Lessons learned from the copper industry applied to gold extraction

The copper industry is cyclical with the price determined by market forces (i.e. the balance between supply and demand for the metal.) The period of each cycle typically varies between 6 to 9 years. These cycles drive decision making for exploration, new project and mine development,mine closures, process improvement, research and development, and technological innovation. The gold industry is fundamentally different from copper in that supply and demand do not, alone, determine metal price and many other factors play a key role, including global and regional financial conditions, political stability, and the global future economic outlook. However, the gold price experiences trends and longer term cycles that similarly drive business decision making. This paper examines developments in the copper industry that have occurred over the past few price cycles (approximately 20 years) and explores how the lessons learned can be applied to gold extraction. A number of specific examples and opportunities are discussed in detail, including; technology development and innovation, cost control and business improvement, material characterization, comminution equipment, biological heap leaching, and concentrate pressure leaching.