Industry Spotlight on the Western Tethyan

Presentation at the 5th Annual Tethyan Belt Session at PDAC, Toronto, March 2021


As part of the main Convention, PDAC also runs a number of special sessions. In 2021 this included a half-day technical session (run as a Webinar) focused on copper and gold projects in the Western portion of the Tethyan Belt. 

I was invited by the sponsor of this year’s session (Mundoro Capital Inc) to give an update of a presentation I gave to the SEG in September 2016 on the Tethyan Belt.  In addition to updating the numbers and charts I also placed special attention to assessing the discovery performance of the western-end of the Belt.  The Western-end covers Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia Minor (principally Turkey).

Note: the following analysis excludes expenditures and discoveries of bulk minerals (namely coal, iron ore and bauxite).

The key findings are:

  • The Tethyan Belt spans across 33 countries and makes up 7.3% of the earth’s land mass. The belt hosts 6.1% of all known significant mineral deposits (545 out of 8949) – many of which are located in the Western-end of the Tethyan Belt (WE-TB)
  • Over the last 50 years 131 significant deposits were found in the WE-TB.  The average rate of discovery is around 3 to 4 new deposits per year. 20 of the 22 deposits found in the last decade contained copper or gold.
  • After adjusting for differences in land area, the size-frequency of the entire Belt’s current known mineral endowment for copper and gold is comparable to the World average.   The Western-end (particularly Eastern Europe and Turkey) are much more fertile
  • Over the last decade (2010-2019) the WE-TB accounted for US$1960 million or 1.4% of global exploration expenditures. 
  • The average cost per discovery in the WE-TB has risen (in constant 2020 US Dollars) from $14m in 2003 to over $200m in 2019.  While this seems high, the cost (and trend in costs over time) echoes that seen elsewhere in the World.
  • It is becoming progressively more difficult to convert a discovery into a mine.  Based on long term trends (at best) less than half of all discoveries are developed, and of those that do get mined the average delay can easily exceed 20 years,

In summary the Western-end of the Tethyan Belt is fertile for gold and base metals.  To date, much of it is under-explored and is ripe for significant major new discoveries