Imperial Metals congratulates authors Chris Rees, Greg Gillstrom, and K. Brock Riedell on being the 2021 recipient of the Barlow Medal for Best Geological Paper
Imperial Metals congratulates authors Chris Rees, Greg Gillstrom, and consultant K. Brock Riedell for being named the 2021 recipient of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum’s (CIM) Barlow Medal for Best Geological paper award. The CIM Awards honour industry’s “finest for their outstanding contributions in various fields. Their achievements and dedication are what make Canada’s global mineral industry a force to be reckoned with.”
The Barlow Medal is named after Alfred Ernest Barlow who joined the Geological Survey of Canada in 1883, where he would help to define some of Canada’s most prolific mining regions. The Barlow Medal annually awards a gold medal to those who publish the best paper on economic geology.
“On behalf of Imperial Metals and Mount Polley Mining Corporation, we congratulate Chris Rees, Greg Gillstrom and K. Brock Ridell for being chosen as the 2021 recipient of the CIM Barlow Medal for Best Geological paper award,” says Brian Kynoch, President of Imperial Metals. “Their work has been instrumental in expanding the mineral potential at Mount Polley.”
The geological paper is a description of the geology, alteration and mineralization of the Mount Polley deposit, and summarizes exploration and mining history up to the recent mine suspension in May, 2019. Tables of historical copper, gold, and silver production, and reserves and resources are also included. The paper is a contribution to CIM Special Volume 57 (2020) which updates the state of knowledge on major porphyry copper deposits in British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska. Papers on other Imperial projects, Red Chris and Huckleberry, are also contained in the volume.
Imperial is a Vancouver based exploration, mine development and operating company. The Company, through its subsidiaries, owns a 30% interest in the Red Chris mine, and a 100% interest in both the Mount Polley and Huckleberry copper mines in British Columbia. Imperial also holds a 45.3% interest in the Ruddock Creek lead/zinc property.
Magnetite (also magnet iron, magnet iron stone, iron oxide, or iron (II, III) oxide) is the most stable iron oxide with high resistance to acids and alkalis. It has a cubic crystal system and a chemical molecular formula Fe3O4. One of the iron ions is divalent. The other two are trivalent, so Magnetite is also referred to as iron (II, III) oxide. It has a ‘Mohs’ hardness of 5.5 to 6.5, a black color, a line color, and a matte metallic sheen.
History of magnetite mining
Magnetite is one of the most powerful magnetic minerals. When the temperature falls below 578°C, the magnetization is mostly aligned in the earth’s magnetic field direction. A remnant magnetic polarization of the order of magnitude 500 nT results. In this way, magnetite crystals can preserve the direction of the earth’s magnetic field at the time of their formation.
The investigation of the direction of magnetization of lava rock (basalt) led geologists to observe that in the distant past, the magnetic polarity of the earth must have reversed from time to time. Due to its excellent magnetic properties, Magnetite is still used today in the construction of compasses. As a color pigment, it bears the name iron oxide black.
The name magnet emerged from the Latin name form magnetem (from nominative magnes – magnet). The medieval mineral name Magneteisenstein and the name Magnetit were introduced by Wilhelm Haidinger in 1845.
According to Greek legend, the shepherd Magnes is said to have been the first to find a natural stone with magnetic properties. The shepherd found the stone on Mount Ida when his shoe-heel stuck to the ground.
Another possible origin of the name refers to the Greek landscape Magnesia. Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) used the term “magnetic stone” in his well-known work De Re Metallica in 1550 as an ingredient for glass production.
The reference to the stone magnes, named after a shepherd of the same name, can be found in works by the Roman writer Pliny, the Elder. Pliny distinguished two types of magnes; a “male” and a “female,” of which only the male had the power to attract iron and thus corresponded to the actual Magnetite. “Female” magnesite was probably manganese ore, similar to the “male” in appearance.
The mineral might have also been named after Magnesia, a landscape in Thessaly or the city of Magnesia. It is also possible that the name Magnetite comes from other Greek or Asia Minor places of the same name, in which iron ore chunks with magnetic properties were found over 2500 years ago.
Magnetite occurs in solid or granular form and also as crystals. The latter are often octahedral in shape, so each has eight triangular boundary surfaces. It is a ubiquitous mineral, but it is rarely the main component of an iron rock.
