Friday 28th October 2016

Resource Clips

Posts tagged ‘copper’

King’s Bay Gold to acquire never-drilled copper-cobalt property in Labrador

October 28th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 28, 2016

An intriguing chance find has King’s Bay Gold TSXV:KBG hoping the Trans-Labrador Highway will be a road to discovery. That’s the story behind the company’s October 27 announcement of a definitive agreement to acquire the Lynx Lake copper-cobalt property in south-central Labrador.

King’s Bay Gold to acquire never-drilled copper-cobalt property in Labrador

Powerlines and the Trans-Labrador Highway
run adjacent to the Lynx Lake copper-cobalt property.

As Newfoundland was building the highway in 2008, a provincial contractor with prospecting experience noticed evidence of disseminated and massive sulphides, King’s Bay geologist/director Nick Rodway explains. Some geological sleuthing eventually drew the contractor to the property’s east side, where a quarry had been blasted for aggregate.

Grab samples assayed the following year showed non-43-101 results up to 1.39% copper, 0.94% cobalt, 0.21% nickel and 6.5 g/t silver. Regional low-res magnetic surveys undertaken by the province and preliminary work in 2014 with a hand-held EM-16 device suggest strong conductors underlying the area.

Grab samples taken on the property’s west side in 2015 brought non-43-101 results up to 1.03% copper, 0.566% cobalt, 0.1% nickel, 5 g/t silver, 0.36% chromium, 0.39% molybdenum and 0.23% vanadium.

With a team returning to Lynx Lake next week, King’s Bay intends to conduct a sampling program to bring 43-101 results, along with further EM-16 surveys. Should all go to plan, airborne geophysics could follow this winter.

Open to year-round work, highway-accessible and with adjacent powerlines, the 20-square-kilometre property sits about 100 kilometres southeast of the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Subject to approvals, the acquisition costs King’s Bay $100,000 over three years and 900,000 shares over two years.

The news comes amid growing concerns over future cobalt supply. Nearly 60% of global production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country rife with political conflict.

At the same time increased demand comes from “the energy storage revolution,” reports Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. Its data shows “2015 total global supply at 100,000 tpa, of this the battery market consumed 48,000 tpa.

“With a lithium-ion battery production surge well underway—and Benchmark recently revising its megafactories tracker to now 14 that are under construction ranging from three- to 35-GWh capacity—lithium-ion battery demand for cobalt is set to exceed 100,000 tpa by 2020.”

Diamond explorer Dunnedin Ventures ponders its B.C. gold-copper porphyry project

October 26th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 26, 2016

Diamond explorer Dunnedin Ventures ponders its B.C. gold-copper porphyry project

Primarily focused on Nunavut diamond exploration, Dunnedin Ventures TSXV:DVI has launched a technical and strategic review of its Trapper gold project in northwestern British Columbia.

The 40-square-kilometre property lies adjacent to Brixton Metals’ (TSXV:BBB) Thorn project and hosts the Ring zone “with over 10 kilometres of strike surrounding a porphyry centre, with gold-rich polymetallic mineralization drilled across 2.2 kilometres and associated surface copper porphyry showings,” Dunnedin stated.

Over $4 million of exploration included a 42-hole, 8,580-metre program completed in 2011. Some highlights showed:

Hole TG-11-011

  • 1.71 g/t gold, 5.6 g/t silver, 1.01% lead and 0.25% zinc over 34.11 metres, starting at 106.89 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 92.8 g/t gold, 18.8 g/t silver, 0.13% lead and 0.12% zinc over 0.41 metres)
  • (and including 3.9 g/t gold, 27 g/t silver, 9.11% lead and 0.91% zinc over 3.39 metres)

Hole TG-11-038

  • 1.68 g/t gold, 1.8 g/t silver, 0.02% lead and 0.07% zinc over 15 metres, starting at 122.5 metres
  • (including 5.08 g/t gold, 4.4 g/t silver, 0.05% lead and 0.13% zinc over 4.23 metres)
  • (which includes 21.8 g/t gold, 11.9 g/t silver, 0.15% lead and 0.36% zinc over 0.62 metres)

Hole TG-11-039

  • 1.01 g/t gold, 2.3 g/t silver, 0.02% lead and 0.13% zinc over 30 metres, starting at 67.5 metres
  • (including 2.19 g/t gold, 2.7 g/t silver, 0.06% lead and 0.3% zinc over 2.5 metres)
  • (and including 2.98 g/t gold, 4 g/t silver, 0.04% lead and 0.09% zinc over 2.5 metres)
  • (and including 2.64 g/t gold, 2.5 g/t silver and 0.35% zinc over 2.34 metres)

Hole TG-11-040

  • 1.19 g/t gold, 1.8 g/t silver, 0.01% lead and 0.07% zinc over 27.5 metres, starting at 132.5 metres
  • (including 11.15 g/t gold, 5.7 g/t silver, 0.03% lead and 0.17% zinc over 2.5 metres)

True widths weren’t available.

