This week in Pierce Points:

China became the world’s largest crude importer. Data from April show that the Asian superpower is now bringing in oil faster than America.

One of the world’s smallest countries opened for oil. Belize is looking at offering exploration blocks — and that might be a big opportunity.

India’s gold imports continued to rise. Shipments into the country jumped 55% in April, signalling reforms are stimulating demand.

And the U.S. opened new petro-plays. Lawmakers introduced bills to allow drilling in the Atlantic, Arctic, and eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Palladium saw its worst shortage in 10 years. The market was under-supplied by 1.58 million ounces in 2014, according to experts at GFMS.

The Only Proven Way to Find Big 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 as 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.

None of those exploration paradigms however, had widespread success. Leaving the gold industry without a central model for success — 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.

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 kilometres 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).

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.

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