Orion hits copper paydirt at Okiep but now has to fund future developments

Errol Smart, CEO, Orion Minerals

Latest high-grade drilling results published by Orion Minerals for its Okiep copper project in the Northern Cape are a big boost both for Orion and for the region as a potential major copper producing area.

There are now two copper juniors in the O’kiep/Nababeep area – Orion Minerals and Copper 360 – singing from the same hymn sheet which is that the region has huge potential which was not exploited by the mining companies that operated there previously – Newmont Mining, the former Gold Fields of South Africa, and the former Metorex.

Orion today published a series of diamond drilling results from its Flat Mine project at Okiep which included a “standout intercept” of 49m at 4.89% copper from 231m down hole including 10.23m at 12.47% copper.

Orion CEO Errol Smart commented, “this standout intercept is one of the highest-grade intercepts reported in South Africa for the past 40 years. While it is always exciting to drill such spectacular intersections, they are not unexpected at Okiep.

“For me as a geologist, this underscores the huge potential of Orion’s 641 square kms of mineral right holdings which contain literally hundreds of mapped, outcropping mineralised bodies.

“Previous owners Newmont and Gold Fields intersected strong copper mineralisation in dozens of bodies with scout drilling but never completed drilling out the discoveries, due to low copper prices at the time, which resulted in management decisions to curtail exploration.”

In February, Copper 360 reported that drilling and surface sampling had delineated a magnetic anomaly at the former Tweefontein mine with four distinct copper anomalies with surface sampling confirming copper grades of between 2.12% and 17.47% on surface at the first anomaly.

In September last year Copper 360 announced a 220% increase in the estimated total copper resource at its Rietberg mine.

Copper 360 CEO Jan Nelson commented at the time, “This resource upgrade shows that the Rietberg mine is a world-class copper mine. The resource is underpinned by closely spaced drill holes showing ore ready for mining on at least 5 levels that are open and accessible.  It has exceeded all our expectations.”

Copper 360 is already in production so the key questions for Orion are how soon it can get copper output going from the high-grade areas it has just discovered at Okiep and how this project will relate to its “flagship” project which is re-starting mining from the former Prieska copper mine.

Smart says production from Prieska remains the group’s top priority because of the higher grade of the shallow surface ore block and the mine pillars that Orion intends mining while it dewaters the deep level workings at the mine.

Dewatering the shaft and mine workings is going to take some three years during which Orion will generate revenue from the planned mining of the shallow 105 block.

Smart commented, “Prieska is fully permitted, mining is underway, and we are stockpiling ore on surface. The first three years of ore production at Prieska runs at an average grade of 2.4% while the average at Okiep is going to be 1.4%. At Prieska we will also get a nice credit from the zinc.”

At Okiep, operations from the existing Flat mine infrastructure can easily be extended to access the newly defined ore resources but Orion is going to have to build a concentrating plant to process the mined ore and also set up a tailings dam.

Smart commented, “the scoping studies show we could be in production in 12 to 18 months.”

But the key issue for both of these proposed developments is finding the money to pay for them.

Smart commented, “financing comes first. We are having some very interesting discussions on the financing plans at the moment with potential joint venture and investment partners. As soon as that is done construction will start and we will be in production 12 months from then.

Smart declined to provide estimates on how much money Orion will need to raise to pay for Prieska and Okiep.

He commented, “We can talk about that when all the bankables are finished. Australian Stock Exchange rules mean you cannot arm wave and you cannot put numbers out until they are backed by a bankable study signed off by an independent expert”.