“The property overlies an unusually gold-rich porphyry copper complex including drill-ready copper porphyry and gold-rich semi-massive sulphide stockwork,” commented CEO Chris Taylor. “Dunnedin is conducting a comprehensive review of this 100%-owned project to determine how best to unlock its value for shareholders.”

The company has also been finding gold on its flagship Kahuna diamond project, with evidence from 2015 till sampling—just recently evaluated for gold—and from historic rock samples.

This year’s program collected 10 times as many till samples as 2015, gathering 1,111 samples to be analyzed for diamond indicator minerals and gold. The company also staked another 25,000 hectares, increasing Kahuna to about 60,000 hectares.

Read more about Dunnedin Ventures.

See Chris Berry’s report on long-term diamond demand.

Pistol Bay Mining plans November drilling on Dixie zinc projects in Ontario

October 26th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 26, 2016

It’s neither the land of cotton nor of traditional jazz, but of zinc with additional metals. And that’s why Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST has a November drill program planned for three of its western Ontario Dixie properties. Totalling about 1,900 hectares, Dixies 17, 18 and 19 host lenses of volcanogenic massive sulphides with zinc, copper, silver and minor gold in the Confederation Lake greenstone belt southeast of Red Lake.

Pistol Bay Mining plans November drilling on Dixie zinc projects in Ontario

All three have historic zinc-copper assays.

A review of previous geophysics will help determine drill targets for the three zones. Additionally, Pistol Bay proposes confirmation holes for Dixie 17 and 18.

Also on October 25, the company announced a private placement of up to $820,000. Pistol Bay closed a $563,450 placement in August.

Earlier this month the company announced a letter of intent to acquire regional properties from AurCrest Gold TSXV:AGO, which would make Pistol Bay the greenstone belt’s largest claimholder. The 5,136-hectare package includes a zinc-copper-silver resource and an historic, non-43-101 estimate.

In Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, the company has a joint venture with a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary on the C-5 uranium property. Having earned 75% of its option so far, Rio intends to acquire the full 100%.

See an infographic: Eleven things every metal investor should know about zinc.

NRG Metals to focus on lithium, plans to spin out other assets

October 21st, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 21, 2016

A new company would take on graphite and gold-copper projects as NRG Metals TSXV:NGZ concentrates on lithium. In a proposed plan of arrangement announced October 21, the company would spin out its Groete gold-copper property in Guyana and its LAB graphite project in Quebec into a newly created subsidiary. NRG shareholders would get shares of the spinco on a pro rata basis.

NRG Metals to focus on lithium, plans to spin out other assets

NRG signed an LOI to acquire the Carachi Pampa
properties in South America’s Lithium Triangle.

Subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals, the deal would transfer the two properties and pay approximately $150,000 to an entity referred to as GPRL “as well as certain accounts payable attributable to these projects.” Plans call for the spinco to apply for a public listing.

NRG describes Groete as “one of the most easily accessed large gold-copper resources in Guyana, having both deep water and electrical power/support infrastructure within approximately 30 kilometres.” The project has a 2013 resource using a 0.22 g/t gold-equivalent cutoff for a pit shell showing:

  • inferred: 74.8 million tonnes averaging 0.49 g/t gold and 0.12% copper, or 0.66 g/t gold-equivalent, for 1.59 million gold-equivalent ounces

The LAB project sits adjacent and contiguous to Lac des Iles, the largest of North America’s two flake graphite mines. NRG has conducted sampling, metallurgy, airborne magnetics and TDEM surveys, and a ground PhySpy survey on the project.

Last month the company announced two letters of intent to acquire Argentinian properties within South America’s Lithium Triangle and stated it’s “also negotiating on several other lithium opportunities located elsewhere in Argentina and Chile.”

NRG has offered a private placement of up to $1 million.

Copper North Mining drills porphyry copper-gold in northern B.C.

