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Everything You Need to Know About Copper Porphyries

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Everything You Need to Know About Copper Porphyries

Everything You Need to Know About Copper Porphyries

Presented by Entrée Gold

What is a Porphyry?

Porphyry deposits are very large, polymetallic systems that typically contain copper along with other important metals. Much of today’s mineral production depends on porphyries: 60% of copper, 95% of molbdenum, and 20% of gold comes from this deposit type.

Where and How are Porphyries Formed?

Porphyries are most commonly found along the west coast of North and South America, as well as in the Southwest Pacific.

Porphyries are formed in tectonic plate convergent zones where oceanic crust has subducted beneath the continental crust, and in some cases the oceanic crust. As the plate subducts, the overlying upper mantle partially melts and the liquid magma rises to the surface. Hot fluids rise to the surface by flowing through cracks and fissures. Metals precipitate out of the solution as fluid cools and moves away from the heat source and pressure.

Mineralization

In porphyry mineralization, there are many economic minerals that can be found: copper, gold, molybdenum, silver, lead, zinc, tin, and tungsten. There are also associated mineral deposits that can form that depend on the host rock and the distance from the heat source. These include skarn, epithermal, and breccia type deposits.

Four Things to Know on Porphyries

  1. Polymetallic nature – Each porphyry is unique and holds different concentrations of minerals. Some deposits have such high concentrations of gold that they may be considered gold deposits rather than copper deposits. Others have barely any gold at all but may have plenty of molybdenum.
  2. Large Size, Low Grade – Porphyries typically have 100 million to 5 billion tonnes of ore with a lower grade (0.2% to >1% copper). It is the size of these deposits that allow for bulk mining and economies of scale.
  3. Long Mine Life – The size of porphyry systems usually mean that the life of the mine can be multi-decades long. This means that these deposits last through multiple market cycles, and are thus not as vulnerable to challenging market environments compared to other smaller mines.
  4. Infrastructure is Key – In order to process large amounts of ore, infrastructure can be a large part of initial capital expenditures (CAPEX). Access to power and water are key issues as large amounts of both are needed to process ore. The footprint of the mine and volume of tailings disposal can also make porphyries more challenging to permit.

Example Porphyry

Each year the Bingham Canyon Mine, located in Utah and owned by Rio Tinto and in production since 1906, produces approximately:

  • 300,000 tons of copper
  • 400,000 oz of gold
  • 4,000,000 oz of silver
  • 30,000,000 lbs of molybdenum

The value of the resources extracted to date from the Bingham Canyon Mine is greater than the Comstock Lode, Klondike, and California gold rush mining regions combined.

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Batteries

Ranked: The World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2023

Three countries account for almost 90% of the lithium produced in the world.

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Voronoi graphic showing the top lithium producers in 2023.

The World’s Largest Lithium Producers in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Three countries—Australia, Chile, and China—accounted for 88% of lithium production in 2023.

In this graphic, we list the world’s leading countries in terms of lithium production. These figures come from the latest USGS publication on lithium statistics (published Jan 2024).

Australia Leads, China Approaches Chile

Australia, the world’s leading producer, extracts lithium directly from hard-rock mines, specifically from the mineral spodumene.

The country saw a big jump in output over the last decade. In 2013, Australia produced 13,000 metric tons of lithium, compared to 86,000 metric tons in 2023.

RankCountryLithium production 2023E (metric tons)
1🇦🇺 Australia86,000
2🇨🇱 Chile44,000
3🇨🇳 China33,000
4🇦🇷 Argentina9,600
5🇧🇷 Brazil4,900
6🇨🇦 Canada3,400
7🇿🇼 Zimbabwe3,400
8🇵🇹 Portugal380
🌍 World Total184,680

Chile is second in rank but with more modest growth. Chilean production rose from 13,500 tonnes in 2013 to 44,000 metric tons in 2023. Contrary to Australia, the South American country extracts lithium from brine.

China, which also produces lithium from brine, has been approaching Chile over the years. The country increased its domestic production from 4,000 metric tons in 2013 to 33,000 last year.

Chinese companies have also increased their ownership shares in lithium producers around the globe; three Chinese companies are also among the top lithium mining companies. The biggest, Tianqi Lithium, has a significant stake in Greenbushes, the world’s biggest hard-rock lithium mine in Australia.

Argentina, the fourth country on our list, more than tripled its production over the last decade and has received investments from other countries to increase its output.

With all the top producers increasing output to cover the demand from the clean energy industry, especially for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, the lithium market has seen a surplus recently, which caused prices to collapse by more than 80% from a late-2022 record high.

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