Choosing a location to explore for ore deposits depends on two factors: is the resource there and is the country friendly towards miners. Both must be present for junior miners to explore.
Countries like China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Venezuela have vast natural resources, but their political climates make it difficult for foreign entities to explore. Mining is completely state controlled in Venezuela and China, and Russia. Kazakhstan is largely closed to foreign investment. Brazil, Argentina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa are home to some of the world’s largest ore deposits, but each country has its own risks that may deter junior miners: political corruption and permitting issues in Brazil, high taxes and unclear environmental regulations in Argentina, infrastructure problems and high cost of operation in South Africa, and human rights issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
It's important to note that just because a country has jurisdictional risk, it may still have lot's of potential. South America is one of the richest continents in terms of untapped, below-the-surface wealth. Perhaps making South America the perfect contrarian investment? Go Deeper →
There are many countries with prolific mineral resources who welcome mining companies: Canada, Australia and the United States. Canada’s resources include uranium, zinc, nickel, copper, gold, silver, lead and platinum. Similarly, Australia is rich in uranium, gold, iron, copper, lithium and nickel. Both countries offer incentives to mining companies. Gold, silver and copper are the main mineral resources in the United States, with growing exploration for battery minerals. It’s no surprise that many of the world’s junior miners are exploring these three nations.
Choosing the wrong mining jurisdiction is one of the main reasons a junior mining company may fail. Go Deeper →
Where do metals come from?
Where is Gold mined?
In 2019, global gold mine production was reported 3,463.7 tonnes.
China is the most dominant gold producer (383.2t), closely followed by Russia (329.5t) and Australia (325.1t) and the US (200.2t) and Canada (182.9t) follow on.
Newmont Goldcorp with its HQ in the US, is the world’s largest gold producer and has mines in the US, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Australia, Ghana, Argentina, Peru, and Suriname. The world’s second biggest gold mining company, Barrick Gold has five core mines in Nevada, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Argentina.
Notable junior gold mining companies currently producing gold include Karora Resources (Australia), Superior Gold (Canada), Rio2 (Northern Chile), K92 Mining (Papua New Guinea), Rupert Resources (Northern Finland) and Serabi Gold (Brazil).
There are three major domestic companies mining gold in Russia, Polyus Gold, Polymetal, and Petropavlovsk and only one foreign gold miner, Kinross. The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources is keen to push gold production in the country and is working to relax regulations that limit the number of gold reserves that can be produced without federal government approval to stimulate mining project development.
Where is Silver mined?
Silver deposits are commonly found in primary copper, gold, lead and zinc deposits. Global silver production in 2019 was approximately 27,000 tons. Mexico was the top producer (6,300t), followed by Peru (3,800t), China (3,600t) and Russia (2,100t).
Poland produced a total of 1,700 tons of silver and is home to the world’s largest silver operation, the Rudna, Lubin and Polkowice-Sieroszowice mines. These mines are owned by KGHM Polska Miedź and produced 31.2 tons of silver in 2019. Significant silver production also comes from Australia (1,400t in 2019), Chile (1,300t), Argentina (1,200t) and Bolivia (1,200t).
Mining majors have a stake in global silver production. Newmont Goldcorp owns the Penasquito mine in Mexico, which produced 709.4 tons of silver in 2019. The Antamina mine in Peru, which produced 468.8 tons of silver in 2019, is jointly owned by BHP and Glencore. Teck and Mitsubishi have an ownership stake in the Antamina mine as well.
Other companies in the silver mining space include Fresnillo, Pan American Silver, Southern Copper, Buenaventura, CODELCO and Hochschild, who all operate in Latin America. Polymetal is the largest silver mining company in Russia, and Hindustan Zinc is the dominant silver miner in India.
Junior mining companies currently producing silver include Endeavour Silver (Mexico), Trevali (Peru & Namibia), MAG Silver (Mexico), Minco Silver (China), Sabina Gold and Silver (Canada) and GoGold Resources (Mexico).
Where is Uranium mined?
