Dalradian bulk sample 2014-2017
A012 OCTOBER 2020
This short video tracks the 15,000 tonne bulk sample that Dalradian extracted from their exploratory adit at Curraghinalt, near Gortin. Work started in December 2014 and over the next two years the contract to extract the sample was carried out by QME Ireland.
Ore was temporarily stored in the ore shed at the Curraghinalt site, then gradually transported to a purpose built 20,000ft² facility at Foyle Port while the rest of the sample was extracted.
Moving the sample to Foyle port would have required at least 425 truck movements on the 40 mile journey- amassing a complete return run of 34,000 miles for the entire load.
While the material was being stored at Foyle Port, the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency (NIEA) investigated a report of pollution in relation to a warehouse that stored mined ore- according to the Irish Times.
When transport of the bulk sample was completed, it was then loaded onto the Dutch registered Trinityborg bulk cargo vessel, and shipped 8475 miles to it’s destination- Port of Olympia, Washington state, USA. The vessel departed Lough Foyle on 22nd January 2017 under the command of Captain Oleksandr Sydorovych, and the voyage took 34 days to complete.
Upon arrival at Port of Olympia on 24th Feb2017, the sample was unloaded on to dump trucks and trucked again to it’s final destination- a refiner at Kettle River, Eastern Washington- a journey of 365 miles- total return trip for the load 310,250 miles.
This was expected to take 42 workers one month to complete according to the port authorities.
The port’s environmental programs director said “the port would take the necessary steps to keep dust to a minimum. The ore pile will be covered by a tarp and workers will take steps not to handle the product near storm drains.” Were similar precautions implemented during the trucking from Curraghinalt to Foyle Port, and indeed the storage at Foyle Port? The mineralised sulphides were after all considered hazardous.
At the refinery the mill was tuned to process the samples, and at the completion of the runs, the gold content for the sample was determined.
Overall 3 separate samples were sent- Lot 1- 2385 tonnes ,Lot2- 8779 tonnes and Lot 3- 3212 tonnes (dry tonnes)
The largest sample (Lot2) returned a content of just over 7 grams per tonne, Lot 1 was slightly better at 7.3 g/t, and Lot 3 measured 15.7g/t Overall, for the entire sample just over 129kgs of gold was produced- the rest of the material was waste. This amount of gold would have generated approximately £4.15M at 2017 prices- but you must understand that this is not profit.
Every tonne of material sent over generated £276 from the sale of the gold, but this does not include-
The contract to extract the rock from the exploratory adit at Curraghinalt
Transport to Foyle Port (34,000 mile total return trip mileage)
Construction/Rent of the shed at Foyle Port
Explosives escort duty from the PSNI
Shipment on the Trinityborg (34 day, 8475 mile trip)
Port of Olympia handling charges (45 workers for one month)
Trucking to Kettle River refinery (310,250 mile total return trip mileage)
Refinery charges- not including penalties
Was this even profitable at all?
What was the cost to the environment with this exercise- in terms of dust and carbon, and the by-products of the cyanidation process used to extract the gold at Kettle River refinery?
Where did the waste 14,999,871kgs of rock end up?
Was this simply a matter of producing gold at any cost? Certainly if the outstanding £440k invoice for the PSNI explosive escort duty was factored in then the gain goes down to £247 for every tonne exported.
Shipping, handling and the extraction contract would have been the next major outlay- and an internal source has indicated that Dalradian’s profit from this operation was as low as £11 per tonne for this operation- that’s just around £165,000 – the majority going to the North American owners/investors, with little direct benefits for the local economy… but plenty to show for it here, in the massive waste rock stockpile at Curraghinalt, the heavy industrialised yard at Curraghinalt, the explosives store on Crockanboy hill…. and of course the unseen dust, the scars on the landscape and beneath the ground, the upset and the misery to the local population….
Dalradian may think that this is a ‘high grade’ mine, but the average gold grade for this sample is only 9g/t… in comparison to some of the mines in Peru and Russia this is nothing- they are recorded as producing upto 44g/t
Perhaps a better figure to compare would be the cost of extraction per ounce… Grades as low as 2g/t are ‘profitable’ in some cases- such as open cast pits- where it is relatively easy to get the gold, but if you need to go underground, deep underground and employ the cyanidation process, etc.. then costs are going to escalate… even more so if the concentrated ore is going to be shipped ‘abroad’ for processing.