Connect with us

Real Assets

Visualizing the Life Cycle of a Mineral Discovery

Published

on

Visualizing the Life Cycle of a Mineral Discovery

Visualizing the Life Cycle of a Mineral Discovery

Mining legend Pierre Lassonde knows a little bit about mineral exploration, discovery, and development. Drawing from decades of his experience, he created the chart above that has become a staple in the mining industry—the Lassonde Curve.

Today’s chart of the Lassonde Curve outlines the life of mining companies from exploration to production, and highlights the work and market value associated with each stage. This helps speculative investors understand the mining process, and time their investments properly.

Making Cents of Miners: The Stages of a Mineral Discovery

In the life cycle of a mineral deposit, there are seven stages that each offer specific risks and rewards. As a company proves there is a mineable deposit in the ground, more value is created for shareholders along the way.

  1. Concept

    This stage carries the most risk which accounts for its low value. In the beginning, there is little knowledge of what actually lies beneath the Earth’s surface.

    At this stage, geologists are putting to the test a theory about where metal deposits are. They will survey the land using geochemical and sampling techniques to improve the confidence of this theory. Once this is complete, they can move onto more extensive exploration.

  2. Pre-Discovery

    There is still plenty of risk, but this is where speculation hype begins. As the drill bit meets the ground, mineral exploration geologists develop their knowledge of what lies beneath the Earth’s crust to assess mineral potential.

    Mineral exploration involves retrieving a cross-section (drill core) of the crust, and then analyzing it for mineral content. A drill core containing sufficient amounts of metals can encourage further exploration, which may lead to the discovery of a mineable deposit.

  3. Discovery

    Discovery is the reward stage for early speculators. Exploration has revealed that there is a significant amount of material to be mined, and it warrants further study to prove that mining would be feasible. Most speculators exit here, as the next stage creates a new set of risks, such as profitability, construction, and financing.

  4. Feasibility

    This is an important milestone for a mineral discovery. Studies conducted during this stage may demonstrate the deposit’s potential to become a profitable mine.

    Institutional and strategic investors can then use these studies to evaluate whether they want to advance this project. Speculators often invest during this time, known as the “Orphan Period”, while uncertainty about the project lingers.

  5. Development

    Development is a rare moment, and most mineral deposits never make it to this stage. At this point, the company puts together a production plan for the mine.

    First, they must secure funding and build an operational team. If a company can secure funding for development, investors can see the potential of revenue from mining. However, risks still persist in the form of construction, budget, and timelines.

  6. Startup/Production

    Investors who have held their investment until this point can pat themselves on the back—this is a rare moment for a mineral discovery. The company is now processing ore and generating revenue.

    Investment analysts will re-rate this deposit, to help it attract more attention from institutional investors and the general public. Meanwhile, existing investors can choose to exit here or wait for potential increases in revenues and dividends.

  7. Depletion

    Nothing lasts forever, especially scarce mineral resources. Unless, there are more deposits nearby, most mines are eventually depleted. With it, so does the value of the company. Investors should be looking for an exit as operations wind down.

Case Study: The Oyu Tolgoi Copper-Gold Discovery, Mongolia

So now that you know the theoretical value cycle of a mineral discovery, how does it pan out in reality? The Oyu Tolgoi copper deposit is one recent discovery that has gone through this value cycle. It exemplifies some of these events and their effects on the share price of a company.

    1. Concept: 15+ Years

      Prospectors conducted early exploration work in the 1980s near where Oyu Tolgoi would be discovered. It was not until 1996 that Australian miner BHP conducted further exploration.

      But after 21 drill holes, the company lost interest and optioned the property to mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland and his company Ivanhoe Mines. At this point in 1999, shares in Ivanhoe were a gamble.

    2. Pre-Discovery/Discovery: ~3 years

      Ivanhoe Mines and BHP entered into an earn-in agreement, in which Ivanhoe gained ownership by completing work to explore Oyu Tolgoi. A year later, the first drill results came out of drill hole 150 with a headline result of 508 meters of 1.1 g/t Au and 0.8%. To get a sense of how large this is, imagine the height a 45-story building, of which a third of story is copper. This was just one intersection of an area that could stretch for miles.

      Wild speculation began at this stage, as steadily improving drill results proved a massive copper-gold deposit in Mongolia and drove up the share price of Ivanhoe.

