How is Gold Mined?
Gold is crucial to allowing you to do what you do every day, whether it is operating your computer, driving your car or getting ready for a night on the town.
Out of the many mining operations throughout Canada, gold has the highest value, with an estimated 182 tonnes (valued at $12.3 billion) mined in 2020 alone. This makes Canada the fifth largest global producer of gold, and one of the most important sources considering its close proximity to a large number of gold’s end users.
But how is gold removed from the ground? Let’s explore this a little further.
How is Gold Discovered?
The first step of course is finding where the gold is. As you can imagine, it’s easier said than done – prospecting is the most crucial step in mining for gold. Teams of professionals seek out large gold deposits by analyzing the terrain and sampling the geology.
If an area looks promising, test drilling takes place and a decision is made to open the mine or not.
What Types of Mines are Used to Mine Gold?
Approximately 90% of Canada’s gold is mined in underground and open-pit mines.
Open-pit mines – excavators and dump trucks dig and remove rock. For difficult terrain, explosives are used to break up the rock and ease the process.
Underground mines – tunnels are established to reach gold veins in the rock, which is blasted using explosives and fragmented with drills then removed to the mine’s surface.
Where is Gold Mined?
Here in Canada, most production takes place in Ontario (Temagami, Timmins and Cochrane) and Québec (Malartic, La Sarre and Rivière-Héva). Canada also has a large reserve of gold, and upon the writing of this article was 9th in the world in gold reserve size.
How Long Does it Take for a Mine to Extract Gold?
It can take anywhere from 10 to 20 years before a gold mine produces sediment that can be refined. This can take millions of dollars adn significant operations, with a mine operation lasting only 10 to 30 years. Occasionally mines stay in operation longer than 30 years, but this is rare.
How is Gold Processed?
Once rock and ore material is removed from a mine, it is broken down and processed into doré – containing up to 90% gold. After further processing, including oxidization which destroys sulfides, the gold is ready to be shipped to market.
Of course all good things come to an end. When it is determined that all gold has been removed from the mine, the operation is closed and the land is rehabilitated.