The Money Pit and Ultimate Death Spiral of Small Scale Mines – A Rant – by Brian Buss (Linked In – September 12, 2023)

Does every deposit have a economically viable solution? With the upcoming closure of operations at Silver Lake Resources’ Sugar Zone Mine in White River, I’ve been thinking on the great conundrum of the small, low grade mine. Is there an economic solution for every deposit regardless of it’s specific geometry, continuity, and grade distribution.

I’ve often heard the phrase “mines are made, not found”, but is this, in fact the reality? Or is this simply the mantra of promoters and hucksters who’ve successfully hyped up and flogged an obvious dead horse to a gullible, naïve, or otherwise foolhardy group of investors? Are there some deposits that should simply never be developed?

In this article, I will explore some of the realities facing the small, marginal grade deposit with respect to being able to demonstrate “reasonable prospects of eventual economic extraction”. My observations come from over 35 years of working in the mining sector with more than 10 of those dealing specifically with mineral economics – especially those of small deposits in the precious metal sector.

There are anecdotal references throughout the mining business that “for every 3000 prospects, only one mine is ever developed”. I postulate that there are likely significantly more of these prospects that should never see the light of day and would best be left in the ground – possibly forever.

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