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United States

Relief Canyon Mine

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Mine TypeOpen Pit
StatusCare and Maintenance
  • Gold
  • Silver
Mining Method
  • Truck & Shovel / Loader
Production Start1984
SnapshotThe past-producing Relief Canyon mine includes three historic open-pit mines, a crusher, ore conveying system, leach pads, and a refurbished heap-leach processing facility.

The mine poured its first gold in February 2020 and declared commercial production in January 2021. On August 13, 2021, the Americas Gold and Silver and the Board of Directors temporarily suspended mining operations at Relief Canyon while continuing leaching operations and ongoing technical studies. The Americas Gold and Silver has put Relief Canyon mine into care and maintenance.

The Americas Gold and Silver discontinued leaching and heap rinsing operations in Q4-2023.


Americas Gold and Silver Corp. (operator) 100 % Indirect
The Relief Canyon mine is 100% owned and operated by the Americas Gold and Silver wholly owned subsidiaries, Pershing Gold and Gold Acquisition Corp.


ContractorContractDescriptionRef. DateSource
NV Energy Power supply The existing power supply system consisting of an overhead and buried power lines and on-site generators will be augmented with the proposed upgrade of the line power from NV Energy’s Limerick substation that enters the mine site from the north. May 24, 2018

Deposit type

  • Carlin-type
  • Vein / narrow vein
  • Orogenic
  • Epithermal


Property Geology
Mesozoic tectonostratigraphy in the vicinity of the Relief Canyon mine consists chiefly of a metamorphosed footwall mafic volcanic package (Smelser Pass Member of the Augusta Mountain Formation); a metamorphosed, foliated, and highly deformed carbonate-dominant package with intercalations of conglomerate and mafic volcanic rocks (Deformed Limestone Unit); a tectonically thickened, thick-bedded to massive limestone unit (Cane Spring Formation); and a tectonically thickened package of siliciclastic rocks of the Late Triassic Grass Valley Formation.

A southerly dipping, fault-bounded package of schistose intermediate to mafic metavolcanic rocks, including lenses or boudins of mafic meta-tuff breccia, forms the footwall to gold mineralization at the Relief Canyon mine.

Overlying the basal metavolcanic unit is a deformed and metamorphosed carbonate package consisting of limy ductile tectonites and calcareous mudstones to silty limestones intercalated with stretched-pebble conglomerate and mafic metavolcanic and intrusive rocks.

Gold mineralization at the Relief Canyon mine is primarily found in three zones that are structurally controlled and characterized by distinctive host rocks. From structurally lowest to highest, the zones are the Jasperoid Zone, the Lower Zone, and the Main Zone. The Main Zone hosts the bulk of the current and historical gold resources at Relief Canyon, while the Lower and Jasperoid zones are newly discovered mineral zones encountered below the Main Zone in the North Target area (see Figure 5.1 for location of the North Target area) during the recent Pershing Gold drill programs. Figure 7.3 shows a diagrammatic lithostructural section of the Relief Canyon mine area along with the mineral zone locations.

The Jasperoid Zone gold mineralization is hosted within the Deformed Limestone package in a sequence of limey ductile tectonites with local stretched and boudinaged quartz veins, stretched-quartz-pebble conglomerate/sandstone, folded and foliated limestone, and altered gabbro, all of which have been replaced by dark-colored quartz. Silicification is also found in a set of sheeted, N30-35°E-striking, steep fractures that may be extensional in origin. In addition, auriferous fluids were localized by brecciation along contacts between lithologies of contrasting competency, such as between the stretched-pebble conglomerate and carbonate units, or less commonly, between pale green schistose volcanic and carbonate horizons. Locally, collapse breccia is also a site of gold deposition in the Jasperoid Zone.

Lower Zone gold mineralization displays a strong spatial association with gabbro sills and/or transposed dikes (i.e., dikes in which progressive ductile deformation has transposed originally discordant contacts into contacts subparallel to foliation, giving the dikes a sill-like appearance). Mineralization is hosted in, or is proximal to, complex tectonic breccias that show multiple generations of structural reactivation and/or shearing, decalcification, locally superimposed carbonate-dissolution collapse breccia, and the presence of illite and/or kaolinite, sulfides iron-oxides and fluorite.