October 20th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 20, 2016

Having released a PEA for its Carmacks copper-gold-silver project in the Yukon the previous week, Copper North Mining TSXV:COL reported drill results from the northern British Columbia Thor project on October 20. After two previous holes on the 20,000-hectare property’s Thor West area came up dry, a Thor East hole did better:

Hole TH16-01

  • 0.14% copper and 0.045 g/t gold over 107.6 metres, starting at 11.65 metres in downhole depth
  • (including 0.23% copper and 0.069 g/t gold over 37.13 metres)
  • (which includes 0.28% copper and 0.087 g/t gold over 23.85 metres)

True widths were unavailable.

Copper North Mining drills porphyry copper-gold in northern BC

Samples from the property’s Thor East area
show oxide-weathered granodiorite.

Traces of copper continue beyond that intercept to the end of the hole at 169.16 metres, the company stated. “The transition from stronger mineralization and quartz-veining at the top of the hole to weaker copper mineralization and phyllic alteration at depth suggests that drill hole TH16-01 may flank a mineralized porphyry centre.”

Next steps would include ground surveys at Thor East and evaluating multiple geochemical targets and alteration zones, the company added. Field work has already identified multiple targets over a four-by-six-kilometre area southeast of TH16-01.

“The large area of porphyry alteration and gossan zones remain an attractive exploration target,” commented president/CEO Harlan Meade. “The Thor project provides Copper North with an opportunity to explore for porphyry copper-gold type mineralization in the slopes and valleys 20 kilometres to the south of the Kemess South mine and mill complex.”

The former mine now lies within AuRico Metals’ (TSX:AMI) Kemess Underground gold-copper-silver property.

Copper North holds a 100% option on Thor, which has a road and power line passing through the property.

The company closed private placements totalling $279,050 this month.

Read more about Copper North Mining.

Nickel One Resources moves closer to PGE-copper-nickel acquisition in Finland

October 19th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 19, 2016

Nickel One Resources moves closer to Finnish PGE-copper-nickel acquisition

Over $10 million in previous work has given Lantinen Koillismaa
resource estimates for two potential open pits.

Nickel One Resources’ (TSXV:NNN) Finland entry took another step forward with a binding letter agreement announced October 19. Already holding the Tyko project in western Ontario, Nickel One would get a 100% interest in Finore Mining’s (CSE:FIN) Lantinen Koillismaa platinum group element-copper-nickel project in north-central Finland. An LOI was announced in August.

The property would come through the purchase of Finore subsidiary Nortec Minerals Oy in a deal costing five million shares and 2.5 million warrants exercisable at $0.12 for two years. Nickel One has paid $50,000, which would be applied to a private placement of up to $100,000 into Finore following due diligence.

Benefiting from over $10 million in previous work, LK has 2013 resource estimates for two potential open pits.

The Kaukua deposit shows:

  • indicated: 10.4 million tonnes averaging 0.73 g/t palladium, 0.26 g/t platinum, 0.08 g/t gold, 0.15% copper, 0.1% nickel and 65 g/t cobalt

  • inferred: 13.2 million tonnes averaging 0.63 g/t palladium, 0.22 g/t platinum, 0.06 g/t gold, 0.15% copper, 0.1% nickel and 55 g/t cobalt

The Haukiaho deposit has three zones totalling:

  • inferred: 23.2 million tonnes averaging 0.31 g/t palladium, 0.12 g/t platinum, 0.1 g/t gold, 0.21% copper, 0.14% nickel and 61 g/t cobalt

The acquisition would bring Nickel One into “a mining-friendly jurisdiction with some of the best infrastructure in the world,” commented president Vance Loeber. The project also provides “a foothold in Finland from which we will be taking a hard look at other opportunities to continue to build a strong portfolio of projects,” he added.

Read more about Nickel One Resources and the Lantinen Koillismaa acquisition.

Pistol Bay Mining to take largest position in Ontario’s VMS-rich Confederation Lake

October 19th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 19, 2016

Pistol Bay Mining to take largest position in Ontario’s VMS-rich Confederation Lake

Pistol Bay’s holdings will cover a 31-kilometre length of the VMS-rich Confederation Lake greenstone belt.


A new acquisition would make Pistol Bay Mining TSXV:PST the biggest claimholder in Ontario’s Confederation Lake greenstone belt. The 5,136-hectare package comprises all the regional claims held by AurCrest Gold TSXV:AGO and includes a zinc-copper-silver resource as well as an historic, non-43-101 estimate. Along with Pistol Bay’s optioned Dixie and Dixie 3 properties, the letter of intent announced October 19 would increase the company’s holdings to 7,050 hectares on the volcanogenic massive sulphide-rich belt.

