Picture of a mine under construction

RANKED: Top 10 longest-life precious metals mines under construction

Precious metals, long treasured for their lustre, beauty, stability and value, have diverse applications ranging from industrial and automotive to jewelry and investing. Demand for key precious metals, encompassing gold, silver and platinum group metals (PGMs), has been on the rise. 

Gold demand jumped 18% to 4,741 tonnes last year, while supply only grew by 2%, according to the World Gold Council. Silver demand reached a new high of 1.2 billion oz. during 2022 driven largely by industrial uses and the jewelry sector, according to the Silver InstituteAnd analysts forecast a shortfall in platinum of up to 900,000 oz. this year on rising automotive demand and unstable supply from major supplier South Africa as it deals with a worsening energy crisis. 

Using data provided by Mining Intelligence, Mining.com compiled a list of the top 10 precious metals mines now in construction, ranked by mine life. The list includes a mixture of gold, PGM, and silver-dominant projects. 

Three projects in South Africa top the list of long-life assets, with Sedibelo Resources’ P-S-M operation in North West province, on the Western Limb of the prolific Bushveld PGM Complex, sitting at No. 1. Boasting a 30-year mine life, according to a 2021 prefeasibility study, the project incorporates Sedibelo’s existing Pilanesberg open pit mine with planned development of a second pit as well as two underground deposits. The company is also building a 110,000-tonne-per-year processing plant. 

Once the plant is ready in 2025, Sedibelo plans to refine its own concentrate using the environmentally friendly Kell hydrometallurgical process, rather than selling its concentrate to third parties for traditional smelting. The Kell process uses a fraction of the electricity of smelting — a big plus in South Africa, where severe power shortages have dampened mine output. Capital costs for P-S-M are estimated at ZAR 16.9 billion (US$920 million) with its after-tax NPV at ZAR 28.3 billion (US$1.6 billion), with expected annual production between 2030 and 2040 of 278,000 oz. of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold. Sedibelo is planning an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.  

The other projects in South Africa are the Platreef PGM mine in Limpopo province, 64%-owned by Ivanhoe Mines (TSX: IVN) subsidiary Ivanplats, and slated for first production next year. According to a 2022 feasibility study, the project will produce 522,000 oz. of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold annually over its 29-year mine life. And third on the list is Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mining Co.’s Blyvoor gold mine in the Witwatersrand Basin. Blyvoor is expanding the processing plant to 2,500 tonnes per day from 1,300 tonnes per day at the historic mine, which first began production in 1942. The company acquired the project in 2015.  

At No 4. is Artemis Gold’s (TSXV: ARTG) Blackwater open pit mine in B.C., the first of four Canadian entries on the list – all gold mines. The project with a 22-year mine life is expected to produce 321,000 oz. annually over its first five years, with several more expansions that will see peak production of 438,000 oz. gold per year during years 11-17. 

In spot No. 5 is Fresnillo (LSE: FRES) and MAG Silver’s (TSX: MAG) high-grade, silver-dominant Juanicipio underground mine in Mexico. Underground mine production began in the second half of 2020, however the connection of the processing plant to the power grid was only completed late last year, following delays in regulatory approvals. The plant, which made its first shipment of concentrate in March, is now being commissioned. It’s expected to reach its 4,000-tonne-per-day capacity in the third quarter. Fresnillo reports proven and probable reserves at Juanicipio of 16.3 million tonnes grading 1.53 grams gold per tonne, 284 grams silver, 2.38% lead and 4.27% zinc. 

In the No. 6 spot, West African Resources’ (ASX: WAF) Kiaka gold project, acquired from B2Gold (TSX: BTO; NYSE-AM: BTG) in 2021. The project, in Burkina Faso, is on track for first production in 2025 and will average 219,000 oz. gold annually over 18.5 years.  

Iamgold’s (TSX: IMG; NYSE: IAG) 70% owned Coté and Argonaut Gold’s Magino are next on the list, with respective mine lives of 18 and 17 years. With first production expected next year, Coté is forecast to produce an average of 365,000 oz. gold per year, while the first gold pour at Magino is on track for mid-May with production averaging 117,100 oz. per year.  

Aura Minerals’ (TSX: ORA) Almas gold project in Brazil, slated at No. 9, marks the first appearance of a South American project on the list. However, with production forecast at only around 35,000 oz. gold per year over its 17-year mine life, it’s much smaller scale than the rest. 

And back in Canada, B2Gold’s recently acquired Goose project in Nunavut rounds out the top 10. The high-grade gold project — B2Gold’s first project in Canada, acquired through a $1.2-billion all-share takeover of Sabina Gold & Silver that closed in April — is forecast to begin production in 2025. The project is expected to produce an average of 223,000 oz. gold annually over 15 years. 

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