In our previous blog post, we described the challenges that the mining industry faces when prospecting for new deposits of gold ore. A geology consulting company called Nevada Exploration Inc. (NGE) is developing technology and testing methodology that could make it much cheaper and easier to find new ore deposits by analyzing samples of groundwater.
Groundwater flows through and around deep deposits of ore, picking up particles of gold and other elements as it goes. These particles imbue the water with a chemical “memory” of where it has passed through. By using proprietary technology that is accurate to one-part-per-trillion, NGE can analyze a sample of groundwater and determine if it passed through a gold deposit – then follow the groundwater back “up-stream” to search for potentially gold-bearing bedrock.
Testing groundwater to find precious metals is already a proven concept, so NGE’s methodology sounds quite promising! However, there are drawbacks. Groundwater analysis merely indicates that gold may be present in proximity from the place where the water sample was collected. So while it can narrow the search area for mining companies, it can’t tell you anything about the size or grade of the deposit. NGE is still testing and refining its methodology, but in the near future, gold miners may finally have a way to reduce the cost and duration of prospecting ventures.
For the past 10 years, Russia has increased its gold reserves at an average pace of about 300,000 ounces per month - more than tripling its reserves since 2005. In 2014 the country acquired 172 tons of gold, and another 208 tons in 2015. Just last October, the Russian central bank added 48 tons of gold to its reserves – almost a fourth of what they buy annually, condensed into a single month!
This marks the largest addition of gold to the Russian monetary reserves since 1998, and the biggest monthly gold purchase of any country this century. The purchase seems to be part of an ongoing strategy to hedge against currency markets and economic uncertainty. Analysts have also suggested that the combination of a strong ruble and low gold prices prompted Russia to make the large purchase.
It’s also worth noting that Russia is one of the world’s top-producers of gold with an annual production average of about 220 tons. According to the World Gold Council, only the central banks of the U.S., Germany, Italy, France and China currently hold larger gold reserves than Russia. If the country continues to make record-breaking gold purchases, they may move up in those rankings.
As time goes on, it has become more and more difficult to find new areas to mine for gold. Since most of the geologically obvious ore deposits have already been found, prospecting at the industrial scale is more time-intensive and costly than ever. Mining companies are not just looking for gold – they’re looking for new ways to find gold. Fortunately, geology consultants from Nevada Exploration Inc. (NGE) may have a solution.
Gold can be easy to detect in areas where the bedrock is exposed or covered by only a shallow layer of overburden (i.e. sand, gravel, dirt, etc.). When the bedrock is concealed beneath a deep layer of overburden, it makes it much more challenging to find specific ore deposits, like gold. Imagine you’re at Chuck E. Cheese’s and someone throws your car keys into the ball pit while you aren’t looking. If the ball pit is shallow or empty, you can recover the keys with minimal effort. But if you’re waist-deep in plastic balls, you could spend hours digging around without ever being sure if your keys are nearby or in a different area of the pit.
Rather than aimlessly searching yourself, it’d be more effective if you had scouts that could move through the balls and tell you whether or not they passed by your keys. In geology, this scouting role is filled by groundwater – and NGE claims to have figured out how to reveal where it’s been and what it’s seen. Learn more in our next blog post!