Industry should remember its exploration success

Australian Institute of Geoscientists > Best Practice > Industry should remember its exploration success

A well-known mining consultant said at the conclusion of the Gold17@Rotorua conference recently that contrary to many views in Government and industry observers gold exploration has been a successful business.

Julian Vearncombe of Perth-based SJS Resource Management, who was a principal organiser of the conference, gave the final presentation yesterday and pointed to some of the negatives that explorers have faced.

This included the decreasing probability of mineral discoveries with costs increasing, companies needed to make world-class finds, and a need to replace explorers with digital technology.

He said that contrary to these perceptions New Zealand and Australia through successful gold exploration had paradigm-changing growth in the 1980s and this was followed by consistent production.

Early drilling, he told delegates, was essential in all exploration.

Gold was being found at times when the gold price was low, and there was great success at brownfields exploration in NZ, Australia and Nevada.

Companies were finding gold in half-million ounce parcels and these can grow through brownfields exploration into world-class deposits.

In recent hears Australia has moved ahead of the once-dominant South Africa, the United States and Canada in production but more recently in terms of the gold price.

Since the 1980s Australia’s gold production has soared, helped by technological advances with oxide and refractory ore treatment. The national output peaked above 300 tonnes per annum in the early 2000s, dipped to about 220t but was now above 250t pa.

From the growth in production, the role of the gold price and its relation to the $A price against the $US, was shown in a graph, with dominant phases being in the 1979-83 period when the gold price peaked around $A1,600/oz and again between 2007-09 when it was in the $A1,700/oz range.

He cited some of the greenfield discoveries in WA once too small to mention included Jundee (1992) 1.3 million oz; Kanowna Belle (1987) 101,276 oz, Plutonic (1988) 515,600 oz, Frogs Legs (2000) 339,000 oz and Centenary at Darlot (1995) 365,000 oz. Most of these mines are going strongly and deeper today.

Ross Louthean
24 February 2017

This article was originally published in NZResources magazine and is reproduced here with the publisher’s permission which is gratefully acknowledged.