The tectonic breccia was generated by multiple (minimum of two) episodes of movement in the North Target area. The latest movement was likely normal-fault offset in response to Tertiary extension. The principal clasts in the tectonic breccia comprise dark grey foliated limestone, jasperoid, and quartz. Finegrained gouge material is chiefly composed of quartz flour and kaolinite.

Gold and silver mineralization at Relief Canyon is believed to be largely epithermal in origin, but the deposit also exhibits similarities to Carlin-type deposits (Fifarek et al, 2015) and to orogenic vein deposits.

Gold-bearing jasperoid breccias as well as a suite of trace elements associated with the precious metal mineralization, such as mercury, antimony, and arsenic, are two of the more important similarities between the mineralization at Relief Canyon and Carlin-type gold deposits. Another characteristic of a Carlin-type system is the preferential weathering of the jasperoid material. The jasperoid breccias at Relief Canyon are brittle and highly fractured, which enhances permeability. In many places, they are weathered and oxidized to great depths, whereas surrounding rocks are generally oxidized to shallower depths. A single crystal of euhedral pyrite with a later overgrowth of pyrite has been described in a petrographic study of material from the Jasperoid Zone. Similar arsenic-rich pyrite overgrowths are typical of Carlin-type deposits. It has yet to be determined if the overgrowth in the Jasperoid Zone is arsenic-rich.

There is evidence at Relief Canyon for gold-bearing mineralization of three different styles representing possibly three different ages. The quartz-illite±fluorite±kaolinite alteration associated with gold occurs in all three mineralized zones – Jasperoid Zone, Lower Zone, and Main Zone – and is the most important type of alteration. This assemblage is believed to have formed by weakly acidic hydrothermal fluids. Illite from the quartz-illite±fluorite±kaolinite alteration assemblage has been dated with 40Ar/39Ar methods at 23.51+0.11 Ma (Fifarek et al, 2015). Low-sulfidation quartz-calciteadularia veins with associated gold are hosted by gabbro and constitute a relatively small volume of the mineral resource. This assemblage typically forms from slightly alkaline solutions. Adularia from this assemblage has been dated at 14.92+0.05 Ma with 40Ar/39Ar methods (Fifarek et al, 2015). The presence of orogenic vein mineralization is indicated by the alteration mineral assemblage of quartzcarbonate-tourmaline-leucoxene, in which some gold-mineralized intervals are associated with low amounts of arsenic, but with anomalous molybdenum and tungsten

Reserves at December 31, 2023

Mineral Resources are estimated using cut-off grades of 0.17g/tonne Au, 0.34g/tonne Au and 0.69 g/tonne Au for oxide, mixed and sulfide material types respectively at Relief Canyon constrained by a $1,500 Au pseudoflow pit shell. Inferred Resources at Relief Canyon include existing low grade stockpiles.
CategoryTonnage CommodityGradeContained Metal
Measured 12,177 kt Gold 0.9 g/t 352 koz
Measured 12,177 kt Silver 3.4 g/t 1,346 koz
Indicated 10,431 kt Gold 0.66 g/t 220 koz
Indicated 10,431 kt Silver 0.6 g/t 210 koz
Measured & Indicated 22,608 kt Gold 0.79 g/t 572 koz
Measured & Indicated 22,608 kt Silver 2.1 g/t 1,556 koz
Inferred 2,732 kt Gold 0.29 g/t 25 koz
Inferred 2,732 kt Silver 0.08 g/t 6,835 koz

Mining Methods

  • Truck & Shovel / Loader


Operations at the Relief Canyon mine were suspended in August 2021 in order to resolve technical challenges related to the metallurgical characteristics of the deposit. The Relief Canyon is on care and maintenance.