Uranium is commonly mined from the minerals Uraninite (UO2) and Pitchblende (U3O8). The majority of the world’s mined uranium is produced by just three countries: Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia. In 2019, Kazakhstan produced 22,808 tons, Canada produced 6,938 tons and Australia produced 6,613 tons. These countries accounted for 67% of the 54,752 tons of uranium mined globally. Namibia (5,476t), Uzbekistan (est. 3,500t), Niger (2,983t), Russia (2,911t) and China (est. 1,885t) also produced significant amounts of uranium. Minor contributions came from Ukraine, South Africa, India, USA, Iran and Pakistan.
Many uranium mines are owned and operated by subsidiaries of state-run nuclear power companies. Examples include Orano in France, Kazatomprom in Kazakhstan and Rosatom (Uranium One) in Russia.
Uranium mining in Kazakhstan is largely nationalised. Five of Kazakhstan’s 17 uranium mines are wholly owned by the national company Kazatomprom; the remaining 12 are joint ventures between Kazatomprom and foreign partners. One of these partners is Canadian miner Cameco Corporation.
The Athabasca Basin in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, is a world-class uranium mining region, supplying about 20% of the world’s uranium. Current mining activity is predominantly owned and operated by Cameco and Orano. Denison Mines, Idemitsu Canada Resources and TEPCO Resources all have partnership stakes in Athabasca uranium mines. The prolific uranium resources in Canada’s Athabasca Basin make it a prime location for junior miners. Juniors currently exploring in the area include IsoEnergy, NexGen, Fission Uranium and Forum Energy Metals.
The largest uranium mine in Namibia, the Rossing mine, is a joint partnership between the governments of China, Iran, Namibia and South Africa. The Langer Heinrich mine, owned and operated by Paladin Resources, is currently in a care and maintenance state. Junior miners Bannerman Energy, Deep Yellow, Marencia Energy and Forsys Metals are actively exploring and developing uranium projects in Namibia.
Mining majors operate two of the three currently producing uranium mines in Australia. Ranger mine is operated by Energy Resources of Australia (a subsidiary of major Rio Tinto) and the Olympic Dam mine is operated by BHP. The Beverley mine is operated by Heathgate, which is owned by the US-based nuclear company General Atomics. Junior miners in Australia include Bannerman Energy, Alligator Energy, Boss Resources.
Where are Battery Metals mined?
As the popularity of electric vehicles rises, so does the demand for battery metals. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, tin, graphite and manganese are all crucial components of rechargeable batteries. Aside from their use in electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries help power modern life – they are found in most portable electronics like smartphones, laptops and tablets. Vanadium is another important battery metal, used in vanadium redox batteries. These batteries last longer than lithium batteries and are commonly used for storage applications, such as power plants and energy grids.
There are three types of lithium deposits: brine, hard rock and clay. Brine deposits are accumulations of saline groundwater enriched in lithium carbonate salts. These deposits are common in arid desert regions, such as the Atacama Desert in South America and the Qaidam Basin in China. Lithium brine deposits in the western United States (California, Utah and Nevada) have become popular regions for exploration in recent years. Brine deposits account for 66% of the world’s lithium resources. Hard rock lithium deposits, also known as pegmatites, contain the lithium-rich mineral spodumene.
Australia is home to several hard rock lithium deposits, primarily located in Western Australia. Established lithium mining companies include Mineral Resources, Albermarle, Orocobre, Tianqi Lithium.
Junior lithium miners are largely concentrated on projects in Argentina, Australia and the US. These companies include Millennial Lithium (Argentina), Core Lithium (Australia), Standard Lithium (US), Neo Lithium (Argentina), Frontier Lithium (Canada), Galan Lithium (Argentina), and European Lithium (Austria).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is home to vast cobalt resources, producing 100,000 metric tons in 2019. However, cobalt mining in the DRC has been scrutinised for child labour, so the search for ethical cobalt deposits has ramped up. Cobalt is typically mined as a byproduct of copper and nickel deposits. Russia and Australia produced 6,100 and 5,100 metric tons, respectively, from magmatic nickel-copper sulphide deposits in 2019.
