Desert Hawk has encountered a number of obstacles well beyond the standard ones confronted by most start-up heap leaches. Most notably, unusual torrential rains both interfered with the loading of ore and also diluted the lixiviant used to recover the gold. As a result, the ramp-up of production has been slower than initial estimates. Still, Desert Hawk has produced nearly 4,000 ounces of gold, and Clifton's net royalty amounts to about $200,000.
The Clifton Mining District, the site of the first mill in Utah, were discovered and mined from the 1860s until the early 1900s.
What attracted so many prospectors to the region is a series of abundantly mineralized shear zones, most of which average between 2 1⁄2 and 10 feet wide, and outcropping for more than a mile.
For almost a century the area now known as the Clifton Shear Zones, near Gold Hill, Utah, was divided into a jumble of independent mining properties, that had been mined by the original owners of the Clifton claims and later inherited by their families. Because this had been an important historic mining district, several large mining companies tried to consolidate these claims in the 1950s and 1960s. But because the separate ownership of these small, irregularly shaped, parcels made modern, large scale mining impossible, and because these companies were unable to negotiate with so many families, they abandoned the attempt. William Moeller, presently the CEO of Clifton Mining, spent more than two decades negotiating with these families and eventually acquired the heart of the Clifton Mining District.
Positive Outlook For Silver Prices
It is widely agreed by precious metals analysts that silver prices will rise sharply in the coming years. In each of the last 10+ years world wide silver consumption has exceeded world wide silver production by more than 100 million ounces. The excessive inventories of the early 1980s have now been entirely exhausted, and the U.S. strategic stockpile of silver, 3 billion ounces not that long ago, is now entirely depleted. Inventories are at their lowest levels in more than 50 years and are continuing to decline.
At the same time, persistently low silver prices have left silver companies with impaired balance sheets and forced them to cut back on exploration. Few new silver mines have been discovered in the past decade, and little additional silver production is likely to come onstream for years, independent of the silver price. On the demand side, the silver shortage of the late 1970s led companies to restrict silver usage to only the highest value added applications. These applications would be profitable even with silver many times today’s price.
As a result of the insensitivity of both supply and demand to the silver price, once inventories are exhausted, the price of silver will rise sharply. This will make production from the Clifton Shear Zones exceptionally profitable.
The Clifton Mining District is arguably in one of the best locations in the world for mining precious metals. It is readily accessible, just over an hour south of Wendover, on the Utah-Nevada border, off Interstate I-80. Yet it is remote, with one of the lowest population densities in the country. It lies directly uphill from a U.S. Air Force gunnery range, so that environmental concerns are as minimal as anywhere in North America. It is located in the U.S., where political risk is minimal, and in Utah, one of the friendliest states to responsible mining.
When standing atop a Clifton ridge, just about the only sounds one may ever hear are occasional fighter-jet flybys or explosives testing taking place at a nearby U.S. military range. Because of its isolation, local policymakers in the sparsely populated region have welcomed Clifton’s combination of economic benefit and environmental conscientiousness.
“Development in a remote, relatively desolate area like ours is looked upon more favorably by agencies and government officials charged with balancing economic prosperity and environmental stewardship,” says Moeller. “The sounds in the distance remind me that, as a mining enterprise, our location represents an important strategic advantage.”
Such favor was evidenced in 1996 when county officials authorized the issuance of industrial revenue bonds to finance plant construction at Clifton’s property. Though the company has elected not to exercise its municipal debt option at present, management realizes how rare this sort of “seal of approval” can be.
“If a bond issuance of this kind has ever been offered to another mining company, I’ve never heard of it happening,” says Moeller. “It speaks to the quality of our studies and the long-term relationship we have fostered with local and state regulators.”.