With three cutoff grades, the package’s Arrow zone has resources showing:

3% zinc-equivalent cutoff

  • indicated: 2.07 million tonnes averaging 5.92% zinc, 0.75% copper, 21.1 g/t silver and 0.58 g/t gold

  • inferred: 120,550 tonnes averaging 2.6% zinc, 0.56% copper, 18.6 g/t silver and 0.4 g/t gold

5% zinc-equivalent cutoff

  • indicated: 1.76 million tonnes averaging 6.75% zinc, 0.79% copper, 22.3 g/t silver and 0.61 g/t gold

  • inferred: 51,630 tonnes averaging 3.86% zinc, 0.79% copper, 23.9 g/t silver and 0.58 g/t gold

10% zinc-equivalent cutoff

  • indicated: 633,000 tonnes averaging 14.3% zinc, 1.11% copper, 31.7 g/t silver and 0.85 g/t gold
Pistol Bay Mining to take largest position in Ontario’s VMS-rich Confederation Lake

Pistol Bay’s Dixie properties have been
undergoing field work and a review of historic data.

Additionally, the Copperlode A or Fredart zone has an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 425,000 tonnes averaging 1.56% copper. Exploration in the 1970s produced samples up to 1.46% molybdenum.

The 100% option would cost $25,000 and one million shares on closing and $25,000 90 days later, as well as $50,000 and one million shares on each of the four anniversaries following closing. In addition to regulatory approvals, the transaction needs the consent of Glencore plc, whose rights to the Confederation Lake property include a 2% NSR.

The companies expect to close within a week.

“Pistol Bay proposes an ambitious exploration program that will not only pursue existing targets and known VMS deposits, but will use the latest airborne geophysical survey technologies to explore the whole area to a greater depth than was possible in the past,” said president Charles Desjardins.

Earlier this month the company announced MPH Consulting will review historic geophysical data on Pistol Bay’s Confederation Lake-region Dixie properties, where field work began in September. Historic drilling has found zinc, copper and silver, while the recently optioned Dixie 3 project comes with an historic, non-43-101 estimate of 82,500 tonnes averaging 1% copper and 10% zinc.

The company has a joint venture with a Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO subsidiary on the C-5 uranium property in Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. Having already earned 75% of its option, Rio has stated its intention to acquire the full 100%.

Pistol Bay closed a $563,450 private placement last August.

Golden Dawn Minerals to expand southern B.C. portfolio of past-producers

October 18th, 2016

by Greg Klein | October 18, 2016

Golden Dawn Minerals to expand southern B.C. portfolio of past-producers

Several former mines dot southern B.C.’s Greenwood camp.


Another 10,400 hectares with former mines would increase Golden Dawn Minerals’ (TSXV:GOM) presence in southern British Columbia’s historic Greenwood mining camp. Under a binding letter of intent announced October 18, the company would acquire Kettle River Resources, a subsidiary of New Nadina Explorations TSXV:NNA. Golden Dawn already has a portfolio of former mines within a 15-kilometre radius of its 200-tpd Greenwood mill, about 500 kilometres east of Vancouver.

The new acquisition would include the Tam O’Shanter project, the Sylvester K zone, some tailings sites, the former Phoenix mine and the Bluebell/Oro Denoro Eholt properties.

Golden Dawn has previously explored Tam O’Shanter along with a contiguous property, identifying an inferred resource for both.

Phoenix was mined between 1900 and 1978, producing over a million ounces of gold, 18 million ounces of silver and 575 million pounds of copper. Golden Dawn sees potential for new copper-gold finds.

Golden Dawn Minerals to expand southern B.C. portfolio of past-producers

Golden Dawn’s current portfolio includes the Greenwood mill.

The Sylvester K zone has a strike length of about 150 metres, with thickness up to 12 metres. Mining in 1989 extracted a reported 5,090 tonnes of material averaging 5.1 g/t gold.

Three tailings sites are associated with Phoenix. Metallurgical studies suggest re-grinding and cleaner flotation might offer potential for a copper-gold concentrate.

The Bluebell/Oro Denoro Eholt property has undergone exploration and mining since the 1890s, with a number of recent showings. Among the results, trenching at the Minnie Moore area in 2007 found silver grading 414 g/t over 8.5 metres, 1,044 g/t over 6.2 metres and 432 g/t over 5.8 metres. A drill core assay showed 77.3 g/t silver over 5.3 metres.

The properties come with a database representing 120 years of mining and exploration records.