The Relief Canyon deposit has been mined in the past by open pit methods, followed by heap leaching. This Feasibility Study considers mining by open pit methods. To determine potentially minable material, a number of pit optimization runs were completed utilizing pit slope parameters developed by Golder and Associates. The property is currently permitted to mine inside a permit boundary down to an elevation of 5,080 feet. These limitations were used to constrain the pit design for design Phase 1.

Pit Design
Three main pit phases were designed utilizing the pit optimization results as templates for the design. All of the pit phases were split into at least two scheduling pit phases. A total of seven scheduling pit phases were used to develop the production schedule.

The Phase 1 pit extends slightly beyond the southern permit boundary on previously disturbed ground and finalizes the southeast portion of the pit. The final pit is designed based on the $1,300 per ounce gold, base-case optimized pit, and includes an internal ramp system. It should be noted that the final pit contains about 20 percent more waste than the optimized pit. The resulting ultimate pit design is approximately 14 percent larger than the optimized pit due to inclusion of the ramp system and requirements for mining room between pit phase designs. It may be possible to improve on this design, but it is important to consider all pit phases when redesigning the final pit. Some of the additional waste included in the final design is due to the permit boundary size, which causes access issues between the pit phases requiring additional waste to be mined to maintain working space between the pit phases. If the boundary on the east and south could be expanded by 200 feet, design issues and stripping may be reduced.

The base case mine plan assumes contract mining based on proposals from mining contractors. The base case also assumes that the contractor will load the crusher using a front-end loader, and the crushed material will be transported by conveyor to the leach pad.


Crushers and Mills

Jaw crusher 33" x 65" 1


The following major components are included in the crushing, reclaim and agglomeration facility:
• 70-ton rock box (new);
• 62” x 24’ Vibrating grizzly feeder (new);
• 33” x 65” Jaw crusher (new);
• 36” x 150’ Fixed crushed product stacker (existing);
• Two ea. 48” x 72” Vibrating pan feeders (new);
• 42” x 3,120’ Overland conveyor (new);
• Two ea. 100-ton cement storage and feeding system (one existing, one new); and,
• Associated transfer conveyors (new).

Ore will be transported from the mine in 100-ton haul trucks and dumped at the crusher area stockpiles. Ore will be fed to the crusher from one of two ROM stockpiles: a low fines material stockpile, or a high fines material stockpile. All feed to the crusher will be reclaimed by a Cat 992 loader, or similar, from the stockpiles in a manner to produce a desired blend according to the fines content. Based on a preliminary blast simulation evaluation, the average ROM feed to the crusher will be approximately 80% passing 6 inches.

A new primary crusher will be purchased for crushing the ore. Ore will be fed to a 70-ton rock box over a grizzly feeder, which separates ore at approximately 3.5 inches. Grizzly oversize material will be fed to a 33” x 65” jaw crusher, with a closed-side setting of 3.5 inches, and grizzly undersize will bypass the jaw and combine with the jaw product on the primary discharge conveyor. The combined product will be approximately 80% passing 3 inches. No permanent rock breaker or fixed grizzly is included.
Dust suppression at the primary crusher is to be accomplished using foggers at the rock box and water sprays at conveyor transfer points. The available working pressure in the dust suppression raw water line makes it so no water pump or air compressor are required.

Ore discharged from the primary crusher will be transferred to a transfer conveyor, and then stacked on an approximated 11,500-ton stockpile using an existing 150-foot stacker. The stockpile has been sized to accommodate 16.5 hours of production with an estimated live capacity of 3.4 hours.

Stockpiled crushed ore will be reclaimed using a conveyor reclaim system, which will consist of a 10-foot diameter x 100-foot reclaim tunnel constructed underneath the stockpile, with two reclaim feeders and a reclaim tunnel conveyor.

From the tunnel conveyor, ore will be transported to the heap by an overland conveyor of approximately 3,120 feet in length with a 42” belt. Ore will then be fed to a 55-foot, 42” belt transfer conveyor where cement will be added from two 100-ton cement silos. Barren solution will be slowly added to bring up the ore moisture content to approximately 8% by weight over the course of various transfer points. A pipeline will be installed for transport of barren solution to the cement addition point. The ore will then be agglomerated over the subsequent grasshopper conveyors.

