The gold balance in an ore deposit where the ore is treated by cyanide is the sum of the ‘visible gold’ that is amenable to cyanidation and ‘visible gold’ and the ‘invisible gold’, which are not amenable to cyanidation. Petrographic analyses, electron and ion microprobe as well as scanning electron microscope studies of ore from the Golden Sunlight deposit, Montana, suggest that periods of relatively poor gold recoveries are primarily due to the presence of inclusions, <25 μm in size, of native gold, petzite, calaverite, buckhornite and krennerite. These are encapsulated in cyanide insoluble grains of pyrite, chalcopyrite and tennantite and are present in the tailings. This contribution probably accounts for 3–25% of the unrecoverable gold processed during the life of the mine. Minor amounts (6–7%) of ‘invisible gold’, as indicated by ion microprobe studies and the presence of up to 5% ‘visible gold’ in buckhornite, which is rare in nature, appears to account for the remainder of the gold budget.

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