Magnetite is found in numerous igneous rocks such as basalt, diabase, and gabbro in metamorphic rocks. Its hardness means that Magnetite remains intact as sand in river sediments despite weathering processes.
Most of the Canadian Magnetite comes from the Labrador Trough region, on the border between Newfoundland and Quebec and Labrador. Vast deposits of Magnetite can be found in Nunavut, Faraday Township, Hastings County, Ontario, and Outaouais, Québec, Canada. Magnetite deposits are mined in British Columbia at Mount Polley.
Dense Media Separation
Magnetite can be used in industry as a giant magnet. This has applications for sorting valuable materials from others in order to extract value. Those that panned for gold used pans, water, and agitation to remove dirt and debris from valuable nuggets of the valuable ore. Recyclers use magnetite in huge magets to sort valuable scrap metal from less valuable material. Magnetite mining helps the world extract value in an efficient way, whether from raw material or to repurpose discarded material in a green and environmentally friendly manner.
Dense Media Separation has its origins in cleaning coal. Finer coal material is separated from impurities making the energy derived from coal mining cleaner and more efficient.
Dense Media Separation is used in recycling industries to sort scrap metal. This is useful to give valuable material new life in everyday products from smartphones to electric vehicles. Magnetite makes recycling much more efficient, reducing the market price for recycled metals, allowing it to compete with newly mined metals in manufacturing.
Potash mining is a significant industry in Canada, particularly in the province of Saskatchewan. Potash is primarily used in fertilizer to more cheaply and efficiently feed a hungry world. Magetite, through the process of dense media separation, is used to purify extracted potash. Potash is a mixture of potassium chloride (KCl) and sodium chloride (NaCl). Magnetite is used in dense media separation in the potash extraction to remove NaCl from solution, leaving the valuable KCl behind.
Along with hematite, Magnetite is one of the essential iron ore. At 72 %, iron has the highest content of this metal. The term iron oxide black means finely ground Magnetite.
Magnetite plays an essential role in the electrical industry. The occurrence of magnetic ores in rocks such as Magnetite or ulvite enables geological studies to be carried out on the earth’s magnetic field orientation.
Due to the 100 % spin polarization of the charge carriers predicted by theory, Magnetite is also traded as a hot candidate for spin valves in spin electronics.
As a building material
Magnetite is used in the construction industry as a naturally granular aggregate with a high bulk density (4.65 to 4.80 kg/dm 3 ) for heavy concrete and structural radiation protection. Thanks to the heavy mineral, the building material can help to attain a solid concrete density of more than 3.2 t/m3; and is helpful in the construction of hospital radiology units.
Radiation protection concrete achieves a shielding function through its mass, but an aggregate with radiation-absorbing properties such as Magnetite increases the protective effect.
Magnetite in jewelry
Classic jewelry clasps are often extremely filigree and, therefore, difficult to close. Magnetic jewelry clasps provide a remedy; they enable necklaces and bracelets to be easily closed. The strong magnets ensure a firm hold. To open the chain or strap, wearers simply have to slide two locking parts sideways.
Industries use natural iron oxide minerals because they can keep the heat very efficiently. They use Magnetite in heat blocks in night storage heaters. Magnetite facilitates more extensive storage of thermal heat much more sustainably compared to other materials.
Magnetite is used in foundry metal protection
The mineral helps to prevent surface defects in metal fixtures in foundries. Natural mineral magnetite where it crashed into a pure, dry, and fine powder that’s used to protected casted metals.
Magnetic therapeutic beliefs in ancient times
Magnetism has been used traditional therapies for thousands of years, though modern science disputes therapeutic effect in placebo trials. The Greeks used magnetism in ancient treatments in 5th century BC. In China, magnets have been integrated into traditional therapy for over 2000 years, magnetism was also in traditional therapeutics in India and ancient Egypt to heal broken bones and other ailments.
Hippocrates described their healing power in the same way as the legendary doctor Paracelsus, who recommended treatments with magnets. Even during this time, women and men wore jewelry made from magnetic ores.
In ancient times magnetite mining became a major economic activity in the Thessalian city of Magnesia. Today, like the ancient Greeks, Canada has a reputation as a leading mining nation with the minerals sector as a core part of the economy. Magnetite mining supports jobs and increases economic growth in provinces and territories where it is mined along with broader benefits to Canada’s national economic output.