The crushing system will operate 24 hours a day at an assumed availability of 75%, which at the maximum planned throughput of 16,700 tons a day is approximately 928 dry tons per hour.


  • Crush & Screen plant
  • Carbon re-activation kiln
  • Smelting
  • Heap leach
  • Carbon in column (CIC)
  • Elution
  • Carbon adsorption-desorption-recovery (ADR)
  • Solvent Extraction & Electrowinning
  • Cyanide (reagent)


The Relief Canyon mine poured its first gold in February 2020 and declared commercial production in January 2021. Operations were suspended in August 2021 in order to resolve technical challenges related to the metallurgical characteristics of the deposit.

While the Americas Gold and Silver was successful in meeting several important commissioning targets, including initial construction capital, and planned mining and crushing rates, the ramp-up at Relief Canyon was challenging since the first poured gold.

During 2023 year, the Americas Gold and Silver and its consultants performed extensive analyses and implemented a number of procedural changes to address the start-up challenges typical of a heap leach operation. As part of this analysis, the Americas Gold and Silver identified naturally occurring carbonaceous material within the Relief Canyon pit. The identification of this material was not recognized in the feasibility study. During the first phase of mining (Phase 1 of 5), several adverse impacts affected the operation including the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of the Americas Gold and Silver's radial stacker. Offsetting these challenges was the definition of the gold mineralized zones through blasthole sampling which reconciled reasonably to the block model. However, during Phase 1, an unknown quantity of the carbonaceous material was crushed, stacked, and disseminated onto the leach pad resulting in lower than expected recovery of the placed gold ore.

The Americas Gold and Silver continued leaching operations through 2023 and continued working to improve recovery through ongoing technical studies and metallurgical test programs. These technical studies have not yet identified an economical path to resuming near-term production. The Americas Gold and Silver discontinued leaching and heap rinsing operations in Q4-2023.

Ore will be mined by standard open-pit mining methods and processed at an average rate of 16,700 tons per day. Mined ore will be single-stage crushed to approximately 80% passing 3 inches in size, belt agglomerated using cement, conveyor stacked onto the heap-leach pad in 20-foot lifts and processed in a conventional heap-leach recovery circuit. Stacked ore will be leached with a dilute cyanide solution, and the resulting pregnant solution will be processed in an adsorption, desorption and recovery plant (“ADR”) for the recovery of precious metals from solution. The gold will be stripped from the loaded carbon using a pressurized desoption process, followed by electrowinning to produce a precipitate sludge. Gold and silver sludge from the ADR plant will be treated in a mercury retort and smelted to produce doré bars.

Process Description
Ore for the Relief Canyon project will be delivered to the ROM stockpile using 100 ton haul trucks. ROM ore will be reclaimed and crushed to a P80 of 3.0 inches in a single-stage crushing circuit at an average rate of 16,700 tons per day. Crushed ore will be stockpiled and reclaimed using vibrating pan feeders before being transferred to the conveyor stacking system by an overland conveyor. Cement is to be added ahead of the conveyor stacking system at an average rate of 8 lbs per ton of ore for pH control and permeability, and belt agglomerated by the conveyor stacking system. The process solution for agglomeration will be barren solution and directly dosed on the conveyor transfer points after the cement addition.

The conveyor stacking system includes mobile grasshopper conveyors which feed a radial stacking system. The leach pad will be stacked in 20-foot lifts. Drip tubes will be used to irrigate the ore with a low concentration sodium cyanide solution to leach gold and silver values with a 60-day leach cycle. Pregnant solution from the heap will flow by gravity to a pregnant solution tank where it will be pumped to a carbon in column (“CIC”) adsorption circuit. Gold and silver will be loaded onto activated carbon and will periodically be stripped from the carbon using a modified Zadra pressure-strip circuit, electrowon and smelted to produce the final doré product. A mercury retort will be utilized to remove mercury prior to smelting.

