Precious Metals

Finding gold to mine is increasingly difficult

Experts wonder if the “peak” has been reached in gold mining.

Images courtesy of Goldcorp.

Can you imagine a world where no more gold is available to mine? Some market watchers believe the sources for newly mined gold are dried up or close to it.

George Martin writes in the Daily Mail that some scientists believe “peak gold,” the point at which gold discoveries decrease as there are no more original sources to explore, will arrive in 2019.

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Chairman Ian Telfer of Goldcorp, headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, told the Financial Times in June he believes “peak gold” has already arrived. During his career, he says mine-produced gold rose steadily annually for 40 years, but has started to shift downward.

Goldcorp’s newly mined gold output totaled 3.4 million ounces in 2015, dropped to 2.8 million in 2016 and 2.5 million in 2017.

Telfer says the spot price of gold hovering below $1,300 a troy ounce is a strong indicator that the supply of gold has dried up.

“Are we not looking for it? Are we bad at finding it? Or have we found it all?” Telfer is quoted as saying in the Financial Times. “My answer is that we found it all. At $1,300, we found it all. I don’t think there are any more mines out there, or nothing significant,” adding, “and the exploration records indicate that.”

In the first quarter of 2018, Goldcorp produced 590,000 ounces compared with 655,000 ounces during the same period in 2017, according to the company.

Goldcorp is working with Teck Resources on a joint multi-year project in Chile called Nueva Union, expected to be one of the largest copper-gold-molybdenum mines ever developed in Latin America, at a cost of some $3.5 billion. A feasibility study is to be completed sometime in 2019. The project is currently forecast to yield 8.9 million ounces of gold and 17.9 billion pounds of copper over a 36-year period.

Barrick Gold Corp., headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, remains committed to bringing underground mining to its Pascua-Lama site straddling the border of Chile and Argentina. The open pit mining operation there has been shuttered by the government since 2013 in consideration of environmental concerns.

Should the project re-open with underground production, Pascua-Lama is projected, by, to generate about 800,000 to 850,000 ounces of gold and 35 million ounces of silver per year in the first full five years of its anticipated 25-year life.

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