Co-products and by-products of base metal mining in Canada: facts and implications

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 85, No. 965, 1992

L.S. Jen, Mineral Policy Sector, Energy, Mines and Resources Canada

Canadian copper, nickel, zinc, lead and molybdenum mines are characterized by the mining of ores from which more than one metal is recovered. During the 1980s, approximately 15% of the gold, 25% of the zinc, 30% of the copper, 55% of the molybdenum, 80% of the silver and 90% of the lead produced from Canadian mines were produced as co-products and by-products of base metal mining operations. This trend is not expected to change significantly in the near future. The presence of co-products and by-products affects the level of production and the level of revenue from base metal mines in several ways: (1) in general, production of one base metal cannot be expanded or cut back without affecting the amount of production of another metal; (2) the commercial success of certain base metal mining operations depends on the substantial bonus revenues from co-products and by-products; (3) the quality and economic viability of many ore deposits are significantly improved by the presence of co-products and by-products; and (4) while co-production is critical to the survival of some mines, bonus revenue from by-products can also be life saving to others during economic downturns. For these reasons, deposits with significant co-product or by-product values are likely to continue to be significant targets for exploration and for acquisition.