Abstract

All 231 Canadian primary gold mines that produced from 1946 to 2004 were analyzed with respect to their production and economic characteristics. Trend analysis revealed that the average annual capacity of Canadian gold mines, as measured by ore processed or gold produced, has increased over time. Conversely, the average grade of gold mines has decreased over time. The distribution of gold output is highly uneven: for example, the 22 giant mines producing more than 100 t (metric tonnes) of gold account for 62% of total output. Small mines producing less than 10 t Au account for 54% of total mines, but less than 4% of total gold. Each historical mine in the database was evaluated on the basis of a set of economic and technical assumptions to determine if it would be economic to develop today. Based on the net present value using an 8% discount rate, only 103 of the 231 mines were determined to be economic. About 80% of the uneconomic mines had less than 10 t of contained gold, and 63% had less than 5 t. It is concluded that these small mines would not be viable today due to a combination of real capital cost increases, and more stringent permitting and environmental regulations. The implication is that future gold supply in Canada will hinge on the discovery and development of a new generation of larger mines. Given that only one giant mine has been discovered in the past 20 years, it seems likely that gold output will decrease in the future.

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