    3. Feasibility/Orphan Period: ~2 years

      In 2004, the drilling results contributed to the development of the first scoping study. This study offered a preliminary understanding of the project’s economics.

      Using this study, the company needed to secure enough money to build a mine to extract the valuable ore. It was not until two years later, when Ivanhoe Mines entered into an agreement with major mining company Rio Tinto, that a production decision was finalized.

    4. Development: 7 years

      By 2006, the Oyu Tolgoi mineral deposit was in the development phase with the first shaft headframe, hoisting frame, and associated infrastructure completed. It took another two years for the shaft to reach a depth of 1,385 feet.

      Further development work delineated a resource of 1.2 billion pounds of copper, 650,000 ounces of gold, and 3 million ounces of silver. This first stage of development for Oyu Tolgoi made Mongolia the world’s fastest growing economy from 2009 to 2011.

    5. Startup/Production: Ongoing

      On January 31, 2013, the company announced it had produced the first copper-gold concentrate from Oyu Tolgoi. Six months later, the company stated that it was processing up to 70,000 tonnes of ore daily.

    6. Depletion: Into the Future

      The Oyu Tolgoi deposit will last generations, so we have yet to see how this will affect the value of the mine from an investment perspective.

      It’s also worth noting there are still other risks ahead. These risks can include labor disruptions, mining method problems, or commodity price movement. Investors will have to consider these additional conditions as they pan out.

The More You Know

Mining is one of the riskiest investments with many risks to consider at every stage.

While most mineral discoveries do not match it perfectly, the Lassonde Curve guides an investor through what to expect at each stage, and empowers them to time their investments right.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.
Continue Reading
Comments

Real Assets

Visualizing the Genealogy of Exploration Success

Published

on

Mineral Exploration Success

Visualizing the Genealogy of Exploration Success

In the last decade, 63% of all mineral discoveries in the Western world were made by junior explorers. These small companies are the vision of a dedicated few.

It is the people that make a great company, and it is great explorers that make great discoveries. This infographic sponsored by SKRR Exploration shows the incredible experience and knowledge of two leaders in mineral exploration brought together in one new venture.

Two Paths to Exploration Success

According to the common adage, overnight success stories take a long time. Ron Neolitzky and Ross McElroy have traveled two different paths but along their route, they have uncovered vast amounts of mineral wealth in Canada.

Ronald Netolitzky Ross McElroy
  • 1964-67: Graduated from the University of Alberta with a B.Sc and M.Sc. in Geology.
  • 1985: Became President of Delaware Resources and acquired the Snip property.
  • 1986: Struck a gold discovery at the Snip property, which produced 1Moz of gold over its lifetime.
  • 1988: Invested in Consolidated Stikine Resources and drill-tested Eskay Creek, which would go on to produce 3.3Moz of gold and 160Moz of silver over its lifetime.
  • 1990: Sold Eskay Creek stake to International Corona for $67/share as part of an acquisition.
  • 1990: Received the Bill Dennis Prospector of the Year Award.
  • 1993: Purchased 100% of the Brewery Creek property as president of Loki Gold.
  • 1996: Transformed Brewery Creek into a heap-leach operation.
  • 1996: Merged Loki Gold with Baja Gold and Viceroy Gold to create an entity with an annual production of 200Koz of gold.
  • 1996: Received AME’s E.A. Scholz Award for discovery and development achievements.
  • 2003: Acquired the Galore Creek property for Spectrum Gold, later merged with NovaGold Resources and partially sold to Teck Resources for $275M.
  • 2007: Oversaw Yamana Gold’s $577 million acquisition of Viceroy Resources as chairman.
  • 2010: Oversaw Osisko Mining’s $372 million acquisition of Brett Resources as chairman.
  • 2015: Inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.
  • 1987: Graduated from the University of Alberta with B.Sc. in Geology.
  • 1987: Joined uranium giant Cameco and worked on the McArthur River discovery in Saksatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, which is now the world’s largest uranium mine.
  • 1989: Worked with French nuclear Company Cogema (now Orano) on the Shea Creek uranium discovery in Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • 1990-99: Managed the Hope Bay Gold Project with BHP Minerals, discovering three high-grade gold deposits.
  • 2007: Joined Fission Energy as VP of Exploration before rising to the rank of COO.
  • 2009: Led the technical team that discovered the high-grade J Zone uranium deposit at Waterbury Lake and sold to Denison Mines.
  • 2012: Used airborne radiometrics and radon in-lake survey technology to discover the Triple R uranium deposit on the Patterson Lake Property, with an indicated resource of 102M lbs of U3O8.
  • 2013: Received the Mining Person of the Year Award from the Northern Miner.
  • 2014: Received the Bill Dennis Award for a Canadian discovery.

