Why America Is Still the Best Place to Find, Produce GoldMarch 5, 2018
Gold mining in the United States has taken place continually since the discovery of gold at the Reed farm in North Carolina in 1799. The first documented occurrence of gold was in Virginia in 1782. And even after more than two hundred years of steady gold extraction, America is still the best place to find and produce gold. Here's why:
1. Terrain Makes Early Exploration Easier
Most of the initial prospecting for gold is done through visual identification. Dry regions with sparse plant life such as California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona make visual identification of rocks much easier than in countries like Canada, Russia, South America and Asia where snow and/or trees cover most of the topography.
2. Mining Friendly Policies
In the United States, mine title is legally secure, unlike many jurisdictions in the world where governments steal assets or, like in British Columbia (Canada), where a large part of the province is claimed by aboriginals. Last year KGHM's Ajax project in BC was derailed due to these sorts of issues. The Fraser Institute ranks countries based on the policy perception index which is kind of a "report card" to governments based on the attractiveness of their mining policies. The USA ranks among the top in the index.
3. Clear Mineral Rights
In the United States, the importance of staking claims goes back to the California and Nevada gold rushes of the 1800s and the Mining Act of 1872. In America there are two types of claims - patented and unpatented mining claims. The biggest advantage to a patented claim owner is that the owner owns the land and minerals underneath it. If a piece of land is not a patented claim and it doesn't fall within parkland, a military base or other restricted government use, it is generally available for staking. Anyone can find out which land is open for staking through the BLM website. While there have been a lot of changes in how mining claims are staked, the central principle still holds: the owner of a mining claim in the United States holds the rights to the minerals below the surface. In many other countries surface rights can be bought and sold, but the minerals underground belong to the state. In Canada some mineral rights are privately held, but the vast majority are owned by the government. That can make a big difference for an exploration company because if the mineral rights are privately owned, the company does not have to go through the same rigorous and time-consuming permitting process as when the mineral prospect is controlled by the federal government.
4. Geopolitically One of the Safest Jurisdictions
America is safe, unlike South Africa, Mexico or virtually every other country in the world where violence, labor disruptions and property expropriation is the norm. Paramilitary/Security forces, risk pay, and equipment theft make the cost of doing business outside the US far too high.
Many countries in Asia, Africa and South America are corrupt, and bribes increase the cost of bringing a deposit into production.
5. Trained and Abundant Labor; Excellent Infrastructure
The United States has a long history and appreciation for the mining industry. A skilled and productive workforce means it is easy to hire qualified people to do the work. There are very few labor disruptions in America compared to other jurisdictions such as Mexico, Africa and South America. In the US it is unheard of workers destroying mine property and equipment which occurs on a regular basis elsewhere in the world. Plus, an abundance of assay labs in the US makes sample processing rapid and cheap. Excellent infrastructure for transportation and electricity makes exploration and production so much easier in America.
6. Gold is Cheaper to Produce in America
The price of gold is the same around the world but the cost of production is not. There is no currency risk when producing in America. The revenues are accounted in US dollars and so are the costs. Many investors have spotted the value gap developing between international mining operations and those in the United States. And many of them are selling off their international assets to reinvest the capital back into US based projects. The United States has become the go-to destination for gold mining companies.
7. Low Level of Corruption and Bribery
USA ranks 16 on the least corrupt countries in the world according to the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017. This is a big positive for America where the cost of doing business is lower and the return on investment is higher due to lower corruption and redtapeism.
To Sum it All Up - "America is the Best Place for Gold"
The top 4 gold producers in 2017 were China, Australia, Russia and United States in that order. But in truth, America remains the best place to find and produce gold.
China (Largest gold producer of 2017) - Lack of Proper Legal Framework
China's legal framework can be extremely complicated. It is a difficult and complex place for foreign miners to operate. Gold companies who don't understand it, and also those who don't have the right Chinese-national connections, have had trouble procuring licenses and permits. Only in 2006 did the first North-American miner pour gold in China, and only a handful of foreigners have done so since. China's gold industry is extremely fragmented, with many small mining companies running tiny operations. Eldorado is one of the only foreign miners to have success in China, and it was on a modest scale, but even Eldorado exited China in May 2016.
Australia (Second largest gold producer of 2017) - Lack of Benefits for Junior Gold Explorers
Australian mining law offers little incentive for junior exploration. Australia's current tax system only benefits exploration from miners already producing gold, not juniors undertaking greenfield/grassroots exploration. This is deterring junior exploration resulting in a lack of significant discoveries. This will constrain the country's production-pipeline in the future.
Russia (Third largest gold producer of 2017) - Government Controls the Natural Resources
Russia has mining laws that make it very difficult for foreigners to operate. There is a very fine line between the public and private mining sectors in this country, as the federal government maintains control over the country's vast natural resources. Russia's mining laws are designed to enable the State to take majority ownership of large deposits of "strategic" natural resources. Currently gold is considered a strategic metal, and Russian law gives the federal government pilfering rights on any deposit with resources over 1.6 Moz. Thankfully Russia is now considering easing these laws a bit in order to attract foreign investment. A handful (1%) of juniors are taking on this larger geopolitical risk in hopes of being the early ones to cash in.
America (Fourth largest gold producer of 2017)
While the US does tend to have a strict regulatory environment, the laws are cut-and-dried and geopolitics is a non-issue. The US also has a very strong mining history, and has long been among the world's top gold producers.
It's no wonder that mining companies throughout the world have made the USA their top priority in conducting exploration and advancing new deposits. Even though the rest of the world contains an abundance of fantastic mineral opportunities, the USA remains at the forefront due to its positive operating environment and a host of other reasons, as summarized above. When it comes to exploration and production, it is likely that the USA will continue to hold a lead position well into the coming years.