Orion, Govt sign watershed MoU to explore wider mineral potential of SA’s Northern Cape

Blue sky potential? Airborne magnetic survey in action

ORION Minerals today announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the South African government in which the parties will pool geological information with regard to greenfield minerals exploration, currently focused on the Northern Cape province.

Errol Smart, MD of Orion Minerals, hailed the MoU – signed with the Council for Geoscience – as recognition by the Government of its role as custodian of the country’s mineral wealth. The council is housed in the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).

The MoU, which is on a non-exclusive basis, will see the parties share geological and technical knowledge. Smart said he hoped this would catalyse broad district-based minerals exploration that would eventually uncover new mineralisations.

The first collaboration with the council is for the acquisition and interpretation of airborne electromagnetic survey technology known as SkyTEMTM which will be flown over Orion’s Okiep Copper district in the Northern Cape. Once operated, the survey will be the first of its kind in the area, said Smart.

Mosa Mabuza, CEO of the CGS, said the agreement would go “a long way” to achieving the 5% global exploration share target outlined by mines minister, Gwede Mantashe. South Africa currently controls around 1% of global exploration spend.

Smart said he hoped the MoU would lead to greater cooperation between exploration and other mining companies, proprietary concerns notwithstanding.

“While we recognise and respect the need for confidentiality for each company’s key intellectual property and commercially sensitive exploration results, we think we can all gain much more by sharing and working together for a mutual good, than for each team to be working in ‘secret silos’,” said Smart.

“The sooner we pool the extensive geoscientific skills available in South Africa, and collaborate on gathering and harmonising datasets, the sooner we will make major new discoveries,” he said.

Smart has been bullish regarding the Northern Cape’s prospects in the past. “Geologically, I can tell you, having gone around the world and looked at terrains, the Northern Cape is an absolute dripping roast, he said last year.

Orion is in the final stage of financing its A$432m Prieska Copper-Zinc Project as well as re-opening Okiep Copper Company at cost of A$58m. The two initiatives, worth over R5bn, have been joined by a third development in the Northern Cape by veteran miner, Jan Nelson.

Nelson’s copper retreatment company, Big Tree Copper, is to list in Johannesburg later this year. Speaking in February, Nelson said of the Northern Cape: “This area has been completely overlooked for years. People thought it was mined out. It’s not. Mark my words, this is going to be the next big mining province in South Africa”.