Canadian company strikes gold in Wyoming, but more exploration needed before rush might be on
It's been a while since anyone in Wyoming has said it, but there's gold in them thar hills.
Evolving Gold Corp., a Canadian exploration company, has struck gold in a desolate area of central Wyoming called Rattlesnake Hills, but there's no gold rush just yet because it's too soon to say whether the find will pan out into a commercial gold mine.
Rattlesnake Hills has long been identified as a possible source of gold deposits, but there have been few attempts at exploration.
Wayne Sutherland, a metals, gemstones and economic geology specialist with the Wyoming State Geological Survey, said the initial exploration samples, known as intercepts, were significant.
"Some of these things are running close to a half-ounce per ton; that's extremely good," Sutherland said.
Even the samples with the least amount of gold indicate they are at least equivalent or better than some current gold mines in Nevada, the leading producer of gold in the United States, Sutherland said.
"Using modern technology and modern ideas, the potential to develop a very nice modern deposit is quite high with the Rattlesnake Hills," he said.
Wyoming hasn't had a commercial gold mining operation for some 50 years. If the find by Evolving Gold does develop into a mining operation, it might spur other companies to eye Wyoming more closely, said Alan Wallace, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reno, Nev.
Gold for August delivery was selling at $953.10 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday.
The initial exploration in the state by Evolving Gold, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has raised eyebrows among geologists, but the company is being careful until it completes further exploration now under way.
"We're hoping that we're going to demonstrate that there's a significant deposit here at Rattlesnake," Robert Barker, chief executive officer of Evolving Gold, said. "We still got a long ways to go."The company is exploring for gold in New Mexico and Nevada as well, according to Kevin Box, logistical manager for Evolving Gold.
But Box said the company was concentrating on Rattlesnake Hills, which it acquired in 2008.
Evolving Gold has four drilling rigs operating in the area, with work expected to be completed in October.
If the exploration indicates sufficient amounts of gold exist, the company will begin more extensive studies and analysis to determine if it could be mined profitably, Barker said.
Sutherland said opening a gold mine is a complicated endeavor.
"It's not like drilling an oil well, where they set up a rig and within 30 to 90 days they know exactly what they got and they're either producing or not," he said. "A gold mine is a process that takes several years to develop."If it moves forward at Rattlesnake Hills, Evolving Gold could open its own mine or contract with another company to operate the mine, Barker said.
Wallace said it's not unusual for companies to discover new gold deposits in the West. A company struck gold in northeast Nevada's Pequop Mountains a few years ago.
However, finding a deposit in Wyoming would be a big deal because it isn't known as a gold mining state, he said.
"It's not the place where you would go to find easy pickings," Wallace said.