Happy Holidays – we hope that everyone enjoyed a joyous holiday season and wish you all the best for 2021.
A Covid-19 update – Mount Polley employees continue to take additional precautions to minimize the risks of COVID19 transmission and illness as recommended by the Provincial Health Officer. All personnel continued to report to work in Q4.
Employees and site visitors are required to sign off on a daily COVID-19 Questionnaire before entering the site and will be turned away if showing symptoms of illness.
Mount Polley Mine: Care and Maintenance
Bulletins regarding the mines care and maintenance:
The environmental monitoring programs continue and are on track
Closure research projects continue as planned
Remediation of Hazeltine Creek continued at Lower Hazeltine, projected to be complete in 2021
Workforce consists of thirteen staff plus additional contractors
Site water management continues, including the near-continuous operation of the water treatment plant
Exploration Geological Mapping of new areas on mine site
CANMAG shipping magnetite
Environmental Monitoring Update
Environmental team: Matt O’Leary, Gabriel Holmes, Kala Ivens, Alicia Lalonde (DWB Consultant), Kim Sandy, Don Parsons (Corporate Office)
Kimberly Sandy was hired on November 16 as the newest member of the Mount Polley environmental team. She has been hired as an Environmental Technician and extensive on-site training is underway.
New ENV Permit
A new ENV permit 11678 was issued on December 31, 2020 that incorporates conditions from a previous consent order because of ongoing appeals of conditions within the permit as issued on February 1, 2020.
Weekly WTP water quality sampling including monthly/quarterly toxicity sampling
Monthly water quality sampling at Hazeltine Creek
Monthly & Quarterly water quality sampling of surface & mine affected waters including groundwater, mine seepage
Polley Lake, Bootjack Lake, & Quesnel Lake water quality sampling
All critical ditches, sumps, ponds, and pipeline inspections
Monthly/quarterly Waste Inspections
Continued investigation of unauthorized discharges and exceedances
Reporting—monthly, quarterly, investigations
Monitoring planning as per the Comprehensive Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) and ENV Permit 11678
Specialized Environmentally Related Work
During the course of the year, we enlist the help of numerous environmental consulting companies to complete some of the specialized components of the environmental monitoring done at Mount Polley Mine. Examples include bird song surveys or benthic and invertebrate studies in the remediated areas of Hazeltine Creek. Most of our consultants completing specialized environmental work have wrapped up their field seasons and are processing data and interpreting their field observations in preparation for delivering their reports. Some of these reports satisfy CEMP requirements and some are stand alone studies. The results of this work can be found in the upcoming Mount Polley Mine Annual Environmental Report. Some of the companies that we engage with include Golder Associates Ltd, Minnow Environmental Inc., DWB Consulting Services Ltd., Ensero Solutions, and Watersmith.
Environmental monitoring is conducted in accordance with the Environmental Management Act (EMA) Permit 11678 and the approved Comprehensive Environmental Monitoring Plan (CEMP) requirements.
MPMC Water Treatment Plant (WTP) Update
In Quarter 4, the total treated water discharged to Quesnel Lake was ~1,592,581 mᵌ with an average discharge rate of ~0.2mᵌ/second.
The plant operated continuously for most of Quarter 4. Water quality samples were collected weekly at the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) at the influent (E19) and effluent (HAD-3) sites throughout the quarter. To further optimize the plant operations the WTP operators have been utilizing a Hanna Multiparameter Photometer to assess influent and effluent copper concentrations to help guide daily plant operations. We are developing a data set comparing the field readings to the lab results to verify the reliability of the instrument.
On November 11, 2020, a permit exceedance for elevated copper was observed at the WTP. Through the course of the resulting investigation, the plant was shut down for four days, additional samples were collected (in recirculation mode), a site contact water review was completed, the source of copper was identified, plant operations and site conditions were assessed key findings were identified and operational recommendations were compiled. The plant resumed normal operation on November 27, 2020.
On October 26, 2020, MPMC requested a bypass of the authorized works (the WTP) to discharge mine site contact water that is being stored in the Springer Pit without active treatment. Through the course of the last year, the water quality in the pit has improved greatly and meets the end of pipe permit limits as indicated by the sample results taken during on-site monitoring. This is the result of the water clarifying and passive in-situ treatment occurring in the pit. The bypass request also included water from the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and the Cariboo Pit provided that they meet the end of pipe permit limits. Significant water quality fluctuations are not expected because of the single-source nature of the bypass. Monitoring is planned to increase in the Springer Pit to provide early warning of water quality changes and will remain at the same frequency at the end of the pipe.
