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Green Energy Transition? Not So Fast! Half of Mining is Still Digging Gold



Gold Still Glitters in the Mining Industry

In the whirlwind of 2023, where everyone’s buzzing about green energy, and battery metals like lithium and nickel are the hot topics, there’s still an old rock star beckoning on the exploration stage. Of course, we’re talking about the constant quest for gold.  

“The dominant role gold plays in exploration – and therefore the industry’s future remains clear from the fact that the combined money flowing into green energy transition metals (or future-facing commodities as some majors like to label them) was not enough to offset the decline in gold.”-What green energy transition? Half of mining is still exploring for gold” mining.com

Yep, despite the never-ending hoopla over “essential” transition metals, gold is like that classic rock star that never fades to obscurity. The traditional most precious metal accounts for nearly half of global mining exploration, at 46%, and that’s after a 16% decline in 2023. 

But why is gold still a priority for juniors when the biggest mining players are literally going for the green? According to S&P Global’s Capex for 30 biggest-spending miners to rise 6.2% in 2023 the largest mining companies are prioritizing critical minerals, energy transition, climate strategy, and decarbonization of operations in future investment plans. 

In the meantime, some junior players in the mining industry are heeding the call to green essentials as well, with lithium, for one, rising as a competitor for the ROI that gold ventures bring to the table. It’s a scenario we haven’t seen since the dawn of the green transition days back in 2006. 

Gold’s Dominance Holds Amid Surges in Battery Metals

S&P Global Market Intelligence dropped a bombshell recently when they reported that gold exploration budgets took a 16% dive this year. That’s a hefty $1.1 billion less than last year. Yet, gold is still flexing its precious metal muscles. Even with the budget cutbacks, gold is making up 46% of the global exploration pie. 

This folks, is happening even while battery metals are having their green moment in the sun. 

Gold Mine

The Age-Old Tale – Why Gold?

Back in 2022, the shiny new “future-facing commodities” (think lithium, nickel, and their rare earth element pals) raked in more cash. Yet, gold, like the seasoned “rockstar” it is, isn’t stepping off the mining industry stage. 

Despite the public buzz and MSM hype about green energy metals, the gold exploration spotlight hasn’t dimmed by much. But why is gold still so irresistible for mining juniors? The answer lies in the world of finance, or the lack thereof. 

Junior mining companies, the traditional gold diggers (literally), are finding it harder to secure funding. And since these are the guys and gals who have always led the charge in gold exploration, their financial woes can echo across the industry. 

Base Metals Making Their Mark

“You’d have to go back to 2006/2007 to find a year in which the collective base metals attracted more money for exploration than gold,” – Kevin Murphy, research director of metals and mining S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Base metals are coming into their own, now accounting for 33% of total exploration budgets. Led by copper, the unsung hero of the energy transition, and a $117 million surge in nickel exploration, these underdogs are slowly but steadily claiming their share of the exploration pie. 

 Lithium – The New Kid on the Block

Lithium, the trendy newcomer of the 21st Century, has seen its budget nearly double for two years straight. The lithium sector is dominated by junior miners, who do 82% of the legwork. $830 million was allocated to lithium resource exploration in 2023, making the essential battery metals the third most explored non-ferrous commodity.

“Lithium is a young commodity for both exploration and development and it reflects this in a lot of different ways,”  S&P’s Kevin Murphy explained. Exploration for lithium is also funded by governments which even at 4% works out to more than a cool $30 million contributed from public coffers. 

Lithium mining

 The Rise of Uranium and Rare Earths

Uranium and rare earths are the dark horses of the mining world. With uranium prices skyrocketing, exploration funding got a more-than-generous $35 million boost in 2023. And rare earth operations? They’re getting showered with cash, thanks to their role in the green energy saga, and the impetus in heavy industry to develop independence from rusty Red China supply chains. 

Gold’s Persistent Glow in Exploration

So, while everyone’s chattering about batteries, “magnet metals”, and EVs, gold isn’t ready to relinquish its precious metal throne. It’s a stark reminder that while the energy transition narrative is picking up steam, the allure of classic commodities like gold isn’t fading away anytime soon. 

About Resource Erectors

Resource Erectors is a time-tested performer in the mining and heavy industry recruitment arena. With decades of experience, CEO Dan has an eagle eye for spotting top talent and a knack for fitting square pegs into square holes (and round ones into round ones, for that matter). That’s the HR expertise you need to avoid the high cost of vacancies, not to mention the disruptions of a bad hire in your organization. 

Whether you’re seeking engineering wizards, executive maestros, or sales superheroes, Resource Erectors is the go-to source for heavy industry companies in mining, aggregates, civil engineering,  bulk materials, and more. Our specialized recruiting and placement is the solution for companies looking to beef up their professional dream teams.

For heavy industry professionals looking to move up the career ladder, we have career-enhancing opportunities at locations from coast to coast. Our company clients realize that their human resources are among their most valuable assets and offer the most competitive salaries and compensation packages to secure the top-tier professionals they need. That’s why over 85% of Resource Erectors candidates placed are still contributing to the success of their companies 5 years later. 

In heavy industry, where the right person in the right role can make the difference between thriving and surviving, Resource Erectors can help your company go for the gold, so don’t hesitate to contact us today so we can all get to work.

Picture of Dan Duszynski

Dan Duszynski

CEO and President of Resource Erectors, Inc.. A search and recruitment firm serving the mining and mineral processing, and civil construction industries of North America.


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