Everything You Need to Know about VMS Deposits
People are often not aware of where their most prized devices really come from.
Phones, cars, and computers might not seem like the most natural objects. But the metals that make them come from natural processes deep in the earth’s crust – processes that have been going on for 3.4 billion years, and continue to this day.
Today’s visualization comes to us from Foran Mining Corp. and goes in depth to show how one type of mineral deposit, Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide or “VMS”, forms and is the primary source for many of the materials that make the modern world.
What is a VMS Deposit?
Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits are one of the richest sources of metals such as copper, lead, and zinc globally. VMS deposits can also produce economic amounts of gold and silver as byproducts of mining these deposits.
Currently, global metal production from VMS deposits account for 22% of zinc, 9.7% of lead, 6% of copper, 8.7% of silver and 2.2% of gold.
Where are VMS deposits found?
VMS deposits occur around the globe and often form in clusters or camps, following the tectonic plate boundaries in areas of ancient underwater volcanic activity.
Natural processes underway today are forming the VMS deposits of tomorrow. This gives scientists an incredible advantage in witnessing how VMS deposits form and gives a special advantage to geologists for what to look for.
Mineralization and Formation
The geological processes that form VMS deposits occur at the depths of the ocean and are associated with volcanic and/or sedimentary rocks.
At sections where the Earth’s crust is thin due to faulting or separation of tectonic plates, the magma heats up the ocean floor.
As the Earth’s crust heats up, the ground softens and allows heated magma to escape towards the ocean or crust contact, the early beginning of a volcano and the deposition of minerals into the ocean floor from magma. Also, the heated ground cracks and begins a process that draws in sea water into the crust which becomes super-heated and imbued with minerals. Black and white smokers expel this seawater back to the surface.
Black and white smokers exhale a mineral rich-plume that spreads out over the ocean floor. As it moves farther and farther away from its heat source, the plume precipitates minerals onto the ocean floor. Over time, the continual activity of the smokers and their mineral rich plumes create mineralized beds that become VMS deposits.
With the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates, these mineral rich beds are transposed and can be found on land that was once underwater.
How Big Can VMS Deposits Get?
Current resource and historical production figures from 904 VMS deposits around the world average roughly 17 million tonnes (“Mt”), of which is approximately 1.7% copper, 3.1% zinc, and 0.7% lead.
A few giant mineral deposits (greater than 30 Mt) and several copper-rich and zinc-rich deposits of median tonnage (~2 Mt) skew the averages.
Several large VMS camps are known in Canada, including the Flin Flon, Bathurst and Noranda camps. The high-grade deposits within these camps are often in the range of five to 20 million tonnes of ore and can be much larger.
Meanwhile, approximately 90 VMS deposits have been discovered in the Iberian Pyrite Belt which runs through Portugal and Spain. Several of these are larger than 100 million tonnes, making this region one of the most significant hosts to VMS deposits in the world.
How to Avoid Common Mistakes With Mining Stocks (Part 3: Jurisdiction)
“Location, location, location…”
This famous real estate adage also matters in mining. After all, it’s an industry that is all about the geology—but beyond the physical aspects and the location of a mineral deposit, there are also social and environmental factors that create a mining jurisdiction.
Common Mistakes With Jurisdiction
We’ve partnered with Eclipse Gold Mining on an infographic series to show you how to avoid common mistakes when evaluating and investing in mining exploration stocks.
Part 3 of the series focuses on six signals investors can use to gauge a company’s preparedness for the jurisdictions they operate in.
#1: Geological Potential: Methodical Prospecting or Wild Goose Chase?
It all starts with a great drill result, but even these can be “one-off” anomalies.
Mineral exploration is a methodical process of drawing a subsurface picture with the tip of a drill bit. A mineral discovery is the cumulative effort of years of research and drilling.
The key to reducing this geological risk is to find a setting that has shown previous potential and committing to it. Typically, a region is known to have hosted other great discoveries or shares a geology similar to other mining districts.
Signs of Methodical Prospecting:
- Lots of geological indicators
- Potential for further discovery
- Sound science
#2: Legal Environment: Well-Paved Path or Minotaur’s Maze?
Now that you have identified a region with the prospective geology you think could host a discovery, a company will have to secure the permits to explore and operate any further.
However, a management team that cannot navigate a country’s bureaucracy will face delays and obstacles, costing investors both time and money.
Without clear laws and competent management, a mining company’s best laid plans become lost in a maze with legal monsters around every legal corner.
Signs of a Well-Paved Highway:
- Existing laws encourage mining investment
- Relatively low bureaucracy
- Well-established permitting process
- Legacy of mining contributing to economy
#3: Politics: Professional Politics or Banana Republics?
A good legal framework is often the outcome of politics and stable governance—however so is a difficult legal framework.
The political stability of a nation can turn on one election and so can the prospects for developing a mine. An anti-mining leader can halt a mining project, or a pro-mining leader can usher forward one.
A positive national viewpoint on mining may be enough to lure investment dollars, but local politics may determine the success of a mining company.
Signs of Professional Politics:
- Positive history with mining companies
- Politically stable jurisdiction
- Rule of law respected
- Changes in government have little effect on the mining industry
#4: Infrastructure & Labor: Modern or Medieval
Sometimes it is the discovery of valuable minerals that spurs national development, but this can also happen the other way around, in which development can encourage mineral discovery.