Another driver for this request is to aid MPMC in eliminating surplus water currently being stored on site. The quantity of water stored on-site currently exceeds “Best Practices” as advised by the Tailings Storage Facility Engineer of Record. A bypass authorization will enable MPMC to increase discharge volumes while still meeting permit limits and BC Water Quality Guidelines. This will also limit year-over-year accumulation of stored water on site. A similar bypass authorization request was submitted by MPMC in 2016 and approved by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment (MoE) on March 11, 2016.
MPMC Water Treatment Plant (WTP) Update-Graph
Hazeltine/Edney Creek Remediation
Remediation work was limited in Q4 to ground cover seeding and seed collection efforts. All areas that were disturbed by the 2020 construction near Hazeltine and Edney Creek were seeded. Additional Sitka Alder and Cattail seeds were collected for distribution. The native ground cover seed blend that is used in the remediation is comprised of Mountain Brome, Native Red Fescue, Rocky Mountain Fescue, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Blue Wildrye, Fireweed, and Big Leaf Lupine.
In late 2019, a comprehensive exploration program consisting of a geochemical MMI-soil sample survey and a geophysical 3D-IP survey was carried out over the Frypan/Morehead area located west and north of the Mount Polley mine. The target area is roughly 3 by 3 kilometers in size, largely till covered and shows a similar magnetic response to that obtained over the Mount Polley mine host rock of monzonite and hydrothermally altered monzonite breccia pipes.
In June 2020, an additional 3D-IP survey was conducted over the Mount Polley mine site to identify the geophysical response of the known mineralization.
Interpretation of the new geophysical data sets led to numerous high-priority targets both in the Frypan/Morehead area and on the mine site.
A drill program was planned to test the new high-priority targets on and off the mine site and to expand zones of known mineralization on the mine site. The first phase of drilling was carried out at the end of 2020.
Due to prolonged delays with assay labs, the program is waiting for results before drillings resume.
Quarter 4, 2020
Public Liaison Committee (PLC) Meeting via conference call
February 3, 2020
Public Liaison Committee (PLC) Meeting via conference call
Gold is the chemical element with the symbol ‘Au’ on the periodic table of elements. It has been prized for its appearance, use, and value since its discovery by peoples long ago, as far back as 4000 B.C.
The yellow metal is worth so much due to its rarity, its appearance, how easily it melts and can be manipulated, its lack of oxidation or tarnishing. It is also valued for its density and durability. All of these contribute to the allure and desirability of this metal. It really is heavy! Do you think you could walk away with a cubic foot of gold if you found it? A cubic foot of gold weighs approximately 1,206 pounds!
Today you can find gold at jewelry stores, in collected coins, in edible form, and in many other places. Let’s take a tour and discover more about the history of gold mining in Canada, the history of gold, uses for gold, and more about this precious metal.
Gold Mining in Canada
Canada mines a variety of metals and minerals for sale on the global market, gold among them. Gold mining in Canada occurs in nine provinces/territories. In terms of the value of production, it is Canada’s highest valued commodity. Canada joins Russia, the United States, Australia and China as the top gold mining nations of the world.
Gold can be found in many regions in Canada. It was first found in 1823 in Québec along the shores of the Rivière Chaudière. Gold was then found in British Columbia’s Fraser River in its sands in 1858 after ‘rushes’ in California and Australia. This began the Cariboo Gold Rush. It was followed by the Yukon’s Klondike Gold Rush four decades later, which started one of Canada’s most productive eras of mining gold. However, the first to mine and prospect for gold in North America were the Aboriginal peoples.
Many gold mining camps were established in the early 1900s. Gold fever was rampant! Canada expanded its gold production capacity when the second World War started to meet wartime expenses. That capacity reached 166 tons in 1941 – its high – but went down dramatically due to the war. Production dropped in the 1970s in Canada due to production costs, but gold price increases encouraged growth and development. Other discoveries and development in the 1980s returned gold as important to the nation’s economy, and today the majority of Canadian gold production is derived from open-pit or hard-rock underground mines, with the rest from placer mining and base-metal mines.
