The history of gold mining in the Dominican Republic, once known as the island of Hispaniola (Haiti/Dominican Republic), has a rich history of gold prospecting that started with the Spanish Conquistadors. The island has an abundance of mineral wealth including: gold deposits, nickel, bauxite, silver and copper and marble. Amber is also found on the island, prized for it's colors it is a major export. Another significant gemstone that miners found, and is ONLY found in the Dominican Republic is Larimar. This gemstone has become ver popular with fine jewelry makers.
The unquenchable thirst for gold of the Conquistadors, led Spain to become the richest country in the world, at the time. This allowed them to pay armies for may expeditions of conquest and discovery beginning in 1492. The amount the Spanish extracted from Hipaniola was over million ounces of gold. The conquistadors first found gold on the island in 1494 at Pueblo Viejo, these were the first gold mines in the Americas. Spains staggering greed for the yellow metal led them to conquer Puerto Rico in 1508 and Jamaica in 1509. However, the best source of gold so far found in the Caribbean was in Cuba in 1511. It much much easier to obtain as well due to the fact that Cuba does not have dense jungles.
In the early years of the 16th century, more settlers came to the island in search of precious metals. The only mineral resource used in pre-Columbian periods was gold. The native Arawak Indians who lived on the islands discovered it in river and stream beds and decorated their garments with it. The natives, mainly the Taíno were enslaved to work the placer deposits, which were the easiest to obtain, and mines on the island. If the the Taíno did not work fast enough the Spanish would cut off their hands as an incentive for the other slaves to work harder so as not to suffer the same fate.
After the early history of minig by the Spanish was marked by a limited development, and centuries of no mining to speak of, mining activity has once again became an intensive part of the economics of the island, especially with the rise in the price of gold.
Gemstone and amber mining in the Dominican Republic.
Early Gold Mining
Spanish mined gold on the island up until the 1520s, as the easiest gold deposits had become exhausted. Additionally, the native Taino who were forced to work the mines ,were decimated by murder and diseases that the Europeans brought to the island. Such new diseases as smallpox, to which the natives had no resistance to, caused a lack of labor and mining activity was forced to be abandoned on Hispaniola.
American geologists in 1921, surveying Hispaniola confirmed the presence of valuable mineral deposits including, proven and probable reserves of gold and nickel in Bonao Cotui, Dominican Republic that the Spanish discovered centuries ago. They concluded that there was Gold, copper, silver, nickel, zinc and bauxite and other minerals in both measured and indicated resources which is worth exploring.
Modern Gold Mining
Early gold mines were largely due to Spanish colonization of the region. However, in the 1700's the D.R. became aware of it's potential in the mining industry and began bauxite mining. This along with gold production was marked by many setbacks as production was a private sector-backed development and attempts to boost Dominican economy, through world industrial minerals mining, with help from the state failed.
It wasn't until 1975 that Gold production in the Dominican Republic spring to life, and ironically larger than the Spanish could have ever dreamed of.
The private investment firm Rosario Dominicano with a joint venture of the government, formed Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation and opened the Pueblo Viejo mine. This was further nationalized by the Dominican government in 1979 because, new technology was required to dig deeper now that gold was no longer on the surface. Pueblo Viejo gold mine is the first gold mine the Spanish founded and is now the largest open-pit gold mine in the Western Hemisphere.
The regions of Miches in the East, and Monción in the West, and San Francisco de Macoris in the North are the main mining locations, with greater participation from many amatuer miners and mining companies prospecting in this region. All these areas are accessible to and from the capital city of Santo Domingo if you want to try your luck prospecting.
Geology of the Dominican Republic
A history of volcanic activity and major fault lines is responsible for creating the Caribbean. This violent volcanic past has made the geological conditions favorable for gold, nickel and zinc in high concentrations. The geology of the island means conditions are still good for mining here and many gold prospectors are searching for new gold deposits to mine in the future.
The sulphide found in the volcanic portion of the lava rock is what causes the gold mineralization in the Dominican Republic's Pueblo Viejo area. A number of Early Cretaceous volcanic domes and fine-grained mudstone and sandstone are linked to mineralization. Deposits centered on the domes, together so far have been responsible for more than 40 million ounces of gold, 240 million ounces of silver, 3 million tons of zinc, and half a million ton of copper. These thick lava rock formations contain almost everything. Pyrite exists in veins along with nickel, zinc, copper, silver and even marble growth has been on the rise as well.
Areas of Gold Discovery
Spanish explorers started mining in the Dominican Republic in 1494. The first mining in the new world was at Pueblo Viejo, as Spain started exploiting gold and other precious minerals in the form of placer mining. Gold exports along with other and resources found on the island soon increased.
A lot of areas streams and rivers of the region contain gold deposits. Some of these areas include the Cuarón River, Arroyo Claro and the town of Mina near the capital city of Santo Domingo. Santiago de los Caballeros contains alluvial gold in in Monción river, which come from deposits located in veins on the northwest slope of the Central Cordillera.
Pueblo Viejo Gold Mine
Pueblo Viejo is 50 miles south of the capital city of the Santo Domingo. The initial mine-based gold production in 2012. and 25.4 billion ounces of gold ore have already been from the proven reserves. There are two major gold reserves of Monte Negro and Moore along with several smaller deposits of which all exports come from due to the geology of the area. Barrick Pueblo Viejo has received an investment of 1.4 billion U.S. dollars from the Central Bank. This investment will allow continued mining operations from 2023 to extend until 2044, extending the gold production life of the open pit mine and ore exports.
Background to the Pueblo Viejo Mine Project
Since 1975, mining companies such as Rosario Dominicano, a state-owned mining firm, have exploited the resources to be used as exports. The company produced 5 billion ounces of gold and 22 million ounces of silver from 1975-1989. However, all operation ceased due to a falling gold and silver price. Additionally further technology was needed to be developed to make the deeper deposits economically feasible at obtaining. The mine was abandoned until 2001 when the Dominican government was offered a bid for re-opening of the mine, including bringing up to current safety standards. After years of negotiations, Placer Dome merged with Barrick gold and won a 33 year contract in 2005 and gold operations resumed.
Mining Methods and Technology Used for Gold Production
The methods used that first took place at Monte Negro are open source mining. Hawk Sonar systems control the mining operations, for gold that is not located near the surface. Barrick Gold bought 8 of these systems to help reduce energy costs. The project uses Maptec Isite technology to carry out surveys on diverse operations on the mine site.
Future Mining Potential of the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic shares Hispaniola Island with Haiti and has a rich history of gold prospecting started by the Spanish in 1494. The mineral rich parts of the island are mostly located in the central highlands. Along the border with Haiti, recently new gold mining has been discovered. At the present time these sites are open to the public and are located in the San Juan Hills.
Mining Sector Contribution to GDP
Mining contributions to Dominic's economics are often seen in different periods. During the 1960's gold had only less than 2% of the DP. During the 70's however, DR mining sector contributed more than double that at 4.3%. Currently with the operation at Pueblo Viejo miming represents 6.2% to the national economy.
How Many Gold Mines are There in the Dominican Republic?
The country Dominican is the largest producer of minerals resources out of all of the Caribbean, with four separate four autoclaves mines of: copper, silver, nickel and gold.
Has Gold Been Found in Dominican Republic?
Gold was fist discovered in North Central Dominican by the Spanish at Pueblo Viejo in 1494. It was the first gold mine in the "new world" and contains an estimated 5 billion tons.