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.
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.
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.
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.
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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