Of all the minerals mined in Canada, gold is the most valuable. In 2018, it carried with it a $9.6 billion production value. Of the gold that was mined for production in Canada that same year, Quebec and Ontario were the largest contributors, making up over 75% of its mined production. The total estimated value for Canadian-exported gold in 2018 stands at $17.3 billion.
That same year, gold mines in Canada were able to produce around 183 tons of the precious metal, a substantial increase from nine years earlier when mined production of this metal stood at 88%. The Québec, Ontario, Nunavut, British Columbia, and the Atlantic region also experienced production increases. In 2018, Canada also generated income from gold in concentrates and metal ores of $806.7 million, an increase of $52.7 million from the year before. Gold mining companies in Canada made up over 20% of the mining sector’s output for the country. Overall the mining industry for gold in Canada is thriving and a productive part of the national economy.
The Bullion Pit was once called the Largest Hydraulic Placer Mine in the World, measuring over 3 km in length, 800 ft wide, and over 400 ft deep. The Bullion Pit Mine was an awe-inspiring wonder of man’s tenacity for extracting wealth from the ground in his hunt for gold. Located 5 kms west of Likely, the mine was in operation from 1892 to 1942.
However, over its lifetime, the Bullion Pit Mine produced over 175,644 ounces of gold, at today’s prices would be almost $400 million ($CAD).
The History of Gold
Early Discovery of Gold
According to historians at the U.S. National Mining Association, cultures were using gold in Eastern Europe for creating decorative objects as far back as 4000 B.C. In the years that followed, it is believed that gold was solely used for making jewelry or idols that could be worshipped.
Around 1500 B.C., Egypt’s empire had already made plenty of profit from Nubia, its region known for producing gold. It was at this time that the empire elected to make the precious metal their official medium of exchange when it came to matters of international trade. They also created the 11.3 gram shekel coin, which became the Middle East’s standard unit of measure and was created from electrum, an alloy of two parts gold and one part silver.
At the same time, the Babylonians discovered fire assay, a method for testing gold purity that is so effective that it continues to be used in modern times. The Egyptians would find in 1200 B.C. that they were able to use other metals to alloy gold, imparting strength and even being able to color it differently with various colour pigments. The Egyptians also were working on lost-wax casting, a method to create sculptures that is still in use.
Asia Minor’s kingdom of Lydia would mint their first gold coins in 560 B.C. with coins made out of pure gold. The Greeks had also done their fair share of mining from Gibraltar to Egypt and Asia Minor. The Romans also were on the hunt for gold, and would mint their own gold coins in 50 B.C. while advancing the technology and scientific approach to mining for gold significantly. The coins were named Aureus, deriving from ‘Aurum’, the word for gold in Latin.
Further on in the history of gold, when William became King of England and the first Norman king in 1066 A.D., his triumph ushered in a new English system of currency along with it. Now currency would be based on metallic coins, which led to the use of the terms pence, shillings, and pounds (one pound equating to one pound of sterling silver).
In 1284, Great Britain would issue the Florin, a gold coin and its first for the nation. In Italy, the Ducat was issued in the Republic of Florence. The gold coin would skyrocket in popularity, becoming the world’s most popular form of gold currency at the moment and through the next five hundred years.
The first gold coin to be produced in the United States was made by Ephraim Brasher, a goldsmith, in 1787. The American government would pass the Coinage Act in 1792, which led to the United States being placed on a standard of silver and gold.
In 1848, gold flakes were discovered in a Californian stream by John Marshall. This was the start of what would go down in history as the California Gold Rush, where prospectors flocked to the state to try and find their fortune in gold. While some struck it rich, for many, a grand fortune never panned out. The movement did, however, help to get the West settled and added to the state’s population for a time.
In 1976 the government left the gold standard and changed over to a basis of fiat money instead. Over the years, many countries have used gold as part of its currency, monetary reserves, and commemorative or specific coins.
Industrial Uses for Gold
Gold is not only used for luxury or decorative items – it has industrial uses as well. Gold is used to make electronics and a variety of other goods. It is a fantastic conductor and small amounts can be used to carry a current, while also having the benefit of not corroding. That and other qualities, such as its malleability and purity, makes it a valued component, ingredient, or main element for many products.
