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Dave Forest

Dave Forest

Dave is Managing Geologist of the Pierce Points Daily E-Letter.

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The Best Way To Find Major Gold Deposits

There have been a lot of techniques used to look for major gold discoveries over the last 50 years.

But only one has consistently worked.

That's the message from a new scientific study published in the journal Applied Earth Science. Where Julian Vearncombe and Mario Zelic from Australia's SJS Resource Management survey over a half-decade of exploration efforts in the gold sector, in order to find out what's really been effective.

The authors identify 10 different strategies that have been tried through the years. In the 1950s, it was "syngenetic" models of gold formation -- basically suggesting that gold forms at the same time that layers of rock are deposited. Leading explorationists to focus on stratigraphy, and finding the right rock packages.

Later in the 1980s, explorationists switched to more structural theories to uncover rich ores. Particularly looking at faults and shear zones that formed late in the deformational history of a particular area. Related: Does Fossil Fuel Divestment Make Sense?

None of those exploration paradigms however, had widespread success. Leaving the gold industry without a central model -- until a new and bold theory took hold in the mid-1980s.


Vearncombe and Zelic point out that complexity theory has since become the only exploration tool with any kind of proven success. Having particularly helped with discoveries in places like West Australia.

So what is this theory?

The idea is that, geologically, the best things happen where a number of different features converge. That is, gold occurs in landscapes where there are a notably high number of faults, folds, and contacts between different rock units -- or, ideally, all of these things together. Related: M&A The Only Survival Strategy For The Oil Sector Now

That's led to exploration approaches such as satellite mapping. Where geologists survey large swaths of prospective terrain, and then pinpoint areas where a higher-than-average number of structures are present.

I can personally vouch for the success of such techniques. A few years ago, my team and I used satellite structural analysis over 1,000 kilometers of desert in central Myanmar -- and came up with several targets. When we drove to these remote locales for ground-truthing, we found that we were quite literally walking on hills of copper.

There are a couple of huge advantages to this kind of work. The cost is very low -- amounting to just a few thousand dollars. It also allows us to cover huge swaths of ground, even in areas that are inaccessible or off the beaten track (witness a group like AuEx Ventures -- now Renaissance Gold -- that used satellite surveys to help find gold in a part of Nevada no one had considered). Related: Copper And Oil Mega-Plays... In Exactly The Same Place

Today, I'm continuing to use satellite surveys to lay the groundwork for a number of global projects. We've already had good success spotting platinum targets in Africa based on fault intersections. And in British Columbia such work is uncovering look-alikes for world class discoveries like the Windy Craggy copper deposit and the Eskay Creek gold mine.


It's great to see these techniques getting the recognition they deserve. Having this kind of targeted exploration approach -- where sound scientific reasoning leads logically into targets on the ground -- raises the level of quality in our business. And sets the table for the major discoveries that our partners, shareholders (and ourselves) are seeking.

Here's to many more,

Dave Forest

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  • Tim Pollard on June 30 2015 said:
    In the late 70s / early 80s, I was involved in the supply of certain materials for the installation of several 'Hawk Antiaircraft Defensive Missile Bases' in Saudi Arabia.
    Since Saudi was mentioned in this text, I thought it was a good intro to this little piece of history . . .

    The Saudi government requested U.S. military assistance for the installation of defensive missile bases during the time when there was a lot of chest pounding and the brandishing of swords over Israel's posture and the U.S. provision of USD Billions in military equipment to Israel during that period.

    A decision was made to assist in the installation of seven Hawk Missile Bases and one of the prime contractors and suppliers was G&W. However, their letter of credit included the " Non Israeli " clauses within the text and their financial & legal departments found major problems in performing under the contract due to U.S. law prohibiting such wording. In an effort to retain the contract and the value there of, they had my company perform all of the shipping and paperwork involved so as to be able to collect under the credit. We were already a major supplier to the KSA government, Aramco and others, so it did not present a problem for us to do so. And it paid very nicely . . .

    Each of the site locations included underground silos for the missiles themselves, launch and control quarters and an aircraft facility including hangars, control bunkers, maintenance shops, and runways capable of handling defensive and attack type aircraft.

    Our responsibility was to provide all the major hardware for the arresting gear for the runways. This is almost exactly the same arresting gear that is installed on aircraft carriers - spring loaded cables stretched between two points located so as to grab the ' tail hook' of the aircraft to shorten its landing distance.

    Runways are subject to extreme impact as the aircraft lands and the missile silos had to be located in very stable soil configurations, so that a major issue was to insure the land was suitable for purpose. Thus deep core-boring was required to confirm the strata was sufficient to support these operational conditions.

    In those days, the largest airport construction company in the kingdom was the Mohammed Bin Laden Organization ( yes, that Bin Laden ) and they had the contract for a major portion of this construction contract. We had sold them their brand new Challenger Drilling Rig and it was to be used, in part, for the core boring operations for these runways.

    Their chief drilling engineer, Mohammed Zoubi, was charged with performing the coring operations. He and I had become friendly associates, as I had sold him the new rig. We exchanged numerous messages, usually by telex, and were regularly correspondent. During the coring operations and substrate examination the rig pulled a core in the Taif area ( near Jeddah ) for one of the runways. Upon detailed examination, the geologist discovered a high gold ore content. Upon further examination and an ore analysis, it was reported to have an extremely high gold ore ratio worthy of further prospecting and very likely a potential mining operation.

    This information was immediately sent to Riyadh for further discussion by the King with the Royal Commission. From the extremely high analysis of the ore, it was reported that there was discussion of moving this potential base site to another nearby area. But after some internal discussion, King Khalid and his advisors, Fahd and Abdulla all decided that since the kingdom had such a bounteous supply of petroleum reserves that they would just continue with the construction and pave over the gold seams !

    Later, there was some discussion that this was possibly the origin of " King Solomon's Mines " and other such rumors but unless it is someday decided to go back in and do further geological exploration in that area, I guess we will never know.


    Tim Pollard

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