The history of gold exploration in Iceland can be traced back to the early twentieth century when gold-bearing quartz float was first discovered in the Seljadalsá River. The river cuts through the Thormodsdalur vein system, which was historically mined. This occurrence was investigated and exploited between 1908 and 1925 (Histed, 2010). The early prospectors were Bjorn Kristjansson, a politician and a bank manager, and Einar Benediktsson, a famous poet and entrepreneur. Einar also located other gold-rich locations. The most notable areas are in Mógilsá north of Reykjavik and in Thormodsdalur. The latter hosts multiple quartz veins. Thormodsdalur was explored by tunnelling and surface excavations. The exploration apparently stopped due to economic recession in Europe during and after the First World War.
No further documented exploration is known to have occurred until the 1980s, when geologic studies of volcanic-hosted epithermal gold deposits suggested that many Au-Ag deposits of this class represented fossil geothermal systems. Recognition of this and keen observations by geologists working for the Orkustofnun (Editor’s Note: Orkustofnun is Iceland’s National Energy Authority, a government agency under the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources) found visible gold in cores from geothermal wells. This compelled the government of Iceland to create an entity to investigate these occurrences. Málmís hf was created by the government and dedicated to the investigation of mineral occurrences throughout Iceland. Málmís utilized the geologic resources at Orkustofnun to advance this program. Málmís’ regional reconnaissance program from 1990 to 1993 consisted of a vast stream sediment program covering approximately 13,500 square kilometers. Rock sampling of fossil high-temperature systems associated with volcanic centers was conducted in 1991. This work was extended in 1992 by regional BLEG stream sediment and soil sampling. Additional follow-up rock chip sampling and mapping were carried out in 1993.
Many of the previously identified anomalous areas were visited by Melmi, an Icelandic private company created to explore further the areas of interest identified by past work. The Iceland Prospecting Syndicate (TIPS), later known as the Canadian listed company Iceland Gold Corporation (IGC), was created through a partnership with Málmís. The new entity brought experience in exploration and the ability to raise funds for exploration.
This IGC-Melmi-Málmís joint venture undertook exploration over much of the island. The majority of this effort was directed towards an evaluation and study of the Thormodsdalur epithermal vein gold mineralization. Additional efforts were made to follow up on the gold anomalism discovered during the previous stream sediment sampling effort by Málmís. This program was more focused in that it sampled second-order streams within the larger areas defined by the initial sampling effort. The results supported continued evaluation on a number of prospects, and licenses were issued to the joint venture.
The Málmís reconnaissance program in the early 1990s collected 427 BLEG samples. Gold values ranged from below the detection limit of 0.1 ppb up to 30 ppb. Values exceeding 4-5 ppb were regarded as anomalous and worth follow-up. The regional BLEG sampling density equates to 40 square kilometers per sample (Howe, 1996). At least 1,280 rock chip samples were collected from stream debris, float, altered, and/or mineralized areas. Geothermal pipe scales and geyserite (sinter) deposits around geothermal springs were also sampled. Samples were analyzed for gold, silver, arsenic, copper, mercury, lead, zinc, and manganese. Some samples were also analyzed for molybdenum, antimony, selenium, tellurium, and tungsten.
Additional work outside of the government entity was carried out in the early 1990s. This work covered the north-western quadrant of the island and was conducted by Sudurvik hf. Selective stream sediment sampling focused around altered felsic occurrences as possible gold sources (Corbett, 2004).
Exploration continued under a joint venture between Teck Corporation of Canada and Sudurvik. Exploration agreements committed Teck to exploration expenditures on the Icelandic properties. In 1992 Teck completed a program of work following up results of the Sudurvik stream silt sampling. However, once the expenditure commitments were fulfilled, Teck withdrew. (Corbett, 2004). Several companies have carried out regional and local exploration campaigns as described below:
- 1990 to 2019 Málmís – Stream sediments, mapping, and rock chip sampling
- 1991 to 1993 Sudurvik/Teck – Stream sediment and rock chip sampling
- 1996 to 1997 Icelandic Gold Corporation and Orivile Pte Ltd – Rock and soil sampling, drilling, trenching
- 2004 to 2014 Gold Ísland-Melmi JV – Drilling, soil, and rock sampling.
- 2016 to 2019 Melmi-Icelandic Resources JV – Mapping, sampling
- 2019 to present Icelandic Resources – Completed buyout of all third-party interests and continued drilling.