Various industrial uses for gold include:
Electronics and electronic components
Computers, memory chips
Space vehicles, space circuitry (conductor, connector, mechanical lubricant)
Gold in Jewelry and Luxury Items
The use of gold in luxury items and as a material for jewelry has gone back centuries and continues to this day. Gold has always been an attractive choice for all things ornamental or decorative, from objects such as jewelry to other symbols of status. In modern times, roughly 78% of gold that is consumed annually is for the manufacture of jewelry.
Gold is ideal for making jewelry for many reasons. Its yellow color, its resistance to tarnishing, the high luster, and its malleability or ease of being cast into shapes all help this precious metal become selected as a frequent choice for jewelry manufacture. Its high value and tradition as an attractive and expensive jewelry metal makes it a desirable component for any piece, and for many objects of importance, gold is expected to be used.
Pure gold is beautiful but also very soft, so it is often alloyed with metals like platinum, copper, and silver. For the creation of luxury items and jewelry, an alloy is frequently used of gold and another metal if it is necessary or beneficial. These alloys also will alter the final color and can produce yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, or gold with shades of peach, black, or green.
Gold leaf and gold gilding are also frequently used in luxury items and applications. The opulent forms of gold are used in external building decoration, in photo or painting frames, furniture, decorative application to surfaces, luxury purses, jewelry, home interiors, and in many more applications. The choice of gold as a luxury item and in the manufacture of jewelry will result in a product that is of the highest quality.
Gold As a Reserve
Gold was used by countries as a way to provide a guarantee to others. Held in the bank during the times of the gold standard, it was a store of value for the nation. While today countries have largely moved off the gold standard, central banks continue to store ample gold reserves, with more being added yearly.
The U.S. has the greatest gold reserve at over 8,000 metric tons, worth hundreds of billions of dollars It is followed by Germany, Italy, and France. Other countries continue to add to their own reserves. In addition, entities such as the European Central Bank and the IMF have their own gold holdings. Developed countries keep these gold reserves because of their central bank policy and their guaranteed worth regardless of circumstance. Gold serves to protect against economic events as a fail-safe policy, while simultaneously supporting the value of currency.
Silver is a soft metal with many valuable properties that make it a desirable resource for reasons both practical and luxurious. The chemical element goes by the ‘Ag’ symbol on the periodic table of elements and comes with a melting point of 962°C. It is superior to other metals in that it exhibits high levels of thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity, and metal reflectivity. Read on to find out more about this highly prized metal in its uses, history, and application and influence regarding the modern world.
Silver Mining in Canada
Canada has a robust mining industry that produces many minerals, silver among them. Canada produces gold, coal, potash, iron ore, copper, and silver, among other minerals mined. Canada placed fourteenth on a list of countries producing silver in 2017, producing 12.7 million ounces. Global production of silver in 2017 was 852.1 million ounces.
Canada features many concentrated production areas where mines are located and silver mining in Canada takes place, mainly in BC, Ontario, New Brunswick and Québec. Every year, Canada is able to produce over a thousand tons of silver to bring to market.
British Columbia is home to a number of Canadian mining companies and has a storied history of mining for this precious metal. The Sullivan lead-zinc-silver mine used to be one of the world’s largest producing 280 million ounces of silver while the mine was in production from 1909 through 2001.
Much of Canada’s silver production comes from mining as a byproduct; National Resources Canada states that most Canadian mines are polymetallic. As a result, silver is derived frequently from ores made out of copper and nickel, copper and zinc, and gold and lead. Besides ores, silver can be recovered from various recycled materials. Silver mining continues to be a source of income for the mining companies as well as having the effect of boosting Canada’s GDP.
Uses for Silver
This beautiful metal with the white luster is used in many ways and for many things. The metal is resistant to corrosion, and its malleable nature means that it can be worked with in different ways, whether being rolled, drawn out into a finer form, or other practical methods. Here are some of the most practical and popular uses,
Utensils and silverware
Industrial materials and applications
Water purification systems
Silver plating for art
Coins and currency
Medical products, such as surgical pins and plates
Photographic film, paper (accounts for nearly a quarter of fabrication silver demand)
Silver is the most conductive element on the periodic table of elements, followed by copper and then by gold. Silver owes its conductivity to its single valence electron, moving freely between atoms of silver. Due to the high price of silver, it is not typically used in wiring but can be found in high value electronics. Copper is more typically used as its price and conductivity are suitably matched for use in household appliances.
