[VIDEO] From Mining to Refinement: How Gold is Made
The production of gold is a lengthy one that involves the process of mining, extracting and smelting. From the moment it’s dug out of the ground to when it become the gold we all know and love, watch out how the precious metal is made.
The process of gold mining is somewhat straightforward. Once a site is located, companies will construct mining operations (underground or surface) and begin searching for gold ore. The ore is then collected and separated depending on two categories -- low grade or high grade ore – and dispatched according to refinement.
If the gold ore is low grade, which means it contains less additional minerals, it can be crushed into small pieces and soaked in cyanide dilute, dissolving the gold throughout the heap.
High-grade ore requires the grinding of ore into powder form with additional processing before cyanide dilute is used.
Once the gold ore has been mined for and extracted, the process of turning it into pure gold begins. The ore is first extracted from the cyanide solution by combining carbon to absorb the gold with special chemicals used to strip the carbon from it. Last but not least, the gold is melted using extreme temperatures and then pressed into gold bars.
Low carbon world needs $1.7trn in mining investment
According to a new report from consultancy Wood Mackenzie, mining companies need to invest nearly $1.7trn in the next 15 years to help supply enough copper, cobalt, nickel and other metals needed for the shift to a low carbon world.
Cutting carbon emissions
The United States, Britain, Japan, Canada and others raised their targets on cutting carbon emissions to halt global warming at a summit in April hosted by US President Joe Biden.
Meeting those targets will need large-scale deployment of electric vehicles, storage for power generated from renewables and electricity transmission, all of which require industrial materials, such as lightweight aluminium and metals used in batteries such as cobalt and lithium.
Wood Mackenzie analyst Julian Kettle calculated miners needed to invest about $1.7trn during the next 15 years to “deliver a two-degree pathway - where the rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times is limited to 2°C”.
“At an industry level, there seems to be reticence around investing sufficient capital to develop future supply at the pace and scale demanded by the energy transition (ET),” he said.
Mining firms are wary of making heavy investments after their experience of the last decade when they invested in new capacity just as demand peaked, leading to a collapse in prices and revenues. They also need to please investors, who are unlikely to want to see dividends diverted to capital spending.
Rising demands of investors related environment, social and governance (ESG) issues further add to the challenge.
Australia, Canada and Western Europe carry a low ESG risk but some of the best resources are in high-risk areas, such as Democratic Republic of Congo, which sits on about half the world’s cobalt reserves according to the U.S. Geological Survey. “Given the need to meet tough decarbonisation and ESG targets, Western governments, lenders, investors and consumers will need to get comfortable operating in jurisdictions where ESG issues are more complex,” Kettle said.
Kettle said government support was needed to help miners comply with ESG issues to ensure production from high-risk areas was conducted in an acceptable way to consumers.
“Then, and only then, will the West be able to secure sufficient volumes of the raw materials needed to pursue the energy transition in the timescales envisaged.”