Lifecycle of a Mine
Because gold mines are both difficult to establish and maintain, the lifecycle of a mine tells investors about the discrete phases involved in a successful development. It is estimated that less than 1% of prospect mines meet the necessary requirements to make them commercially viable to mine.
Pre-feasibility and Construction
Initially, there is a pre-feasibility stage where it is determined whether the cost-benefit of establishing the mine is worth any future expenditure. If it is found that the mine could be economically feasible, then construction begins.
Mining companies must first obtain necessary permits and licences before any construction can physically start. The construction process takes a few years and varies according to the location of the mine. Also, the construction process is not limited to the mine itself and may include the building of local infrastructure and amenities which support the mine’s logistical and operational requirements.
The production process involves the actual mining of the gold from underground rock deposits or excavated from surface mines. In its entirety, the process takes the rock deposits and refines the gold found within them. The gold needs to be separated from the rocks, smelted and have all the impurities and unwanted elements removed from it. This produces pure, 24 karat gold. A mine will usually run for 10 years before it can start to make a profit.
Closure and Reclamation
This part of the mine’s lifecycle is when all the gold reserves that the mine can feasibly extract have been exhausted. The process of closing the mining site, dismantling the facilities and removing all auxiliary infrastructure like conveyor belts used for transporting the rock deposits must be done properly. The aim of reclamation is to return the land, as far as possible, to its original state. A comprehensive rehabilitation program involves minimising negative environmental effects; ensuring the safety of the public in the surrounding areas; removal of waste and other hazardous materials; rehabilitating the water ecosystem; and establishing new landforms and vegetation.