Infographic: The Re-Awakening of the Golden Triangle
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Re-Awakening of the Golden Triangle

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Golden Triangle in British Columbia

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:

KSM
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.

Red Chris
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.

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Energy

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2012-2021)

Energy fuels led the way as commodity prices surged in 2021, with only precious metals providing negative returns.

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commodity returns 2021 preview

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2022 Edition)

For investors, 2021 was a year in which nearly every asset class finished in the green, with commodities providing some of the best returns.

The S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) was the third best-performing asset class in 2021, returning 37.1% and beating out real estate and all major equity indices.

This graphic from U.S. Global Investors tracks individual commodity returns over the past decade, ranking them based on their individual performance each year.

Commodity Prices Surge in 2021

After a strong performance from commodities (metals especially) in the year prior, 2021 was all about energy commodities.

The top three performers for 2021 were energy fuels, with coal providing the single best annual return of any commodity over the past 10 years at 160.6%. According to U.S. Global Investors, coal was also the least volatile commodity of 2021, meaning investors had a smooth ride as the fossil fuel surged in price.

Commodity2021 Returns
Coal160.61%
Crude Oil55.01%
Gas46.91%
Aluminum42.18%
Zinc31.53%
Nickel26.14%
Copper25.70%
Corn22.57%
Wheat20.34%
Lead18.32%
Gold-3.64%
Platinum-9.64%
Silver-11.72%
Palladium-22.21%

Source: U.S. Global Investors

The only commodities in the red this year were precious metals, which failed to stay positive despite rising inflation across goods and asset prices. Gold and silver had returns of -3.6% and -11.7% respectively, with platinum returning -9.6% and palladium, the worst performing commodity of 2021, at -22.2%.

Aside from the precious metals, every other commodity managed double-digit positive returns, with four commodities (crude oil, coal, aluminum, and wheat) having their best single-year performances of the past decade.

Energy Commodities Outperform as the World Reopens

The partial resumption of travel and the reopening of businesses in 2021 were both powerful catalysts that fueled the price rise of energy commodities.

After crude oil’s dip into negative prices in April 2020, black gold had a strong comeback in 2021 as it returned 55.01% while being the most volatile commodity of the year.

Natural gas prices also rose significantly (46.91%), with the UK and Europe’s natural gas prices rising even more as supply constraints came up against the winter demand surge.

Energy commodity returns 2021

Despite being the second worst performer of 2020 with the clean energy transition on the horizon, coal was 2021’s best commodity.

High electricity demand saw coal return in style, especially in China which accounts for one-third of global coal consumption.

Base Metals Beat out Precious Metals

2021 was a tale of two metals, as precious metals and base metals had opposing returns.

Copper, nickel, zinc, aluminum, and lead, all essential for the clean energy transition, kept up last year’s positive returns as the EV batteries and renewable energy technologies caught investors’ attention.

Demand for these energy metals looks set to continue in 2022, with Tesla having already signed a $1.5 billion deal for 75,000 tonnes of nickel with Talon Metals.

Metals price performance 2021

On the other end of the spectrum, precious metals simply sunk like a rock last year.

Investors turned to equities, real estate, and even cryptocurrencies to preserve and grow their investments, rather than the traditionally favorable gold (-3.64%) and silver (-11.72%). Platinum and palladium also lagged behind other commodities, only returning -9.64% and -22.21% respectively.

Grains Bring Steady Gains

In a year of over and underperformers, grains kept up their steady track record and notched their fifth year in a row of positive returns.

Both corn and wheat provided double-digit returns, with corn reaching eight-year highs and wheat reaching prices not seen in over nine years. Overall, these two grains followed 2021’s trend of increasing food prices, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index reached a 10-year high, rising by 17.8% over the course of the year.

Grains price performance 2021

As inflation across commodities, assets, and consumer goods surged in 2021, investors will now be keeping a sharp eye for a pullback in 2022. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the Fed’s plans to increase rates and taper asset purchases will manage to provide price stability in commodities.

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Mining

Visualizing the Scale and Composition of the Earth’s Crust

This animation shows the handful of minerals and elements that constitute the Earth’s crust.

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Visualizing the Scale and Composition of the Earth's Crust share

Visualizing the Scale and Composition of the Earth’s Crust

For as long as humans have been wandering the top of Earth’s crust, we’ve been fascinated with what’s inside.

