The Declining Discovery Rate – What is the Real Story?

Presentation to the AMIRA International’s Exploration Managers Conference, Yarra Valley, Victoria, March 2010

The presentation reviews the long term trends in the discovery performance for copper, gold and uranium over the period 1950 –2009. In the case of gold and uranium, unit discovery costs (in terms of $/oz or $/lb) have been rising in recent decades. In contrast, this is not the case for copper – with discovery costs remaining roughly constant at US 1 cent/lb of resource. The difference between the two sets of commodities may be due to the industry’s inability to effectively explore for gold under cover (you can drill a hole and miss the deposit by 5 metres and not know it’s there). In the case of copper, the geometry of the orebody, zoning, and geophysics means that it is relatively easy to identify mineralization under cover, and to quickly vector in on the orebody.

The presentation also has interesting data on the trends in the depth of cover over time.

Note: Please note that AMIRA stands for The Australian Minerals Industry Research Association. It has been operating for 50 years and helps manage US$20 million per annum of collaborative R&D activities funded by the international mining industry. The AMIRA Exploration Managers Conference is held every two years and is an invitation-only event and is limited to the most senior people from industry, government and universities.

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