The last known gold deposit
What’s more, few new projects and expansions are expected to come online this year, writes Thomson Reuters, “and those in the near-term pipeline are generally fairly modest in scale, hence our view that global mine supply is set to begin a multiyear downtrend in 2016.”
Indeed, if we look at projects that opened in just the last two or three years, we see that they’re of lower grade, meaning they don’t produce nearly as much as older, easy-to-mine gold deposits.
The truth of the matter is, when it comes to discovering new gold deposits, the low-hanging fruit has likely already been picked. Gone are the days when someone could stumble upon an exposed hunk of gold at the bottom of a riverbed, as James Marshall did in 1848, setting off the California Gold Rush. Every year, the pursuit of gold becomes increasingly more challenging—not to mention more expensive—requiring ever more sophisticated tools and technology, including 3D seismic imaging, direction drilling and airborne gravimetry. (A satisfactory “gold fracking” method, however, seems unlikely to become reality any time soon.)
Compounding the issue is the fact that the number of years between discovery of a new major deposit and production is widening, due to the increase in feasibility assessments, compliance, licenses and more—and that’s all before nugget one can be extracted. The average lead time for gold mines worldwide is close to 20 years, though it can sometimes be more, depending on the jurisdiction. This highlights the need for worldwide policy reform to remove many of the barriers that obstruct responsible mining.