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Red Lake: The High-Grade Gold Capital of the World

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Red Lake: The High-Grade Gold Capital of the World

Red Lake: The High-Grade Gold Capital of the World

Sponsored by Gold Canyon Resources (TSX-V: GCU)
Every major gold producing country has an iconic gold producing trend that is synonymous with prosperity. South Africa has the Witwatersrand Basin and the United States has the Carlin Trend in Nevada.

While Canada has had many prolific gold producing regions over the years, including many famous gold rushes, lately the gold capital of Canada rests in Red Lake, Ontario. It is here – in some of the world’s richest gold deposits – that the yellow metal is famously produced at the astonishing rate of two troy ounces per tonne.

The Geology

Like much gold in Ontario and Quebec, deposits are found in a greenstone formation at Red Lake.

Most of the gold production in the district has come from structurally controlled vein-type gold deposits near regional mafic volcanic-sediment contact or ‘breaks’.

Major gold camps in the Timmins and Kirkland Lake areas of northeastern Ontario also show a close association with similar breaks. However, Red Lake’s major discovery in 1995 of the High Grade Zone makes it about 50 years “newer” for exploration potential.

The History

Gold was discovered on the shores of Red Lake by L.B. Howey in 1925. Word spread quickly and the town experienced a sudden surge in economic, industrial, and population growth. People travelled by dog team, on foot, or by open cockpit airplanes to seek their fortune. By 1936, Red Lake’s Howey Bay was the busiest airport in the world, with more flights taking off and landing per hour than any other.

Between Howey and the Hasaga Mine next door, a total of 600,000 oz gold was produced. But, it would be later discoveries that would make Red Lake the future capital of high-grade gold.

In 1938, the mill started at the Madsen Mine. It would produce for the next 36 years. In 1948 and 1949 respectively, the Arthur White Mine (later Dickenson and Red Lake) mine and then the Campbell Mine went into production.

The Challenge

In the 1989, Rob McEwen gained control of an underperforming mine previously known as the Arthur White Mine and then the Dickenson Mine. McEwen, the CEO of Goldcorp, knew the mine could have similar grade and potential to the surrounding mines such as the Campbell Mine.

In 1995, the High Grade Zone was discovered. Nine drill holes averaged 9.08 ounces of gold over 7.5 feet, but the company still found the overall geology to be challenging.

In 2000 at PDAC, Mr. McEwen launched the “Goldcorp Challenge” and posted decades of geological data on its Red Lake Mine to its corporate website. Geologists, scientists, and engineers from around the world were encouraged to examine the data and submit proposals as to where the next six million ounces of gold would be found. There was a purse of $575,000 USD up for grabs. It was viewed 475,000 times and 1,400 prospectors from 51 countries registered as participants.

Finishing 1st place in the contest:

First Prize – US$95,000 – Fractal Graphics and Taylor Wall & Associates

Today at Red Lake

Since 1925, there have been 28 operating mines and 28 million oz of gold produced at Red Lake. The majority has come from four mines: Red Lake (Dickenson), Campbell, Madsen, and Cochenour.

The biggest producing mine in 2014 was Goldcorp’s Red Lake Mine, which produced 414,400 oz. The High Grade Zone is the backbone of the operation, with an average grade of more than two ounces per tonne.

There are several current projects of note in the district:

  • Rubicon Minerals: Rubicon’s Phoenix / F2 Deposit is expected to go into production in mid-2015. It is expected (conservatively) to produce 2.19 million oz with a head grade of 8.1 g/t Au
  • Gold Canyon: Gold Canyon’s Springpole project has 4.41 million oz gold (M&I) and 0.69 million oz gold (Inf.) just to the northeast of Red Lake
  • Goldcorp: Aside from Goldcorp’s operating mines, Goldcorp is currently working on bringing to life the Cochenour / Bruce Channel deposit. Under Red Lake, it has a projected mine life of 20 years and >250,000 oz/yr production. A high speed tram will connect this with the mill.

