How long does a gold mine last?
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People in helmets working underground – this is what often comes to mind when talking about modern gold miners. However, ore mining is only one step in a long and complex process. After the discovery of a deposit, it can take from 10 to 20 years before gold-bearing rock can be extracted from the depths of the earth, to be processed into gold bars. What happens before and after a mine is operational?
From 1 to 10 years for exploration
Long before gold is extracted at the mine, serious exploration work is carried out. First, the size of the mineral deposit is estimated as precisely as possible in order to extract and process the ore efficiently and safely, while respecting the principles of responsible business.
Therefore, exploration of gold deposits requires serious efforts and large-scale financial investments. Already for this stage of work, a large number of various specialists are needed, from geologists to technicians. And it is not a fact that these costs will pay off: the probability of opening a mine with an acceptable exploitation potential is less than 0.1%. Many components must coincide in order for the area where exploration was carried out to turn into a gold mining operation.
According to geologists who study the structure of the earth's crust, only 10% of the world's deposits contain gold in a high enough concentration to make it profitable to mine and invest in related infrastructure. But after such a site is found by geologists and examined by chemists, a new stage begins. This is where technical services come in. Specialists must answer the question: how feasible is the project in reality, taking into account the geological features of the gold-bearing rock and the geography of the area. To understand this, a mine model is created. If experts confirm that it is possible to build it in reality, the next stage begins.
From 1 to 5 years to develop a gold mine
Mining companies must get permits from the local government and obtain licenses prior to construction of a mine. This is a lengthy process that may take several years. The duration depends on the location of the deposit and infrastructure nearby.
Only after all approvals, construction begins. Most often, it is not limited to the mine. In addition to the mining enterprise, companies often build related infrastructure — hotels, hospitals, schools, roads, power grids and gas pipelines. All this is necessary for the organization of normal logistics. As a result, the mining industry seriously supports the economies of countries where there are gold deposits.
The operation of the mine, especially in a remote location, provides long-term support to local communities. The construction and operation of the gold mining enterprise creates new jobs and makes life in the region more comfortable and diverse.
Another serious advantage is that the socio-economic development of the region is improving, the budget is replenished with taxes. According to the World Gold Council, the total contribution of gold mining companies to the GDP of countries with intensive gold mining amounted to 38 billion US dollars. This figure is comparable to the amount of foreign aid that these countries receive for development purposes.
In the photo: the Arctic Meadowbank gold mine in Nunavut, Canada, which employs approximately 500 people.
From 10 to 30 years of actual gold mining
The exploitation stage is the most efficient part in the life cycle of a gold mine, when ore, from which gold (or rather doré alloy) will be produced, is actively mined from underground. Doré is a high purity metal alloy containing 60 to 90% gold.
How long the mine will operate depends on economic factors such as the price of gold or production costs.
If the price of the precious metal rises, low-grade ore mining will be profitable. The high price offsets the increased costs of mining and processing large volumes of ore.
In the event that the price of gold falls or production costs rise, it will be more profitable to extract and process ore with a higher gold grade. Therefore, work plans are regularly reviewed, especially when conditions in the financial market change.
Another factor affecting the operational life of a mine is the emergence of new technical improvements in the gold mining industry. Digitalization and other innovative technologies make the process of gold mining easier, more efficient and more profitable.
In the photo: Super Pit — the largest gold mine in the world — is located in the Australian city of Kargoorlie. The perimeter of the mine is 3.5 kilometers long and 1.5 kilometers wide.
1 to 5 years for closure and decommissioning
A gold mine is shutting down for two reasons. Either the deposit has exhausted the reserves of the precious metal, or gold mining has become unprofitable and the costs exceed the income. After that, work focuses on the dismantling of the mine and the restoration of the land on which it was located.
The mining company is required to monitor the mine for a long time after closure. This is a complex stage and it includes a set of measures.
5 to 10 years for restoration of the environment
After the closure and dismantling of the mine, reclamation works are underway for five to ten years. The goal is the natural and economic restoration of land and water resources after their use by the mining company, which takes responsibility for the environmental well-being on the land where the mine was. Therefore, gold buyers can be sure that gold mining is carried out in a responsible manner and does not harm the environment.
Mining accounts for the largest portion of the world's gold supply, at 75% per year. However, demand continues to grow and exceeds supply: the yellow metal is becoming scarce in the world, so its value is growing, especially now, when the economic crisis is in full swing. Therefore, people invest in the purchase of the precious metals in order to protect their savings from depreciation. This is the right step: gold bars are the best tool for preserving and accumulating personal capital and ensuring Financial Security!
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