicago.
These experiments proved that uranium could produce energy through fission. However, the first peaceful use of nuclear fission did not come until 1951, when Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-1) in Idaho generated the first electricity sourced from nuclear power.
The Power of the Atom: Nuclear Power and Clean Energy
Nuclear reactors harness uranium’s properties to generate energy without any greenhouse gas emissions. While uranium’s radioactivity makes it unique, it has three other properties that stand out:
- Material Density: Uranium has a density of 19.1g/cm3, making it one of the densest metals on Earth. For reference, it is nearly as heavy (and dense) as gold.
- Abundance: At 2.8 parts per million, uranium is approximately 700 times more abundant than gold, and 37 times more abundant than silver.
- Energy Density: Uranium is extremely energy-dense. A one-inch tall uranium pellet contains the same amount of energy as 120 gallons of oil.
Thanks to its high energy density, the use of uranium fuel makes nuclear power more efficient than other energy sources. This includes renewables like wind and solar, which typically require much more land (and more units) to generate the same amount of electricity as a single nuclear reactor.
But nuclear power offers more than just a smaller land footprint. It’s also one of the cleanest and most reliable energy sources available today, poised to play a major role in the energy transition.
The Future of Uranium and Nuclear Power
Although nuclear power is often left out of the clean energy conversation, the ongoing energy crisis has brought it back into focus.
Several countries are going nuclear in a bid to reduce reliance on fossil fuels while building reliable energy grids. For example, nuclear power is expected to play a prominent role in the UK’s plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Furthermore, Japan recently approved restarts at three of its nuclear reactors after initially phasing out nuclear power following the Fukushima accident.
The resurgence of nuclear power, in addition to reactors that are already under construction, will likely lead to higher demand for uranium—especially as the world embraces clean energy.
Showcasing the Strength of Canadian Gold Mining
Canadian gold mining has grown to become a highly prolific industry, thanks to its geological riches and political stability.
Showcasing the Strength of Canadian Gold Mining
Gold mining has long played an integral role in shaping Canada’s cities and its modern day economy. The gold mining infrastructure that was built alongside the country’s towns in the 19th century has grown to provide $21.6 billion worth of exports for Canada in 2020.
When combined with the country’s superb geology, Canada’s jurisdictional strengths make it one of the most prolific and secure locations in the world for mining companies to explore, develop, and produce gold.
This infographic sponsored by Clarity Gold dives into how Canada has grown into a nation built for gold mining. Both in how the country facilitates the production of gold, and how the gold mining industry supports Canada’s economy and local communities.
Canada’s Golden Geology and Production
Gold is scattered across the Canadian landscape in a variety of gold mining regions and districts, with the most prolific located between Ontario and Québec.
The 2 billion year-old Archean greenstone belt that arcs through the centre of the Canadian shield provides the foundation for the Abitibi gold belt, which has produced more than 190Moz of gold.
|Gold Mining District/Region||Provinces/Territories||Gold Produced (million troy ounces)|
|Abitibi Greenstone Belt||Ontario and Québec||>190Moz|
|Trans-Hudson Corridor||Saskatchewan and Manitoba||>40Moz|
|Golden Triangle||British Columbia||>5Moz|
Source: Resource World
The Trans-Hudson corridor in Saskatchewan and Manitoba has produced more than 40Moz of gold, while the Red Lake mining district of eastern Ontario and the Golden Triangle in British Columbia have delivered >30Moz and >5Moz respectively.
Last year, Canada’s top 10 mines produced 3.26 million ounces of gold combined, equating to more than $6 billion worth of the yellow precious metal.
|Mine||Province/Territory||Primary Owner/Operator||2020 Gold Production (thousand troy ounces)|
|Canadian Malartic||Québec||Yamana/Agnico Eagle||569Koz|
|Detour Lake||Ontario||Kirkland Lake||517Koz|
|LaRonde (incl. LZ5)||Québec||Agnico Eagle||350Koz|
|Rainy River||Ontario||New Gold||229Koz|
Ontario and Québec are the powerhouse provinces of Canadian gold production, hosting 30 mines between the two provinces.
A Nation Built for Gold Mining
Canada’s politically secure nature and established permitting process has resulted in five of the 10 largest gold mining companies having projects in Canada. Three Canadian provinces (Saskatchewan, Québec, and Newfoundland & Labrador) are among the world’s 10 most attractive mining investment jurisdictions according to the Fraser Institute’s 2020 survey of mining companies.
Beyond the legal and permitting strengths of the nation, Canada’s extensive network of capital markets has enabled the Canadian companies to dominate the world’s gold mining industry. With Agnico Eagle and Kirkland Lake’s upcoming merger, three of the world’s top five gold mining companies will be headquartered in Canada.
The Canadian equity markets are a key driver of the world’s gold exploration and development funding, with the TSX having raised $7.5 billion in mining equity capital in 2020. Gold still remains the major driver of these money flows, with gold mining companies making up more than half of Canada’s mining exploration budget.
How Gold Mining Gives Back to Canada
Ever since the first discoveries of gold across Canada in the 1800s, the development and production of gold mines has been the foundation for many towns and merchants across the nation.
Today, Canada’s mining industry directly employs more than 392,000 Canadians, with the sector offering the highest average annual industrial rate of pay in the country at $123,000. The industry is also proportionally the largest private sector employer of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
From the nation’s prolific gold deposits to its network of funding through robust public markets for mining equities, gold mining has grown into one of Canada’s most important strengths. The discovery, development, and production of the precious metal will remain an essential pillar of Canada’s economy.
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