Additional production came from mines in the Philippines, Canada, Cuba, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea.
Mining major Glencore is the largest cobalt producer in the world, producing from mines in the DRC, Australia, Canada and Norway. China Molybdenum and the Jinchuan Group are also top cobalt producers. Junior miners with cobalt projects include Jervois Mining (US), Sherritt International (Cuba and Madagascar), Power Metal Resources (DRC, Cameroon), Red Rock Resources (DRC), Horizonte Minerals (Brazil), Namibia Critical Metals (Namibia), First Cobalt (Canada & US), and Fortune Minerals (Canada).
Vanadium is commonly mined as a byproduct of magnetite iron ore deposits. Production is dominated by China, who produced 40,000 metric tons of vanadium in 2019. Significant production also came from Russia (18,000), South Africa (8,000) and Brazil (7,000). Vanadium mining in Russia is largely controlled by EVRAZ KGOK.
Largo Resources is responsible for the majority of Brazil’s vanadium production, while Bushveld Minerals is the primary producer in South Africa. Vanadium exploration by junior miners is largely in Canada, Australia and South Africa. Junior Vanadium miners include Vanadium One Iron (Canada), Western Uranium and Vanadium (US), Australian Vanadium (Australia), Vanadium Corp Resource (Canada), First Vanadium (Canada), Neometals (Australia), TNG Ltd. (Australia), Atlantic Vanadium (Australia) and Vanadium Resources (South Africa), U.S. Vanadium (USA).
Where are Rare Earths mined?
Rare Earth Elements, also called rare earths or REEs, are a group of 17 metallic elements. This group includes neodymium, cerium, yttrium, lanthanum, samarium and more. REEs are used in rechargeable batteries, catalysts, and the manufacturing of ceramics and glass. Demand for REEs has skyrocketed over the past two decades as electronics with high-quality glass and rechargeable batteries, like mobile phones and laptops, became a part of daily life. REEs are also used in batteries for electric vehicles, further increasing their demand.
What is rare about REEs? The elements themselves are not rare - the amount of REEs like cerium, yttrium, neodymium and lanthanum in the Earth’s crust is comparable to the amounts of common metals like nickel, zinc, and lead. However, deposits of REEs are rare. These elements are highly reactive and do not commonly occur in deposit-sized quantities. The majority of REE deposits are found in igneous rocks, like granites, pegmatites, and carbonatites. REE mineralization occurs in the form of bastnaesite, a lanthanide fluoro-carbonate, and monazite, an REE-phosphate.
Other REE deposits include monazite placer deposits (river and beach sands), iron-oxide-copper-gold deposits, and ion-absorption clay deposits.
Global REE production is dominated by one country: China. China is estimated to contain 36% of the world’s REE reserves. In 2019, China produced 132,000 tons of REEs, 63% of the world’s supply. The US (26,000 tons), Myanmar (22,000 tons) and Australia (21,000 tons) accounted for 32% of global production. Brazil, India, Madagascar, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam and Burundi contributed the remaining 5%.
REE mining in China is dominated by state owned or local private companies. These companies include China Northern Rare Earth Group, China Minmetals Rare Earth, China Rare Earth Holdings, JL Mag Rare Earth, and Xiamen Tungsten.
Outside of China, REE exploration and production is concentrated in the US, Australia, Greenland and Canada. The Mountain Pass Mine in California, owned by privately-held MP Minerals, is the only active REE mine in the US. USA Rare Earth have a project at Round Top, Texas, and Energy Fuels have a project underway to process monazite-bearing sands from the Chemours sand plant in Georgia.
REE exploration in Greenland is underway by Canada-based Greenland Minerals and Energy (Ilimaussaq alkaline complex) and Canada-based Hudons Resources (Sarfartoq). In Canada, Critical Elements are exploring REE deposits in Quebec and Search Minerals are exploring in Labrador.
Australian companies Iluka Resources and Lynas Corporation are actively mining and processing REEs in Western Australia. Additional exploration and development in Western Australia is underway by Hastings Rare Metals.