Gold mining in Australia is probably what many folk think of when mining is mentioned, due to the historical and pop culture representations of the gold rush in books, movies, and TV shows. The association with gold mining also resonates with most people looking for gold mining companies to invest in and gold mining stocks. At Global Road Technology, gold mining in Australia is approached from a health, safety and environmental management in the different gold mining operations, communities and towns gold mining rivers located across Australia. The gold miner’s workplace health and safety is key to the service delivery of the gold mining process and handling of gold mining equipment. Different gold mining operations generate dust that requires dust suppression to comply with gold mining legislation, which regulates the respirable, and inhalable dust exposure to gold mine workers, communities within the vicinity of gold mine operations and the environment at large. Companies are bound by the duty of care that they ought to exercise diligently in the interest of maintaining their social license to operate, which is key to sustainability of gold mining in Australia. This article seeks to evaluate what gold is, where it is mined in Australia, the importance of dust suppression in gold mining and the Global Road Technology solutions for gold mining dust suppression. 

“There’s gold in them there hills…”

Historically, there had been observations of the presence of gold in many parts of eastern Australia before 1850, coinciding with the 1849 Californian gold rush, which created sudden and intense interest in gold in Australia. February 1851 near Bathurst, west of Sydney, gold was found in payable quantities and the Australian golden age had commenced. Acceleration of gold prospecting led to gold being found in central Victoria by July 1851. End of 1851, the rush was in full swing and gold was flowing freely throughout the Victorian and New South Wales colonies. In the coming decades, cycles of boom and bust characterized the gold industry across Australia. The most recent boom in gold mining since 1980 was facilitated by the sustained rise in the average gold price, large scale-low cost mining fleets and techniques plus the development of new cyanide milling technology. Current challenges faced in the gold mining sector in Australia revolve around deeper exploration, milling different ore types, solid waste management, declining ore grades and environmental aspects such as energy, water, reagent consumption and gold mining pollutant emission issues which have been consistent from the past. 

How is gold found and extracted?

Gold is the most inert metal, consequently, there are not many naturally occurring gold compounds and the predominant occurrence is as native metal frequently alloyed with silver. Excess of 20% silver results in an alloy called electrum. Other gold alloys are rare and generally confined to specific ores but after native gold, electrum, tellurides are the most common gold minerals. The principles gold ore milling, and gold production are based on the ratio of waste rock to ore which varies considerably between mines, mine type either open cut or underground and over the entire life of a gold mine. Over the past decades, gold mining trends in Australia have shown that annual waste rock production has exceeded the amount of ore milled and may now be several times the amount of ore milled. Conventional jigs are often used to recover heavy minerals that are liberated at a coarse particle size from crushing/grinding circuits, thus avoiding subsequent over-grinding and loss. Centrifugal jigs use enhanced forces generated by their spinning motion to enable finer particle sizes and closer specific gravity minerals to be separated with the Kelsey jig being the most common example. Some other gold mining separation tools include spirals, Mozley gravity separators, Falcon and Knelson concentrators, shaking tables and super-panners. 

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

How is gold mining developing in Australia?

Gold price is one of the most deliberated topics in the Australian mineral markets. The common terminology consists of gold price per gram, which at the time of writing this article was AUD 77.74 as the gold spot price is often given per gram, per ounce or per kilo. Australia is one of the leading gold-producing nations in the world. 2019 saw around 321 metric tons of gold produced in Australia the country’s biggest yield in 20 years. Gold mining projects for 2022, estimate a peak of 378 metric tons with a decline expected after the 2022 gold mining projections. Australia is envisaged to become the world’s largest gold producing country in 2021, overtaking China in the process and this is alluded to the tightening of environmental regulations, and partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has negatively affected Chinese gold mining output. Gold exports from Australia are also expected to increase, exceeding AUD 26 billion in 2020. The three leading Australian gold mining companies by market capitalization were Newcrest Mining, Northern Star Resources, and Evolution Mining. Cadia mine, belonging to Newcrest Mining produced the highest volume of gold in 2019.  

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How can GRT assist gold mining operations?

In Australia, gold is mined in various methods that can be more simply characterised as either open cut or underground mining. At the gold mine, the separation of waste rock and ore generates fugitive dust particles, which need effective dust suppression solutions. In addition to the gold mining separation techniques, stockpiling, transportation via haul mine roads, transfer points at conveyor belts amongst many other dust-generating areas in gold mines. All the available dust control solutions available for metalliferous mining which includes gold mining have been discussed at length in the previously with an emphasis on the bulk of the metalliferous minerals in general. The future of gold mining in Australia is set to have more explorations and utilization of existing gold reserves in the future therefore the steps taken presently to ensure effective dust suppression solutions are implemented builds great workplace health and safety credentials for gold mining companies in Australia. Global Road Technology offers gold mining companies a stepping stone to tackling the problem of air quality related to dust generation by provision of innovative gold mining dust control solutions that provide non-toxic, environmentally friendly and cost saving options for the gold mining industry in Australia. 

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