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Australian gold industry: Where does geoscience meet mineral economics?

- By: John P Sykes
Posted in: Blog, Exploration, Future, Mineral Economics, Mining, PhD, Publications, Recommended, Research


At the end of last year, Allan Trench (Professor of Risk and Value at the Centre of Exploration Targeting) presented the early stages of some excellent research on the Australian gold industry at the CET Members Day. I am pleased to be involved in the very periphery of this research and am always happy to give it a little promotion.

The work was started by at Matt Kanakis as an Honours project and has since been taken on as a PhD by Sam Ulrich.  The research investigates the links between economic geology and mineral economics, specifically how the geological factors of gold deposits control mining costs. The assumption is that ore grade is the most important control on mine costs. This is true when ‘within’ a deposit; however in an inter-deposit comparison there is little correlation between ore grade and mine costs, at least in Australian gold deposits. Matt showed that factors such as the host rock type, mineralisation style, and deposit geometry appear to have a much greater impact than the grade. This was only preliminary research, so Sam has now taken the project on, first reconfirming Matt’s preliminary findings over a greater time period, but also investigating some other factors not covered by Matt, that do need controlling for, such as the age of the mine, and the stage in the ‘commodity cycle’. These factors themselves have begun to lead to some concerns about the ageing nature of Australian gold mines and the long-term sustainability of the industry.

The presentation is available on Slideshare:

Australian gold industry – Where does geoscience meet mineral economics? – Ulrich et al – Dec 2016 – Centre for Exploration Targeting from John P. Sykes

Sam Ulrich is contactable via Linkedin and a great person to speak to about gold mining in general and his research more specifically. He also publishes regular updates of his research on the subject.