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Gold

A Brief History of Jewelry Through the Ages

Jewelry has been coveted for centuries by many different cultures. Here’s a look at the history of jewelry, and how it’s evolved into a $348B industry.

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Jewelry has been an integral aspect of human civilization for centuries, but it was the discovery and subsequent spread of precious metals and gemstones which really changed the game.

In today’s infographic from Menē, we visualize how the uses and symbolism of jewelry have evolved across time and space to become the industry we’re familiar with today.

Antique, Yet Ageless

There isn’t a single corner of the world that’s untouched by the influence of jewelry.

  • Ancient Egypt
    Gold accompanied the affluent into the afterlife – the famous 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb was filled to the brim with gold jewelry.
  • Ancient Greece and Rome
    Jewelry was used practically, and as a protection against evil. The gold olive wreath design was highly popular during this time.
  • Mesopotamia
    Both men and women in the Sumer civilization wore intricate pieces of jewelry, incorporating bright gems like agate, jasper, or lapis lazuli.
  • Meso-America
    The aristocracy in Aztec culture wore gold jewelry with gemstones to demonstrate their rank. The jewelry also doubled up as godly sacrifices.
  • Ancient India
    The Mughal Empire introduced the combination of gemstones with gold and silver. Today, pure gold jewelry is often gifted to new brides for financial security.
  • Ancient China
    Both rich and poor wore jade jewelry for its durable and protective properties. Pure gold jewelry is making a fashion comeback, doubling as a form of investment.

Modern Jewelry: At a Crossroads

Today, jewelry is at once the very same and vastly different from what it used to be.

The industry is worth upwards of $348 billion per year, and it’s not hard to see why. As an alternative asset, jewelry has grown 138% in value over the last decade – only outperformed by classic cars, rare coins, and fine wine.

However, perceptions of jewelry vastly differ. It’s not a stretch to say that Western jewelry buyers are enamored with diamonds, given their enduring association with special occasions – but it’s interesting to note how that ideal was fabricated.

The Invention of Diamonds

The De Beers Group is well known for making diamonds great again. In the early 1900s, the company had already monopolized the diamond trade and stabilized the market, but they faced the challenge of marketing diamonds to consumers at all income levels.

The average American considered diamonds an extravagance, preferring to spend money on cars and appliances instead. The concept of engagement rings existed, but weren’t widely adopted. The #1 slogan of the century – “A Diamond is Forever” – transformed all that.

Even as more companies like Tiffany and Co and Cartier entered the playing field, De Beers had set a successful industry standard. But there’s a catch – diamonds are actually:

  • Not all that rare in nature
  • Intrinsically low in value
  • Easily replicated in a lab
  • Decreasing in sales

Despite these caveats, the popularity of diamonds illustrate how Western consumers do not approach jewelry in the same way as Eastern economies, where its function as a store of wealth persists.

The Eastern Gold Standard

In Eastern economies, jewelry often takes the form of pure gold. The reasons behind this difference are surprisingly pragmatic: gold is considered a secure and innate store of wealth that maintains its purchasing value over decades, allowing families to pass wealth from generation to generation.

The rich history of the precious metal has made it a sought-after commodity for centuries, and China and India drive more than half of global gold jewelry demand every year:

YearShare of Demand (India + China)Total Global Jewelry Demand (tonnes)
201457%2510 tonnes
201558%2426 tonnes
201655%2068 tonnes
201757%2201 tonnes
201858%2200 tonnes

Source: Gold Hub – Values have been rounded up to the nearest tonne.

Why are Eastern cultures so attracted to the properties of pure gold?

Part 2 of this series will show why gold is the world’s most incredible metal, and why it’s coveted by billions of people.

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The Future of Gold Exploration is Under Cover

Gold exploration has seen diminishing returns for years, but exploring through cover could be a way to unlock the world-class deposits of the future.

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The Future of Gold Exploration is Under Cover

Over billions of years, extraordinary amounts of gold and other metals were deposited and spread throughout the Earth’s crust. Humans have been searching for these rich deposits for centuries, and advances in geoscience and technology have helped us become more adept at finding them over time.