The conveyor stacking system includes mobile grasshopper conveyors which feed a radial stacking system. The leach pad will be stacked in 20-foot lifts. Drip tubes will be used to irrigate the ore with a low concentration sodium cyanide solution to leach gold and silver values with a 60-day leach cycle. Pregnant solution from the heap will flow by gravity to a pregnant solution tank where it will be pumped to a carbon in column (“CIC”) adsorption circuit. Gold and silver will be loaded onto activated carbon and will periodically be stripped from the carbon using a modified Zadra pressure-strip circuit, electrowon and smelted to produce the final doré product. A mercury retort will be utilized to remove mercury prior to smelting.

The existing solution ponds, Operating Pond East (OPE) and Operating Pond West (OPW), will be used to contain process solution in the event of a large storm event or other upset conditions that cannot be managed during normal operations with Pad 5, 6, 7 (pre-production leach pad). An additional contingency pond will be constructed with Pad 8 (Years 3+ leach pad) to account for the added heap-leach pad expansion. Solution collected in the process solution ponds will be returned to the system as makeup solution.


Water Supply


The average water demand estimate includes approximately 360 gpm for crusher dust suppression and heap leach operations, 150 gpm for road dust control, and 10 gpm for miscellaneous uses.

Water for mining, the heap-leach facilities, fire suppression, and other uses will initially be supplied by existing production wells PW-1 and PW-2, located west of the pit area. These wells have the capacity to deliver approximately 700 gpm with a power upgrade, as proposed in a water management report by Schlumberger.

Water from the production wells will be pumped to a new raw/fire water storage head tank on the western side of the pit, just south of the ROM stockpile. This tank will be sized to contain the necessary fire water and process / raw water reserves, and will provide raw process water for the crushing and stacking plant, and mine facilities such as the truck shop, truck wash, and mine offices. A total storage capacity of 220,000 gallons was calculated using the fire water code requirements, investigated by KCA’s subcontractor, along with the process water make-up requirements. The required fire water storage is on the order of 180,000 gallons, based on the fire hydrant flow and time requirements of 1,500 gpm for two hours.

The raw water storage capacity was determined to be around 120,000 gallons based on the process makeup solution requirements with a 3.0 hour working time, and this total required capacity is divided between the existing raw water tank and the new combination raw/fire water tank. An existing raw water tank with a capacity of 80,000 gallons is on-site, located near the power line metering point, and currently provides raw water needs for the ADR plant and other facilities.


Relief Canyon suspended mining operations as of August 13, 2021, while it continued leaching operations in 2022 and 2023. The Americas Gold and Silver discontinued leaching and heap rinsing operations in Q4-2023.

The Americas Gold and Silver did not provide information about production amounts for 2023.
CommodityUnits20222021LOM (Projected)
Gold koz 5.25.5510
Silver koz 2.211431
Gold Equivalent oz 5,617
Silver Equivalent oz 441,483
All production numbers are expressed as metal in doré.

Operational metrics

Ore tonnes mined 583,804 t
Tonnes processed 598,323 t

Production Costs

Commodity production costs have not been reported.


Revenue M USD 0.12  0.19  4.6  
Pre-tax Income M USD -14.3  -33  -115  
After-tax Income M USD -14.3  -33  -115  

Required Heavy Mobile Equipment

Ref. Date: May 24, 2018

HME TypeModelSizeQuantityLeased or
Dozer (crawler) Caterpillar D10T 2 Leased
Dozer (crawler) Caterpillar D9T 2 Leased
Drill Atlas Copco DM45 4 Leased
Excavator Caterpillar 330 1 Leased
Grader Caterpillar 16M 2 Leased
Loader (FEL) Caterpillar 992 6 Leased
Truck (haul) 100 tons 23 Leased
Truck (water) Caterpillar 773 1 Leased
Truck (water) Caterpillar 777 1 Leased


Mine Management

Job TitleNameProfileRef. Date
Site Manager Peter Koons LinkedIn Apr 19, 2024

11 2023
15 2022
15 2021
51 2020

Aerial view:


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