"The future of Nevada’s mining industry unquestionably depends on successfully navigating the transition from exploring in yesterday’s near-surface search spaces to exploring in tomorrow’s undercover search spaces."
Could you introduce Nevada Exploration?
Nevada Exploration was founded with the sole focus of looking for Nevada’s next large Carlin-type gold district in the 50% of the state where the bedrock is covered by sand and gravel beneath large desert valleys. These valley basins have been under-explored due to an historic lack of specialized undercover exploration tools.
How does Nevada Exploration make use of technology for undercover exploration?
There are two types of tools used in exploration: detection and prediction. Detection tools are geochemistry driven and generally involve taking a sample to send to a lab. Predictive tools are primarily geophysical, and allow explorers to collect surrogate rock property measurements to project features of significance from known areas into new areas. Having nearly exhausted the near-surface search space, Nevada explorers have no choice but to transition to undercover exploration, but in the absence of good undercover detection tools they have had to lean heavily on predictive tools. And the results have been terrible: 20 years of declining discovery rates.
If we look at how new search spaces have been opened up historically, it has always been driven by detection tools – specifically regional-scale sampling programs. To open up the covered half of Nevada we had to replicate this type of workflow and come up with new detection tools that work in covered settings.
Globally, the most important new sampling medium is groundwater, which is a particularly helpful because groundwater flows along the covered bedrock we cannot see and samples it for us by dissolving small bits of mineralization that we can then detect using the latest lab tools. Understanding the power of this technology, we have completed the world’s largest groundwater chemistry sampling program specifically.
Can you describe recent activity at South Grass Valley?
Nevada Exploration identified South Grass Valley as a result of its regional-scale groundwater program. After completing several additional geochemical and geophysical programs, we began a series of staged drilling programs that have confirmed the presence of a characteristic Carlin-type geologic architecture that has been exploited by a gold-bearing hydrothermal mineral system of a scale consistent with what is required to host a 10–20-million-ounce gold budget. By focusing on understanding what controlled the flow of these mineralized fluids, we believe we have established the major mineral controls at this new district, which relate to a series of district-scale high-angle faults called the Water Canyon Structural Corridor. In late 2021, we began our third round of drilling to now look for places where the mineralized fluids had the opportunity to meet structural or chemical traps to drop their gold budget to leave behind potentially economic mineralization.
How would you describe the current state of the Nevada mining industry?
Nevada is in the spotlight right now with good reason: on an ounces of gold produced per year per area basis, there is nowhere on the planet that compares. However, there are two very important things that are absolutely critical for the future of Nevada’s mining industry and that virtually no one is talking about.
Firstly, while Nevada is a global leader in gold production, the state’s gold is not distributed equally. The vast majority of its gold is contained within one type of deposit, now famously known as Carlin-type gold deposits, which contain more than 200 million ounces of gold, making it one of only six belts in the world of this size. 80% of Nevada’s Carlin-type ounces come from only three camps: Cortez, Carlin and Getchell. Indisputably, everything else in Nevada is relatively insignificant.
Secondly, Nevada’s annual gold production of 5 million ounces, while almost the same as all of Canada, actually represents a 45% decline from Nevada’s peak gold production in the late 1990s. When you look at Nevada’s production curve, since bringing its three large Carlin camps online in the 80’s and 90’s there has been little else coming out of the pipeline – this in spite of explorers spending more money over this period that at any other time in Nevada’s history.
Where do you see potential for exploration companies in the state?
The future of Nevada’s mining industry unquestionably depends on successfully navigating the transition from exploring in yesterday’s near-surface search spaces to exploring in tomorrow’s undercover search spaces. For each camp sticking out of the ground, there is likely another waiting to be found undercover. So, despite the troubling data I shared above, Nevada actually has an incredibly bright future that is going to be led by the early entrants able to leverage new exploration tools to open up the second half of Nevada: the covered half.