Pierre Lassonde calls on mining industry to fund research into new mining and exploration technologies that could create “paradigm shift” and fuel a much needed round of gold discoveries.
VANCOUVER, BC (MINEWEB) – In a wide ranging speech covering the dearth of gold discoveries in recent years and the case for a higher gold price, Pierre Lassonde, the chairman of Franco-Nevada, reiterated his call for mining companies to invest more in research in order to bring about a “paradigm shift” in mining and exploration technology.
Lassonde, speaking to a near capacity audience at the closing of AME BC’s Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, BC, was direct, even chastising in tone, as he outlined the crisis facing gold exploration.
The statistics, well circulated at numerous conferences in the past year or so especially, are sobering – perhaps a much needed tonic on the final night of a four-day long mineral exploration marathon.
To outline how bad it has become for gold exploration, Lassonde repeated some of the better known analyses on the success rate in gold exploration over the past few decades. The essence of the issue is this: in the past decade discoveries of multimillion ounce gold deposits – despite record exploration spending and a decade long bull run in the price of gold – have sloughed off to dangerously low levels.
To illustrate Lassonde turned to various statistics on gold finds that all tell a similar tale. In terms of 20 million ounce plus finds he noted that after gold’s bull run in the 1970s, the rate of discovery was high. There were 14 deposits of this magnitude found during the 1980s and then 11 during the 1990s.
But in the 2000s the rate fell to five.
And how many in the past two years? Zero. And this poor performance despite two seemingly favourable conditions for propelling a new discovery cycle, exploration spending and the price of gold, that have in the past helped push industry to make discoveries.
“It’s not happened this time,” Lassonde said.
Research, lack thereof in mining and exploration technologies, is the major issue today, Lassonde argued. As at past conferences Lassonde called on the mining sector to follow suit the oil and gas industry where new technologies helped open up unconventional oil and gas deposits.
An acerbic Lassonde, lambasting the mining industry for underinvestment in research, rendered his thesis down to this:
“We need paradigm shift in exploration and exploration technology. Where is the equivalent of 3d geophysics that they’ve got in oil and gas? Haven’t got that in our business. Why not?
“Processing technologies. You look at the 70s and 80s; heap leaching came into being; pressure leaching came into being. Where are the new processing technologies? Mining technology. I mean we’ve got a bit of in situ uranium mining, but apart from that, nothing.
“Look at oil and gas, they’ve got fracking and they’ve got horizontal drilling, 4,000, 10,000 feet down and one mile out. Where are you guys?”
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