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The Mineral Exploration Roadmap

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The Mineral Exploration Roadmap

Mineral Exploration Roadmap

There is nothing more exciting than making some type of discovery.

Discoveries can come in many forms – they can be physical, scientific, personal, or even philosophical in nature. But while there are different types of discoveries that can be made, perhaps the most tactile kind of discovery is in the field of mineral exploration.

The discovery of a mineral deposit can transform a piece of “moose pasture” into a new economic asset, and it may enable millions or billions of dollars worth of metals and minerals to be used for human purposes.

These minerals get used all around us – they go into our houses, cars, infrastructure, jewelry, electronics, and they can even be used to power the green revolution.

From Prospecting to Production

Making an economic mineral discovery is the goal of many teams around the world, but these efforts can also be extremely difficult, costly, and time-consuming, and most companies engaged in exploration end up walking away empty-handed.

Today’s infographic comes to us from Orix Geoscience and it shows the steps of mineral exploration, and how teams can maximize their odds of success by using data to add value throughout the process.

Steps of the Mineral Exploration Process

1. Exploration Strategy

Where do you choose to explore? There are two basic strategies:

(a) Working from the known
Deposits tend to form in clusters in prolific belts, and exploration occurs outward from known mineralization.

(b) Working from the unknown
If you review all available information, prospective areas with potential for discoveries can be identified.

2. Prospecting

In this stage, boots are now on the ground – and it’s time to explore the backwoods for showings. Prospectors will stake claims, map outcrops and showings, and search for indicator minerals.

The goal of the prospecting stage is to find the earliest piece of the exploration puzzle: the clue that there is something much bigger beneath.

3. Early-Stage Exploration

Congrats, you’ve found something interesting – and now it’s time to ramp up exploration efforts!

This is where the amount of data and sophistication picks up. In this stage, companies are using existing maps and historical data, geophysics, ground truthing, geochemistry, and trenching to try and identify drill targets.

4. The “Truth Machine”

Geologists don’t call the drill a “truth machine” for nothing.

If you’re target hits, you’re in business. If your target misses, it’s time to go back a step and find new ones.

5. Discovery

Eureka! You’ve found something. Now it’s time to see how far the mineralization goes!

Once you have enough information, you can get an official resource estimate. This data is another puzzle piece that will be crucial as you advance your discovery.

6. De-risking

Even at the best of times, mining can be expensive, risky, and tricky.

That’s why your investors and backers will want you to source even more data – it’ll allow you to see a clearer picture of the deposit, and help your team see how it could take shape as a mine.

At this stage, drilling, metallurgical tests, environmental assessments, 3d models, and mine designs are used to increase confidence in the project.

Data starts to get very granular. Your company may do a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) to assess the potential economic outcomes of a mine. Then after, they may conduct an in-depth Feasibility Study to help make a production decision.

Final Steps

By this point, you may have all the puzzle pieces – a clear vision of the deposit and its potential – to make a decision!

If the puzzle looks good, it’s time to make a production decision, construct the mine, and start commercial production. But the data doesn’t stop there – at these later stages, even more data gets created and it can help you make better decisions.

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Visualizing Global Gold Production in 2023

Gold production in 2023 was led by China, Australia, and Russia, with each outputting over 300 tonnes.

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Graphic breaking down global gold production in 2023

Visualizing Global Gold Production in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Over 3,000 tonnes of gold were produced globally in 2023.

In this graphic, we list the world’s leading countries in terms of gold production. These figures come from the latest USGS publication on gold statistics (published January 2024).

China, Australia, and Russia Produced the Most Gold in 2023

China was the top producer in 2023, responsible for over 12% of total global production, followed by Australia and Russia.

CountryRegion2023E Production (tonnes)
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia370
🇦🇺 AustraliaOceania310
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope310
🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America200
🇺🇸 United StatesNorth America170
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAsia130
🇲🇽 MexicoNorth America120
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia110
🇿🇦 South AfricaAfrica100
🇺🇿 UzbekistanAsia100
🇬🇭 GhanaAfrica90
🇵🇪 PeruSouth America90
🇧🇷 BrazilSouth America60
🇧🇫 Burkina FasoAfrica60
🇲🇱 MaliAfrica60
🇹🇿 TanzaniaAfrica60
🌍 Rest of World-700

Gold mines in China are primarily concentrated in eastern provinces such as Shandong, Henan, Fujian, and Liaoning. As of January 2024, China’s gold mine reserves stand at an estimated 3,000 tonnes, representing around 5% of the global total of 59,000 tonnes.

In addition to being the top producer, China emerged as the largest buyer of the yellow metal for the year. In fact, the country’s central bank alone bought 225 tonnes of gold in 2023, according the World Gold Council.

Estimated Global Gold Consumption

Most of the gold produced in 2023 was used in jewelry production, while another significant portion was sold as a store of value, such as in gold bars or coins.

  • Jewelry: 46%
  • Central Banks and Institutions: 23%
  • Physical Bars: 16%
  • Official Coins, Medals, and Imitation Coins: 9%
  • Electrical and Electronics: 5%
  • Other: 1%

According to Fitch Solutions, over the medium term (2023-2032), global gold mine production is expected to grow 15%, as high prices encourage investment and output.

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Real Assets

Charted: The Value Gap Between the Gold Price and Gold Miners

While gold prices hit all-time highs, gold mining stocks have lagged far behind.

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Line chart comparing gold price and gold mining stocks since 2000.

Gold Price vs. Gold Mining Stocks

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on Apple or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Although the price of gold has reached new record highs in 2024, gold miners are still far from their 2011 peaks.

In this graphic, we illustrate the evolution of gold prices since 2000 compared to the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index (HUI), which consists of the largest and most widely held public gold production companies. The data was compiled by Incrementum AG.

Mining Stocks Lag Far Behind

In April 2024, gold reached a new record high as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled policymakers may delay interest rate cuts until clearer signs of declining inflation materialize.

Additionally, with elections occurring in more than 60 countries in 2024 and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, central banks are continuing to buy gold to strengthen their reserves, creating momentum for the metal.

Traditionally known as a hedge against inflation and a safe haven during times of political and economic uncertainty, gold has climbed over 11% so far this year.

According to Business Insider, gold miners experienced their best performance in a year in March 2024. During that month, the gold mining sector outperformed all other U.S. industries, surpassing even the performance of semiconductor stocks.

Still, physical gold has outperformed shares of gold-mining companies over the past three years by one of the largest margins in decades.

YearGold PriceNYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index (HUI)
2023$2,062.92$243.31
2022$1,824.32$229.75
2021$1,828.60$258.87
2020$1,895.10$299.64
2019$1,523.00$241.94
2018$1,281.65$160.58
2017$1,296.50$192.31
2016$1,151.70$182.31
2015$1,060.20$111.18
2014$1,199.25$164.03
2013$1,201.50$197.70
2012$1,664.00$444.22
2011$1,574.50$498.73
2010$1,410.25$573.32
2009$1,104.00$429.91
2008$865.00$302.41
2007$836.50$409.37
2006$635.70$338.24
2005$513.00$276.90
2004$438.00$215.33
2003$417.25$242.93
2002$342.75$145.12
2001$276.50$65.20
2000$272.65$40.97

Among the largest companies on the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index, Colorado-based Newmont has experienced a 24% drop in its share price over the past year. Similarly, Canadian Barrick Gold also saw a decline of 6.5% over the past 12 months.

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