how gold is produced

Spinning Gold: From Ore to Bullion
Since the California Gold Rush over 150 years ago, the prospect of finding gold has driven men to great lengths. For the hardscrabble 49ers, the search for gold meant wading in riverbeds to sift gold from the rushing water. Today, gold is mined from the earth, since most of the surface gold - known as alluvial gold - has been found. The gold-mining process is intricate and multi-faceted, tying cutting-edge technologies with old-fashioned determination.

Finding Gold: Eureka!
While gold exploration used to be a matter mostly of "boot and hammer" prospecting, gold mining today is largely a matter of technology. First, geologists use geology maps to look for favourable areas to explore. Ore deposits are not easy to find and many of the ones exposed on surface have already been found. Geologists use the physical and chemical characteristics of the rocks they are looking for to zero in on prospective areas. Once favourable geology is established, remote sensing, airborne and ground geophysics and geochemistry are used to outline targets for drill testing.

 

Explorer IV Surface Gold Mining Plant

 

Drilling and Engineering: Taking stock
Drilling at these sites brings up rock samples from various locations. These samples are analyzed to determine if any gold exists there, the size of the deposit, and the quality of the gold. Using this information, mining engineers determine if enough gold is under the surface to make the mining worthwhile; the type of mine needed; the physical obstacles to getting to the gold; and what impact a mine would have on the area's wildlife and environment. If the gold is close to the surface, the engineers will design an open-pit mine; if the gold is buried deeply, an underground mine will be planned. Many gold mines in North America are open-pit mines, while those in South Africa are underground.

Building a Mine: Be prepared
Before the gold can be mined, an infrastructure must be created. Even if the gold is close to the surface, the simplest open-pit mine can take up to a year to build. In fact, the time between discovering gold and actually bringing it out of the earth can be up to five years. Since mines are often in remote locations, an entire infrastructure-roads, administrative offices, equipment storage areas, even towns, schools and medical facilities --must be built. The plans for the mines must be given the green light by a number of authorities at the local, provincial and national levels. Also, the mining company must put aside money for reclaiming the land once the gold is mined. In all, the preparation process can end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars - before a single ounce of gold is mined.


About Gold Production :: How Gold Is Used :: Mining and Processing of Gold
 

 
 

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