This combined experience is coming to bear in one company to uncover Canada’s next mineral frontier.

Bringing Experience Together: SKRR Exploration

SKRR brings together the experience of two great explorers to uncover the next mineral frontier, Saskatchewan. This junior explorer is working on the next great discovery with 6 projects in the Trans-Hudson geological corridor

  • Father Lake Nickel Project: Copper, Nickel
  • Ithingo Project: Gold
  • Irving Project: Gold
  • Cathro Project: Gold
  • Leland Project: Gold
  • Olson Project: Gold
  • Manson Bay: Gold

With a proven location and legacy of exploration success, SKRR is ready to unlock the next mineral frontier in Saskatchewan and continue the tradition of a dedicated few uncovering the next great discovery.

Continue Reading

Real Assets

The World’s Top 10 Gold Mining Companies

Together, the world’s top 10 gold mining companies account for roughly 22% of the share of the total gold market.

Published

on

Top 10 Gold Mining Companies

The World’s Top 10 Gold Mining Companies

Unlike paper currency or many other types of assets, gold has maintained its value throughout the ages.

First used by cultures in modern-day Eastern Europe in 4,000 BC to make decorative objects, the metal today represents a global business with operations on every continent, except Antarctica.

The industry is dominated by a select group of majors.

Together, the world’s top 10 gold miners produced 27.48 million ounces (Moz) in 2020, worth approximately $48 billion, according to data from Mining Intelligence.

North America Leading

At a country level, China is the largest producer in the world accounting for around 11% of total global production.

However, no Chinese company appears among the top miners.

RankCompanyHeadquartersCountry2020 Production (Moz)
1Newmont DenverUSA 🇺🇸5.88
2Barrick GoldTorontoCanada 🇨🇦4.84
3PolyusMoscowRussia 🇷🇺2.87
4AngloGold AshantiJohannesburgSouth Africa 🇿🇦2.81
5Kinross GoldTorontoCanada 🇨🇦2.38
6Gold FieldsJohannesburgSouth Africa 🇿🇦2.13
7Newcrest MiningMelbourneAustralia 🇦🇺2.06
8Agnico EagleTorontoCanada 🇨🇦1.73
9Polymetal InternationalSt. PetersburgRussia 🇷🇺1.40
10Harmony GoldJohannesburgSouth Africa 🇿🇦1.38

At the top of the gold mining companies list, Colorado-based Newmont has ownership of mines in Nevada, Colorado, Ontario, Quebec, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Australia, Ghana, Argentina, Peru, and Suriname.

As the only American company on the list, Newmont produces 21% of the yellow metal poured by the top companies.

Canada, which is known for its mining industry, has three companies on the list; Barrick Gold, Kinross Gold, and Agnico Eagle, producing 32% combined.

Russia, which is expected to become the world’s top producer by 2029, has two companies ranked. Together, Polyus and Polymetal represent 15% of the top miners’ production.

The top 10 players account for ~22% of the total market share, which is anticipated to grow due to increased merger and acquisition activities.

Wealth and Luxury

Over six and a half thousand years after its discovery, more than 90% of the gold mined annually is destined for jewelry, bullion, and coins.

  • Jewelry: 36.83%,
  • Investment: 46.64%,
  • Central banks: 8.58%,
  • Technology: 7.95%

The metal is also used in dentistry, as it is the best material for fillings and crowns since it is easy to insert, and is non-reactive with the human body.

Golden Future

Global production fell by 1% in 2020, the first decline in a decade, according to the World Gold Council.

Some analysts argue the world has reached “peak gold” – which means that the maximum rate of extraction has passed and the production of the metal will continue to fall until, eventually, mining for it shall cease entirely.

Demand, however, shows no sign of slowing down as the golden metal remains firmly synonymous with security, stability, and longevity.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Receive updates when new visuals go live:

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

Latest News

The latest news from our sponsors:

Popular