President Roosevelt passed the War Production Board (WPB) Limitation Order No. 208 in 1942 that closed down most of the active gold mines in the United States. The emphasis during the war was on mining base metals and other strategic metals this included minerals needed for the war effort. A severe shortage of skilled labor developed in the nonferrous metal mines. This was due in part to the expanding need for nonferrous metals, and in part to a depletion of mining manpower as a result of the military draft and the attraction of higher wages paid by other industries. It became apparent that the only reservoir of skilled mining labor was that which remained in the gold mines. Pressure was brought to bear on the WPB to close down the gold mines with the expectation that many gold miners would thus be attracted to the nonferrous mines. By the time the war ended, many of the gold miners had died off, drifted off, or were involved in other types of mining or other professions. While shut down during the war, a large number of the gold mines had deteriorated, or the equipment had been removed and relocated to be used for base metal mines, or the mines were flooded or blown shut, and consequently, abandoned.
In the boom years that followed the war, the price of gold remained fixed or frozen while other metal prices climbed skyward. Base metal prices continued to climb into the 1960′s, yet gold prices stayed dormant. In the mid 1970′s gold became active and by the end of 1979 had climbed to over $800.00 per ounce. This increase generated considerable interest in the yellow metal. The base metal mining companies began to explore for gold and a large number of large low grade gold deposits were discovered and put into production. Even the large oil companies formed gold exploration subsidiaries, and the chase was on.
Gold recovery technology continued to improve, and coupled with strong prices, a tremendous amount of gold was produced from large open pit low grade deposits. The smaller high grade deposits were basically ignored. If a company could not easily discover a million ounces or more in the ground, they dropped the project and moved on to greener pastures.
In the past several years the yellow metal price dipped several times into the $250.00 per ounce range. Recently however, gold has hit historic highs, and the price has been holding steadily, well over $1,500.00 per ounce. With the weakening U.S. dollar and world conditions that are continuing to deteriorate, experts are predicting gold prices will begin to rise again as markets correct.
Most large visible surface gold mineralized prospects have been explored, mined, and are basically gone now. What remains are the smaller high-grade mines and prospects, ignored previously by the big boys.
There is little doubt that as gold prices continues to rise that these remaining gold deposits will be acquired by companies with the desire to stay in the gold mining business.