Re-Awakening of the Golden Triangle
The Re-Awakening of the Golden Triangle
Many years ago, a remote and mountainous region in northwestern British Columbia gained considerable notoriety as an emerging mineral district. With a rich mining history, one of the world’s largest silver mines (Eskay Creek, discovered in 1988), and million ounce gold deposits – this area of incredible wealth became known as “The Golden Triangle”.
However, despite its obvious potential, the vast majority of land in this highly prospective region has been left mostly untouched by humans. A combination of factors, including low gold prices and a lack of infrastructure, has led to the area laying dormant for decades.
Today, things are changing dramatically. The Golden Triangle is a new hotbed for mineral discovery, and over 130 million ounces of gold, 800 million ounces of silver, and 40 billion lbs of copper have been found. The amazing part is that this is only scratching the surface of the region’s ultimate potential.
Skeena Resources and IDM Mining have generously helped us to put together the story on the re-awakening of the famed Golden Triangle.
The New Gold Rush
Why is the Golden Triangle at the center of attention again? There are five main reasons:
1. New Deposits Found
The old adage is that the best place to find a new mine is near an existing one. Here are three major deposits in the Golden Triangle that have geologists and financiers buzzing:
Seabridge’s KSM Project is the largest gold project in the world. It recently received the green light from Canada’s federal government to go ahead in 2014.
A porphyry-style deposit, it has reserves of 38.8 million oz of gold, 10.2 billion lbs of copper, and 183 million oz of silver.
This $700 million copper and gold mine entered production in 2015.
Owned by Imperial Metals, it will be in production until 2043 based on current mine life estimates. In 2016 alone, it produced 83 million lbs of copper, 47,000 oz of gold, and 190,000 oz of silver.
Valley of the Kings
The latest, and perhaps most interesting, discovery in the Golden Triangle is slotted to reach commercial production in 2017.
The Valley of the Kings, unlike the above porphyry-style deposits, contains extremely high-grade gold. With 8.1 million ounces at a grade of 16.1 g/t, this deposit has some of the richest ore in the world.
2. New Infrastructure
In recent years, the Golden Triangle has received three massively important infrastructure upgrades:
- Paving of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (North from Smithers)
- The opening of ocean port facilities for export of concentrate at Stewart
- Completion of a $700 million high-voltage transmission line to bring power into the Golden Triangle
3. Declining Snow Cover
Glacial ice and snow has been retreating in many parts of the region, revealing rocks never seen before by human eyes. Especially in a mineral-rich region such as the Golden Triangle, this is a very exciting prospect for mineral geologists.
4. A New Geological Explanation
The Golden Triangle region has complex geology that has befuddled explorers for decades – but recent work has made the picture much clearer. Geologist Jeff Kyba has put forth the following theory: geologic contact between Triassic age Stuhini rocks and Jurassic age Hazelton rocks is the key marker for copper-gold mineralization.
Most of the Triangle’s copper-gold deposits, whether they are large-scale porphyry and intrusion-related, are found within 2km of this contact. It’s been infamously named “The Red Line”, and this new interpretation of the region’s geology could contribute to BC’s next mega deposit.
5. Gold Price Recovery
Since the “sleepy” days of the Golden Triangle, gold prices have increased 3x, even after adjusting for inflation.
Combined with new infrastructure, exciting projects, and world-class mineral potential, and the Golden Triangle is awake again.
What’s Happening Today?
Today, the Golden Triangle is buzzing with activity.
- The Red Chris Mine is now in operation
- Valley of the Kings is entering production in 2017.
- KSM, the world’s largest gold deposit, is nearing potential construction.
- Historic mines like the Snip Mine and Granduc are being explored using modern methods.
- New high-grade gold is being found. Red Mountain and the old Premier Gold Mine are the sites of some of these discoveries.
- Dozens of companies are on the ground performing all phases of exploration.
Many types of mineral deposits are being tested for, including high-grade gold veins, large-scale porphyries, and VMS (volcanogenic massive sulphide) deposits.
The Golden Triangle is once again the center of the attention, and it could be poised to become one of the world’s most prolific concentrations of mineral wealth.
Visualizing the Uranium Mining Industry in 3 Charts
These visuals highlight the uranium mining industry and its output, as well as the trajectory of nuclear energy from 1960 to today.
When uranium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Heinrich Klaproth, it’s likely the German chemist didn’t know how important the element would become to human life.
Used minimally in glazing and ceramics, uranium was originally mined as a byproduct of producing radium until the late 1930s. However, the discovery of nuclear fission, and the potential promise of nuclear power, changed everything.