History of Silver
Silver has long been prized by people around the world. The metal is easy to work with, can be used for different purposes, and it’s attractive. Silver was used to make up currency such as coins and was used in utensils, ornaments, jewelry, decorations, and so much more through the centuries. Now, a brief summary of the history of silver.
Ancient peoples used silver for many things. It was used for jewelry, for eating utensils, and for ornamental purposes. Silver mining can be traced back to 3,000 B.C. in Greece and Turkey. Ancient people were able to refine the element by heating silver ore, using a cupellation process to blow air over it. As a result, base metals would oxidize and separate, leaving the silver to be then worked further.
In 1492, the Europeans arrived at what they called the New World. It was then that the explorers from Spain realized that South America was home to a fortune. It had veins of silver as well as silver ore ready to be exploited. The Spanish mined the silver and from 1500 to 1800, the majority of silver produced in the world would come from Bolivia, Mexico, and Peru (85%).
With so many practical industrial purposes, silver in industry was an important part of the Industrial Revolution. Around 1750, an age was beginning, powered by the fossil fuels that provided the energy that pushed it forward. Machines and factories could now run on the large amounts of oil, coal, and natural gas that were being produced. Silver’s malleability gave it a variety of uses and meant that it could make up different products on its own or as part of its alloy. It was also used in a monetary application as well, in currency and in national reserves.
Silver is especially an important element in modern times. Many countries produce silver, including the United States, Mexico, Peru, Canada, Australia, China, Poland, Russia, Bolivia, and Chile, to name a few of the large-scale producers. The metal continues to be a popular material used to make up everything from tableware and silverware to jewelry, mirrors, alloys, batteries, and more.
Silver in Jewelry and Luxury Goods
Silver finds practical and aesthetic use in silver jewelry as well as luxury goods. These products also serve as a large portion of the demand for silver. Silverware, jewelry and industrial use account for about 70% of the demand for the metal’s fabrication. Since pure silver is actually too soft to make up the entirety of the product, sterling silver is often a practical choice. The alloy is made up of 92.5% silver, 7.5% copper, with variations or different metals sometimes used.
Silver is a frequent choice for many types of jewelry. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, bangles, and more are usually offered in two options, silver or gold. But silver is also increasingly starting to prove useful when it comes to being incorporated into clothing. The antimicrobial properties of this metal means that silver nanoparticles may be woven into clothing, which discourages bacterial build up and provides a luxury material that is more breathable and comfortable to wear.
Other luxury goods that feature silver are electronics. Electronics frequently use silver as part of their wiring. It is also a necessary ingredient for photographic film, which accounts for a large range of the demand for the silver (25%). Silver jewelry and similar aesthetic items also make up a smaller but substantial demand for silver production. The element is also used in art to make up silver plating.
Silver as a Reserve Commodity
Silver is in demand as a reserve commodity much like gold, and has been used to back currencies in the past. Silver reserves are used as countries as a type of security. Silver continues to hold value, thus countries set silver aside. In 2019, Peru had a silver reserve that had reached 120,000 tons.
What makes gold such an excellent mineral for jewelry making? Special properties of gold make it perfect for manufacturing jewelry, including very high luster; desirable yellow color; tarnish resistance; ability to be drawn into wires, hammered into sheets, or cast into shapes. These are all properties of an attractive metal that is easily worked into beautiful objects. Another extremely important factor that demands the use of gold as a jewelry metal is tradition. Important objects are expected to be made from gold.
Gold is mined in 9 Canadian provinces and territories, and is the highest valued commodity produced in Canada by value of production. Demand for gold production continues to grow each year. In fact, half of the global demand for gold is used for jewelry production.
Nickel also plays an important role in fashion. Nickel is used to make earrings – and the posts assembled into pierced ears – necklaces, bracelets and chains, anklets, finger rings, wrist-watch cases, watch straps, rivet buttons, rivets, zippers and metal marks.
Indium is “the everyday metal you never see”. According to the USGS, Canada is one of the top six producers of indium in the world. In fact, Teck is a key contributor as one of the largest single source producers of indium in the world.