However, even with today’s advancements – almost all early-stage prospecting methods are still based on the same key principle: trying to find areas of exposed bedrock, called outcrops, that indicate an orebody is near.

But such outcrops only form in certain circumstances – and what happens when a geological system doesn’t come in contact directly with the surface?

The Problem of Cover

Today’s infographic comes to us from Nevada Exploration, and it identifies the problem behind finding these “hidden” deposits that do not leave a helpful trail of clues on the surface.

Instead of having outcrops where rocks can be readily sampled, these deposits are trapped underneath large amounts of soil and gravel. Geologists call this a covered setting, where they must first find a way to “see through” the cover in order to identify what geological systems really exist below.

Seeing through cover can be expensive and difficult to do, but it also has big potential upside.

There is no reason not to assume as much gold still exists as has been mined in the past, but prospectors, explorationists, and geologists have found the easy gold.

– Dr. Richard Goldfarb, Ph.D., United States Geologic Survey

In fact, many geologists think that the next game-changing gold deposit could be found under cover.

Exploration 2.0

For explorers, it is no secret that the cost per discovery is going up dramatically over time. The reality is that traditional exploration methods are achieving diminishing returns, and as a result companies are settling for lower grade deposits, more complex geological settings, and politically questionable jurisdictions.

Minex Consulting says that between 2007-2016, there has been $65 billion spent globally on gold exploration with only $30 billion worth of discoveries to show for it. Those aren’t exactly inspiring economics for future gold explorers.

But for every industry problem, there is often a precedent to be found elsewhere – and an interesting situation that is analogous was faced by the oil exploration industry years ago. They had reached diminishing returns with shallow water deposits, and developed technology to go deeper. Suddenly, monster deposits were being found again.

Experts involved in mineral exploration see the same thing happening with cover.

With the transition to under cover exploration, the minerals industry is undergoing a transformation much like the petroleum industry transformed to deep sea exploration some decades ago.

– Cam McCuaig, Principal Geoscientist, BHP Billiton

In other words: whoever can figure out how to explore under cover could be reaping big benefits.

The Prize

In the world’s most prolific gold jurisdictions, there are massive amounts of land that have not yet been explored because of cover. In Canada and in Australia, over 70% of land is covered. In Nevada, which produces the most gold ounces per square kilometer, about 55% of land is covered.

Interestingly, Nevada has produced 225 million oz of gold to date, but the majority of these discoveries have come from outcrop clues on the surface. Imagine what gold could be hidden under soil and gravel within the valleys of the state.

Global data so far suggests that deposits discovered under cover tend to be 2-4x bigger.

Exploring Under Cover

While the idea of unlocking this potential is extremely exciting, it also poses a significant technical challenge.

Conventional tools are poorly suited to covered settings, and existing techniques for systematic exploration don’t work. The end result is high-risk, high-cost exploration.

To successfully explore through cover, companies need:

  • New technology to see through cover
  • A way to lower the costs of testing targets
  • A way to directly test covered bedrock

So far, a few ideas have been pioneered for seeing through cover – and it will be interesting to see what results they bring in.

Biogeochemistry: In Australia, explorers are using biogeochemistry as a hint to see what lays beneath the soil. Plants accumulate pathfinder elements in them, or even tiny amounts of gold, which allows explorers to get a hint at what lies deep below.

Hydrogeochemistry: In a place like Nevada, there are massive valleys in the middle of prolific gold districts that have remained unexplored because they are covered with hundreds of meters of gravel. Testing groundwater might be the key, because groundwater flows by gravity from mountains to deep in the valley centers. On the way, this water interacts with bedrock – and any gold deposits that are hidden beneath the surface.

Explorers are looking at other ideas as well, ranging from regional-scale mapping to adapting other oil and gas industry techniques. If any of them are able to unlock the secret of exploring through cover, it could be the catalyst for industrywide change, as well as the discovery of the monster deposits that will meet our mineral needs of the future.

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