What’s the current state of the uranium mining industry? This series of charts from Truman Du highlights production and the use of uranium using 2021 data from the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and Our World in Data.
Who are the Biggest Uranium Miners in the World?
Most of the world’s biggest uranium suppliers are based in countries with the largest uranium deposits, like Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada.
The largest of these companies is Kazatomprom, a Kazakhstani state-owned company that produced 25% of the world’s new uranium supply in 2021.
As seen in the above chart, 94% of the roughly 48,000 tonnes of uranium mined globally in 2021 came from just 13 companies.
|Rank||Company||2021 Uranium Production (tonnes)||Percent of Total|
|3||🇷🇺 Uranium One||4,514||9%|
|6||🇺🇿 Navoi Mining||3,500||7%|
|9||🇦🇺 General Atomics/Quasar||2,241||5%|
|11||🇬🇧 Energy Asia||900||2%|
France’s Orano, another state-owned company, was the world’s second largest producer of uranium at 4,541 tonnes.
Companies rounding out the top five all had similar uranium production numbers to Orano, each contributing around 9% of the global total. Those include Uranium One from Russia, Cameco from Canada, and CGN in China.
Where are the Largest Uranium Mines Found?
The majority of uranium deposits around the world are found in 16 countries with Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada accounting for for nearly 40% of recoverable uranium reserves.
But having large reserves doesn’t necessarily translate to uranium production numbers. For example, though Australia has the biggest single deposit of uranium (Olympic Dam) and the largest reserves overall, the country ranks fourth in uranium supplied, coming in at 9%.
Here are the top 10 uranium mines in the world, accounting for 53% of the world’s supply.
Of the largest mines in the world, four are found in Kazakhstan. Altogether, uranium mined in Kazakhstan accounted for 45% of the world’s uranium supply in 2021.
|Uranium Mine||Country||Main Owner||2021 Production|
|Cigar Lake||🇨🇦 Canada||Cameco/Orano||4,693t|
|Inkai 1-3||🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||Kazaktomprom/Cameco||3,449t|
|Husab||🇳🇦 Namibia||Swakop Uranium (CGN)||3,309t|
|Karatau (Budenovskoye 2)||🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||Uranium One/Kazatomprom||2,561t|
|Four Mile||🇦🇺 Australia||Quasar||2,241t|
|Olympic Dam||🇦🇺 Australia||BHP Billiton||1,922t|
|Central Mynkuduk||🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||Ortalyk||1,579t|
|Kharasan 1||🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||Kazatomprom/Uranium One||1,579t|
Namibia, which has two of the five largest uranium mines in operation, is the second largest supplier of uranium by country, at 12%, followed by Canada at 10%.
Interestingly, the owners of these mines are not necessarily local. For example, France’s Orano operates mines in Canada and Niger. Russia’s Uranium One operates mines in Kazakhstan, the U.S., and Tanzania. China’s CGN owns mines in Namibia.
And despite the African continent holding a sizable amount of uranium reserves, no African company placed in the top 10 biggest companies by production. Sopamin from Niger was the highest ranked at #12 with 809 tonnes mined.
Uranium Mining and Nuclear Energy
Uranium mining has changed drastically since the first few nuclear power plants came online in the 1950s.
For 30 years, uranium production grew steadily due to both increasing demand for nuclear energy and expanding nuclear arsenals, eventually peaking at 69,692 tonnes mined in 1980 at the height of the Cold War.
Nuclear energy production (measured in terawatt-hours) also rose consistently until the 21st century, peaking in 2001 when it contributed nearly 7% to the world’s energy supply. But in the years following, it started to drop and flatline.
By 2021, nuclear energy had fallen to 4.3% of global energy production. Several nuclear accidents—Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima—contributed to turning sentiment against nuclear energy.
|% of Total Energy|
More recently, a return to nuclear energy has gained some support as countries push for transitions to cleaner energy, since nuclear power generates no direct carbon emissions.
What’s Next for Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear remains one of the least harmful sources of energy, and some countries are pursuing advancements in nuclear tech to fight climate change.
Small, modular nuclear reactors are one of the current proposed solutions to both bring down costs and reduce construction time of nuclear power plants. The benefits include smaller capital investments and location flexibility by trading off energy generation capacity.
With countries having to deal with aging nuclear reactors and climate change at the same time, replacements need to be considered. Will they come in the form of new nuclear power and uranium mining, or alternative sources of energy?
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