And Earth’s composition has been vital for our advancement. From finding the right kinds of rocks to make tools, all the way to making efficient batteries and circuit boards, we rely on minerals in Earth’s crust to fuel innovation and technology.

This animation by Dr. James O’Donoghue, a planetary researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, is a visual comparison of Earth’s outer layers and their major constituents by mass.

What is the Composition of Earth’s Crust?

The combined mass of Earth’s surface water and crust, the stiff outermost layer of our planet, is less than half a percent of the total mass of the Earth.

There are over 90 elements found in Earth’s crust. But only a small handful make up the majority of rocks, minerals, soil, and water we interact with daily.

1. Silicon

Most abundant in the crust is silicon dioxide (SiO2), found in pure form as the mineral quartz. We use quartz in the manufacturing of glass, electronics, and abrasives.

Why is silicon dioxide so abundant? It can easily combine with other elements to form “silicates,” a group of minerals that make up over 90% of Earth’s crust.

Clay is one of the better-known silicates and micas are silicate minerals used in paints and cosmetics to make them sparkle and shimmer.

MineralMajor ElementsPercentage of Crust
Plagioclase FeldsparO, Si, Al, Ca, Na39%
Alkali FeldsparO, Si, Al, Na, K12%
QuartzO, Si12%
PyroxeneO, Si, Mg, Fe11%
AmphiboleO, Si, Mg, Fe5%
Non-silicatesVariable8%
MicasO, Si, Al, Mg, Fe, Ca, Na, K5%
Clay MineralsO, Si, Al, Mg, Fe, Ca, Na, K5%
Other SilicatesO, Si3%

2. Aluminum and Calcium

SiO2 bonds very easily with aluminum and calcium, our next most abundant constituents. Together with some sodium and potassium, they form feldspar, a mineral that makes up 41% of rocks on Earth’s surface.

While you may not have heard of feldspar, you use it every day; it’s an important ingredient in ceramics and it lowers the melting point of glass, making it cheaper and easier to produce screens, windows, and drinking glasses.

3. Iron and Magnesium

Iron and magnesium each make up just under 5% of the crust’s mass, but they combine with SiO2 and other elements to form pyroxenes and amphiboles. These two important mineral groups constitute around 16% of crustal rocks.

Maybe the best known of these minerals are the two varieties of jade, jadeite (pyroxene) and nephrite (amphibole). Jade minerals have been prized for their beauty for centuries, and are commonly used in counter-tops, construction, and landscaping.

Some asbestos minerals, now largely banned for their cancer-causing properties, belong to the amphibole mineral group. They were once in high demand for their insulating and fire-retardant properties and were even used in brake pads, cigarette filters, and as artificial snow.

4. Water

Surprisingly, even though it covers almost three quarters of Earth’s surface, water (H2O) makes up less than 5% of the crust’s mass. This is partly because water is significantly less dense than other crustal constituents, meaning it has less mass per volume.

Breaking Earth’s Crust Down by Element

Though there are many different components that form the Earth’s crust, all of the above notably include oxygen.

When breaking down the crust by element, oxygen is indeed the most abundant element at just under half the mass of Earth’s crust. It is followed by silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, and sodium.

All other remaining elements make up just over 5% of the crust’s mass. But that small section includes all the metals and rare earth elements that we use in construction and technology, which is why discovering and economically extracting them is so crucial.

What Lies Below?

As the crust is only the outermost layer of Earth, there are other layers left to contemplate and discover. While we have never directly interacted with the Earth’s mantle or core, we do know quite a bit about their structure and composition thanks to seismic tomography.

The Upper Mantle

At a few specific spots on Earth, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have been strong enough to expose pieces of the upper mantle, which are also made of mostly silicates.

The mineral olivine makes up about 55% of the upper mantle composition and causes its greenish color. Pyroxene comes in second at 35%, and calcium-rich feldspar and other calcium and aluminum silicates make up between 5–10%.

Going Even Deeper

Beyond the upper mantle, Earth’s composition is not as well known.

Deep-mantle minerals have only been found on Earth’s surface as components of extra-terrestrial meteorites and as part of diamonds brought up from the deep mantle.

One thing the lower mantle is thought to contain is the silicate mineral bridgmanite, at an abundance of up to 75%. Earth’s core, meanwhile, is believed to be made up of iron and nickel with small amounts of oxygen, silicon, and sulphur.

As technology improves, we will be able to discover more about the mineral and elemental makeup of the Earth and have an even better understanding of the place we all call home.

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