ORION Minerals, the base metals exploration and development firm, said drilling of its tenements in the Northern Cape indicated a new major greenfields copper resource that could host a mine as large as the proposed A$432m Prieska Copper-Zinc Project it is hoping to start building this year.
Drilling, conducted prior to Christmas, had also defined possible satellite deposits that would supply the proposed Prieska Copper-Zinc mine. The company is hoping to finalise funding for a 22,000 ton a year and 70,000 tons a year zinc mine this year with construction slated to start soon after.
Errol Smart, MD and CEO of Orion Minerals, said that the project that had “… really caught our attention” was ‘Boksputs’, a prospect about 125km north-west of Prieska contained in an area that was drilled by Anglo American in 1973. Smart said that new information suggested a large out-cropping syncline. Historically, mineralisation has been identified over a 3km by 1km region.
The near mine targets that could “quickly develop into near-surface satellite ore sources for the Prieska mill” included the Kielder Project, located 15km from Prieska.
“The strategic significance of all these targets is that they form part of a world-class exploration package that is underpinned by our fully-permitted Prieska Copper-Zinc Project – which remains one of the few advanced base metal assets worldwide ready to move into construction this year,” said Smart.
“Some of the targets are ‘near-mine’ opportunities that could quickly develop into satellite ore sources for the Prieska mill. Others sit further afield and have demonstrated strong geological potential to emerge as potential major new VMS (volcanogenic massive sulphide) discoveries of a similar size to Prieska, or perhaps even bigger,” he said.
In its initial phase, the Prieska Copper-Zinc Project could operate for a 12 year period. Orion secured the mining rights to the Vardocube section of the Prieska Copper-Zinc Project in August from the South African government. As well as providing security for lenders to finance the project, it also locked in near-mine exploration potential.
Smart said 2021 could “not have started better” considering the improvement in the copper price which was last bid for cash at $7,872/t – registering a 30% year-on-year price increase. The prognosis for copper was also good. “The bull market for copper is now fully underway with prices up 50% from the 2020 lows, reaching their highest level since 2017,” said Goldman Sachs in a recent report.
“This current price strength is not an irrational aberration, rather we view it as the first leg of a structural bull market in copper,” it said.
Smart has been extremely bullish about exploration in the Northern Cape province which he said had been largely ignored by developers. “Geologically, I can tell you, having gone around the world and looked at terrains the Northern Cape is an absolute drilling roast,” he said at the Joburg Indaba mining conference in October.