Exploring for gold is a complex, scientific and time-consuming process.
With odds of only one in 3,000 discoveries leading to mine development, and only 10 percent of the world’s gold deposits containing enough gold to mine, exploration can be labor-intensive, time consuming and expensive. Exploration can last anywhere from a couple of years to sometimes even decades. It also marks the first contact between Newmont and the community, and these interactions are critical to shaping positive future relationships.
Early attention to the environmental and social characteristics of an area through baseline studies and assessments is an important way that we identify, predict and assess the type and scale of potential impacts and opportunities associated with our activities in the area. We begin these social and environmental baseline studies as early as possible, as effective assessment of an area may require months or even years to account for seasonal and migration issues.
This survey and research includes the collection of data from:
- Water resources
- Flora and fauna
- Socio-economic conditions and populations
- Community health
We continue these studies right through to the Development and Design stage where the collected data helps to identify any project alternatives in our impact analysis. So how do Newmont’s exploration teams locate future large-scale projects?
The first step is prospecting. For explorers working in the field, accessing land is essential to discovering deposits. Explorers must recognize formal and informal ownership to obtain necessary permissions to enter onto prospective land. Once land access is secured, community relationships must be maintained through continuous communication during periods of inactivity and across multiple work teams, contractors and consultants.
Newmont uses several prospecting methods to reduce the area of land to be explored:
- Evaluate the land’s geology
- Analyze the geochemistry of soil sediment and water
- Commission airborne and ground geophysical surveys to record the response of electrical, magnetic and gravity measures in the crust below
If the geological, geophysical and geochemical data collected indicate a possibility of a deposit in a target area, step two can begin: drilling.
Drilling helps us evaluate the type and grade of minerals in the ground. As crews drill, they mark the exact location and depth of each sample taken. Samples are then sent to an accredited lab, which identifies the concentration of elements, including gold, within them.
Modeling the Ore Body
Assay information from the lab is combined with geologic, geochemical and geophysical data in a process known as geologic modeling of the ore body. Using information obtained from sampling, testing, mapping and observation, geologists use complex computer programs to create 3D models of what the underground mineral occurrence might look like. Geologic models are provided to resource model experts who statistically estimate the distribution of mainly gold and copper throughout the ore body shape.
Following several years of intensified drilling, the models are ultimately used by mine engineers to determine mining methods, optimum mine size and schedule, and equipment requirements that will maximize the safety and efficiency of production – all of which takes place in the next stage of the mine lifecycle: development and design.
Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement
The economic impact of exploration can be significant to a community, through local procurement, transportation and lodging requirements, employment, and the transfer of knowledge and skills. However, because of the often temporary nature of exploration, it is vital that we maintain dialogue not only to address expectations, but also to bring the interests of Newmont and the local communities closer together.
By assessing and managing the current and potential environmental and social impacts of our activities, we continue to build relationships with stakeholders.
In the case of a joint venture, merger and/or acquisition, Newmont may begin to operate a mine in an area where the exploration work, development and design, and even construction have already been completed. These projects are entered into only after thorough due diligence and assessments have determined them capable of supporting economically viable, environmentally responsible and socially sustainable operations in the region.