A mining company looking to build a new mine in a country with a tradition of mining will have an easier time. Access or lack thereof to modern machinery and trained employees will determine how much money will be needed.
That said, if a company is looking to develop a mining project in a new mining region, they must be ready to help create the skills and infrastructure it needs to mine.
Signs of a Modern Jurisdiction:
- Developed roads to access and support operations
- Trained labor for staffing and development
- Well-established grid lines and back-up power systems
#5: Community: Fostering Friendship or Sowing Enemies
Mining operations have a significant impact on the local community. Good companies look to make mutually beneficial partnerships of equals with local communities.
Ignoring or failing to respect the local community will jeopardize a mining project at every stage of its mine life. A local community that does not want mining to occur will oppose even the best laid plans.
Signs of a Friendly Relations:
- Operations bring community together
- Local history shows support for mining
- Understanding of local concerns and regional variety
- Company contributes to economic growth and health of the community
#6: Environment: Clean Campsite or One Night Party
There is no way around it: mining impacts the environment and local ecosystems. But, mining operations are a blip on the radar when it comes to Earth’s timeline.
Mine sites can again become productive ecosystems, if a company has the capacity and plan to mitigate mining’s impacts at every stage of the life of a mine—even beyond the life of a mine.
Signs of a Clean Campsite:
- Development plan mitigates environmental damage
- Well-planned closure and remediation
- Understand how communities use their environment
Bringing it together: ESG Investing
These six points outlined above point towards a more complete picture of the impacts of a mining project. Currently, this falls under what is labeled as Environmental, Social and Governance “ESG” standards.
Mining companies are the forefront of a big push to adopt these types of considerations into their business, because they directly affect natural and human environments.
ESG is no longer green wash, especially for the mining industry. Companies that understand and apply these concepts in their business will have better outcomes in the jurisdictions they operate within, hopefully offering investors a more successful venture.
Geology does not change on the human time scale, but bad management can quickly lose a good project and investor’s money if they do not pay attention to the other attributes of a jurisdiction.
Silver Bulls: Visualizing the Price of Silver
Silver has always proved its value throughout history. From ancient coins to jewelry, silver retains its value and goes through tough times.
Silver Bulls: Visualizing the Price of Silver
Silver has always shown its value throughout history. From ancient coins to its use as a global currency during the Age of Discovery, silver has circulated the world to become an important financial asset. Its value continues to shine in the era of the modern finance industry.
Today’s infographic comes to us from New Pacific Metals and it takes a look at the bull markets in silver prices and the future of silver.
Silver Bulls: 1967 to Today
The late 1960s marked the beginning of the end for silver as currency, but also the start of its use in protecting and securing wealth.
In the United States, silver certificates were issued by the Treasury until late 1963, when the $1 Federal Reserve Note was released into circulation. After this, the remaining silver certificates were still redeemable for silver, but this practice ended in 1968.
Since then, silver has had several bull markets in which prices have increased—or as some silver aficionados may argue, the relative value of fiat currency has decreased.
|Percentage Gain||Price Range (USD)*||Duration|
|Silver Bull #1 (1967-68)||49%||$12.50 - $18.58||13 months|
|Silver Bull #2 (1971-74)||274%||$8.45 - $31.59||27 months|
|Silver Bull #3 (1976-80)||544%||$18.40 - $118.50||48 months|
|Silver Bull #4 (1986-87)||40%||$12.47 - $17.48||12 months|
|Silver Bull #5 (1993-95)||39%||$6.47 - $9.00||27 months|
|Silver Bull #6 (2001-11)||827%||$6.01 - $55.69||113 months|
|Silver Bull #7 (2015-Present?)||90%||$15.04 - $28.53||56 months|
*Inflation-adjusted data using CPI from BLS, LBMA Monthly prices
That said, not all silver bull markets are the same, nor do they necessarily coincide with bull markets in the price of gold.
Performance: Gold vs. Silver
Despite being often referred to as “poor man’s gold”, silver has actually outperformed gold in five of the six previous bull markets for gold and silver.
There are two ways to look at how silver prices performed during these timeframes:
- We can compare silver price performance to corresponding peaks and troughs of the gold price
- We can also look at silver prices based on its own peaks and troughs, irrespective of gold
Often, gold prices move first with silver prices quickly following—but then, silver can outperform gold on its own timeline.
|Gold Performance||Silver Performance||Silver Performance|
|Based on gold's peaks and troughs||Based on silver's peaks and troughs|
|Silver Bull #1||40%||-17%||100%|
|Silver Bull #2||455%||144%||432%|
|Silver Bull #3||715%||912%||977%|
|Silver Bull #4||78%||27%||94%|
|Silver Bull #5||28%||63%||75%|
|Silver Bull #6:||636%||904%||45%|
Source: CPM Group (Nominal data)
More recently, prices of silver have been on an upward trend since 2015 and some would say we are in a new bull market for the precious metal. For however longer, it is anyone’s guess.
The Future of Silver?
While the future price direction of silver is difficult to predict, this doesn’t diminish the increasing importance of silver’s role as a metal in an electrified future.
As you can see in the demand breakdown below, silver is not only precious—it is useful:
|Silver Demand (2019)||Millions of Ounces|
|...of which Photovoltaics||98.7|
|Net Physical Investment||186.1|
Source: Silver Institute
While silver’s uses and applications continue to grow, silver remains a safe haven investment from political uncertainty and economic distress—all while being a cheaper and better alternative to gold.
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