Gold mining is a global business, with operations running in every continent except Antarctica. From ancient civilization until now, this “noble” metal has been the go-to material for making timeless, beautiful, and imperishable things.

What does the mining process look like? Well, it’s painfully long, but the end product is worth the wait.

Here’s a Closer Look at the Life Cycle of a Gold Mine

Exploration: The first step towards identifying a potential gold mine is exploration. This process takes anywhere between one and 10 years, costs a fortune, and the chances of success are 0.1%. It is the stage when experts in geology, chemistry, geography, and engineering discuss the feasibility of the entire operation.

Development: Once the team identifies a mine, the next step is getting all the paperwork ready and starting construction. This takes several years, at least, depending on the location. Besides building the mine, they also have to lay out the local infrastructure and amenities.

Operations: At this point, the construction work is over, and the crew is ready to start mining. They dig up rock and ore from the tunnels and transport it to an onsite processing plant, which extracts gold of substantial purity. It is also the stage when they play their hand in price control by reducing or increasing the volume of raw material passing through their system.

Decommissioning: There comes a time in every mine when operations become unprofitable. Usually, it is because the ore has reduced significantly or entirely run out. The next course of action after that is demolishing all structures and reclaiming the land on which the mine sits. It is a very complex operation that takes between one and five years to complete.

Post-Closer:: Long after the decommissioning stage, some mining companies come back to make sure their reclamation efforts were successful. That’s the point when they replant trees and vegetation to meet their long-term environmental sustainability goals.