(You need free-milling gold in that ore of yours.)
In an earlier post in this series, I mentioned a short list of metals percentages or values necessary to make a small-scale lode venture economically viable. I want to continue in this vein (pun intended!) for a bit in this post and then move things along into other areas of developing a small-scale hard-rock mine. So hang in there.
Remember the Overall Premise Here
OK, I've already covered the fact that you should avoid refractory ores in your hard-rock venture(s). So what we're talking about here are, again, free-milling gold ores. Here's the deal. If your ore is delivering as good or better than those metal values or percentages already mentioned, then your mine is considered viable for development. Since gold is the metal we're interested in, you're ore needs to be showing around 1.50 troy ounces to the ton on average. That is, if your little ol' miner's heart is set on making a profit and expanding your diggings down the road a piece. Then your mine and your mining become job-related entities centered on economic factors. There's a high road and a low road here as I've alluded to earlier. Stepping onto one road means you turn your hard-rock claim into a working proposition that spits cash out at the end of the process and the other road means you take whatever yellow you can get and are damn happy to leave it at that. I make no value judgement concerning one or the other. However, remember that the overall premise behind this series of posts involves making a real go at a small-scale, hard-rock enterprise. So, that's the direction most of the info and tips I'm throwing out there are headed. It's hard work no matter how you slice it. Got that, pard?
(It's hard work no matter how you slice it.)
If you're serious about turning your small-scale lode claim into another Homestake Mine or Witwatersrand Reef, there's a simple truth to be discussed. Cost. Just how much your small-scale mine development is gonna cost you is dependent on an entire range of factors, including:
- Estimating the types and quantities of equipment/supplies you'll need.
- Deciding if you'll process your ore on site (i.e., building a small processing/recovery plant).
- Getting a line on labor costs (disregard this if you're the only "employee").
- Narrowing down transportation and/or shipping costs.
- Streamlining your operation so it's more cost-efficient.
- Acquiring the appropriate safety related gear (everything from mining helmets to shoring).
(Balancing mining costs is a tricky act.)
Permitting and Other Bureaucratic Bullshit
Thought I'd forgot this issue, didn't you? Nope, this snake was bound to rear its ugly head at some point. In an ideal world you could develop your small-scale lode the best way you saw fit and to hell with clerks, environmentalists, and bureaucrats. This may have been the way it was in the old days, but it sure ain't this way now. We as people (and as miners) are driven by paperwork and forms of every description imaginable, so it's little wonder that even in the much-heralded digital age paper still drives the gears of the Machine.
I'll be blunt here. Sometimes I don't even know why I try and put this sort of info out there (meaning developing a small-scale lode mine). There are so many bureaucratic restrictions on lode mining these days that it seems a doomed effort for the most part. Sure, large commercial gold mining operations and corporate mining giants can wend their way through this bureaucratic labyrinth with persistence and lots of cash to grease the political skids, but individual miners like you and I just don't have this sort of legal or financial presence.
The Main Drivers
There are two main drivers regarding lode permitting: 1) safety, and 2) the environment. Both of these are good things in and of themselves, especially a concentration on safety. I'm no land-raping maniac but when it comes to mining and the environment I'll repeat what an old pard told me a long time ago concerning mining in general. "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." There it is. If I somehow inflame some closet greenie's ire by this statement, then so be it. I've seen and done a lot of small-scale gold mining in my day and rarely ever have I (or someone else) had much (if any) real or lasting negative impact on Ma Nature. If the green loonies out there want to take someone on, why not go after Goldfield or Pegasus Mining or some commercial operation where things get torn up pretty well (like those TV mining stars up on the Klondike do)? In truth, radical environmentalists do go after the big boys on occasion, but they seem to have a real hard on for us, the small-scale guys and gals. Go figure.
That's it for now. Later all!
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016
Questions? E-mail me at email@example.com