Exploration and discovery of base and precious metal deposits in the Pacific Rim over the last 50 years

Keynote Presentation: Mineral Systems of the Pacific Rim (PACRIM 2019) Congress, Auckland, New Zealand, April 2019


In keeping with the theme of the Conference my talk focuses on the discovery performance for copper and gold in the 41 countries and jurisdictions in the Circum-Pacific Region (CPR). 

In detail:

  • The CPR hosts significant amounts of copper and gold.  In terms of contained metal.  Between them they account for 50% of the World’s known endowment for copper.  For gold the corresponding figure is 34%. 
  • Over the last decade 49% of the World’s exploration spend on copper was spent in the CPR.  The corresponding figure for gold was 41%.
  • Since 1970 a total of 302 copper deposits containing ~1300 Mt Cu have been found in the CPR. Over the same time period 658 gold deposits containing ~3000 Moz Au were also found
  • While the number of discoveries and the amount of metal found appears to have fallen off in recent years, this may simply be due to the inherent delay in drilling out a discovery. 
  • Unit discovery costs have risen in the last decade in the CPR. It currently costs ~$280m to make a copper discovery (or 3.2 cents/lb Cu) and $380m (or $186/oz) for a gold discovery.  This is double the World average.
  • In 1995 Dick Sillitoe published a landmark study assessing the discovery history of 54 base and precious-metal deposits in the CPR.  He found that on average, it took 19 years and 2.8 companies to make a discovery.
  • MinEx carried out a study assessing 100 gold and copper discoveries (around the World) and found that, on average it took 12 years and 2.5 companies to make the discovery.  The successful one (i.e. the last company in the chain) took 2.5 years to find the deposit.   Over the last 40 years the rate of discovery appears to be slowing down. 
  • A review of the 54 discoveries assessed in Sillitoe’s 1995 study found that over the intervening 23 years these deposits had (on average) grown in-size by a factor of 2-3x.   

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