So what is Indium used in? This is best explained by a US publication, Mining News North:
“If you are reading this article on your computer, tablet or phone, you are almost certainly looking through indium, and if that devise happens to be a touchscreen, you have the unique properties of this critical mineral to thank as you scroll down to read more about indium and where it can be found in Alaska.
This is because indium-tin oxide is used as a transparent conducting film applied to virtually every flat-panel display and touchscreen on the market. This thin coating transforms incoming electrical data into an optical form.
When it comes to the combination of characteristics required for this widely used application – transparency; electrical conductivity; strong adherence to glass; corrosion resistance; and chemical and mechanical stability – indium-tin oxide has no equal.”
And mining plays a big role in making the sport possible.
Hockey sticks, skates and nets are all made of materials mined in Canada.
The most popular hockey sticks are one-piece composite sticks — typically of graphite, though unique materials such as Kevlar and titanium are also used, and occasionally coatings such as nickel cobalt are applied for added strength.
Blades on hockey skates are generally made of tempered steel and coated with a high-quality chrome. Some blade manufacturers may add titanium to the metal.
Graphite, titanium, steel, chrome, nickel and cobalt are all mined in Canada. In fact, Nickel was first discovered in Canada in 1883, and began being mined in the 1890s.
Today, Canada is one of the world’s five top five nickel-producing countries.
None of the great cultures in the period of history before the Middle Ages could have prospered without mastering copper and its metallurgy.
Copper was one of the first metals used by humans, dating back to the Stone Age, the prehistoric period in human civilization where stone was widely used to make implements with hard edges, points and surfaces.
Stone Age societies between 9000 BC to 2000 BC began to hard work (hammer) copper into sheets and shapes without smelting. Copper ornaments and jewelry, and new types of tools and weapons made with copper replaced or enhanced existing stone tools. The oldest copper ornament identified to date was found at an archaeological site in Northern Iraq, estimated to date from around 8700 BC. The working of copper enabled Stone Age societies to progress into the Copper Age, dating from around 4500 BC to 3500 BC.
Copper pipelines of a water supply system dating 5000 BC were found in an Egyptian Pyramid, and copper was the first metal to be hammered into bowls around 4000 BC.
The Copper Age transitioned into the Bronze Age around 3300 BC with the discovery of the process of melting a mixture of copper and tin to produce bronze. The Bronze Age period was then followed by the Iron Age around 1500 BC.
Several inventions during the Middle Ages secured the use of copper in modern society. Copper was instrumental in the invention of printing due to the ease with which copper sheets could be engraved or etched for use as printing plates. From the late 16th Century, a volume with plates becomes the standard form of an illustrated book. The first known maps and charts were printed using copper plates in the late 1400s.
By the middle of the 18th Century, copper had several important uses including copper sheathing on the hulls of wooden ships, bells, bronze guns, brass wire (for the woolen industry), stained glass windows, weights and measures, bronze doors, gates, grilles, tombs, statutes, enameling and weather-vanes.
Perhaps the greatest use of copper – and the first use of copper in electrical wiring – rose from Michael Faraday’s discovery of electromagnetic induction in 1831 “and the subsequent development of the electrical engineering industry, including the invention of the electrical telegraph in the early nineteenth century, which involved sending electrical signals along copper wire.”
For the first time, it was possible to transmit near instant messages across continents and under oceans with widespread social and economic impacts. The invention of the telephone in 1876 created further demand for copper wire as an electrical conductor.
Michael Goehring, CEO, Mining Association of BC discusses mining’s important role in the green economy.
“BC is a hotbed of innovation, so our industry is working closely with BC’ tech sector so we can conserve more, waste less, and reduce our environmental footprint.”
“The minerals and metals that BC produces – copper, silver, gold, steel-making coal, aluminum, molybdenum – they are all essential to a low-carbon future. An electric vehicle takes four times as much copper as a traditional internal combustion vehicle. You can’t make solar panels without silver. And you can’t transmit power from solar panels without copper. Our mineral sand metals are essential to a low carbon future.”
“We now know, in BC, our steel-making coal – which is critical to renewable energy infrastructure – wind mills, for example, has half the GHG emissions intensity as our competitors in Australia. BC’s Copper has about 40-50% less GHG emissions than copper from Chile. Our industry has been reducing its GHGs for several decades. The real driver is our clean energy, driven out of our hydroelectric assets.”