Subject to a 90-day due diligence period and approvals, the package would cost Golden Dawn a non-refundable $80,000 on signing and another $15,000 by November 26. Those deposits would form part of a $1-million payment due on closing. New Nadina would also get $600,000 in Golden Dawn shares and a 1% NSR, half of which may be bought back. The companies expect to consummate by about January 31.

Late last month Golden Dawn issued a progress report on its work to reactivate the former May Mac, Lexington and Golden Crown mines, along with the nearby Greenwood mill. Trial mining could begin at Lexington in Q2 or Q3 next year, the company reported. Golden Crown, another gold-copper past-producer, could re-open in Q2 2018.

Golden Dawn has also been drilling May Mac and the Amigo past-producer about a kilometre south. The company expects to close a metals streaming deal this month.

Adding Yukon gold and silver

October 17th, 2016

Copper North Mining brings copper mining costs south


Look at development-ready copper projects and “you’ll find most of them are very large, multi-billion-dollar projects,” says Copper North Mining TSXV:COL president/CEO Harlan Meade. “And if you look at the smaller projects, there aren’t that many that would be in the lower decile of the cost curve.” A revised PEA announced October 12 brought the company’s Carmacks project into that category by incorporating gold and silver into a new metallurgical flowsheet. But Meade sees further potential for the south-central Yukon property with additional improvements, a new resource—completed but not yet entered into the mine plan—and an optimistic price scenario for the conductive commodity.

Metallurgy was key to the new PEA. A 2012 feasibility study “was based on a copper-only heap leach operation and that suited the higher metal prices of the day,” Meade explains. In 2014 Copper North factored gold and silver into a revised PEA. The current PEA now calls for agitated tank leaching of copper oxides to produce cathode copper. That would be followed by agitated tank leach cyanidation and carbon-in-leach processing to produce gold and silver doré bars. Considering gold and silver credits, the open pit would produce copper at US$1.08 a pound.

Copper North Mining brings copper mining costs south

Carmacks’ new resource has yet to be worked into the mine plan.
Further improvements could come from resource expansion,
improved silver recovery and eventual sulphide recovery.

The PEA sees Carmacks averaging 30 million pounds of cathode copper, 19,500 ounces of gold and 21,600 ounces of silver annually over a seven-year mine life.

Pre-production capex comes to $214.7 million, with total capex of $263.6 million and after-tax payback in 5.3 years. Using an 8% discount rate, the pre-tax NPV comes to $11.9 million with a 9.4% IRR. After taxes, the numbers show minus-$11.4 million and 6.6%.

That’s based on copper at $2.50 a pound, with gold at $1,300 and silver at $17.50 an ounce. At $2.75 copper, the pre-tax numbers show a $55.9-million NPV and 14.2% IRR. Should copper hit $3, pre-tax numbers climb to $99.8 million and 18.7%.

“Some people are using $2.75,” says Meade. “I wouldn’t blame them because if you look at the fundamentals of copper I think we’re going to see it in the $2.50 to $2.75 range towards the end of next year, and that would be the environment we’d be financing in.”

Directly sourced equipment helps cut capex. “A lot of equipment used today is made in China and brought in by U.S. suppliers. If we go straight to the source we get a very, very significant reduction.”

A pre-feas priority will be last January’s maiden resource for three zones not included in the current PEA. Located south of the proposed open pit that incorporates zones 1, 4 and 7, new zones 12, 13 and 2000S show the following totals:

Oxide and transitional mineralization

  • measured and indicated: 3.7 million tonnes averaging 0.5% total copper, 0.35% acid-soluble copper, 0.132 g/t gold, 2.011 g/t silver and 0.15% copper sulphide

  • inferred: 822,614 tonnes averaging 0.42% total copper, 0.28% acid-soluble copper, 0.119 g/t gold, 1.91 g/t silver and 0.14% copper sulphide

Sulphide mineralization

  • measured and indicated: 3.73 million tonnes averaging 0.6% total copper, 0.06% acid-soluble copper, 0.128 g/t gold, 2.288 g/t silver and 0.55% copper sulphide

  • inferred: 4.37 million tonnes averaging 0.55% total copper, 0.04% acid-soluble copper, 0.123 g/t gold, 2.081 g/t silver and 0.52% copper sulphide

Each of the three zones remains open along strike and at depth. Oxides begin at surface and extend to shallow depths. Sulphides occur at depths as shallow as 50 metres, the report stated.

Totals for all six zones come to:

Oxide and transitional mineralization

  • measured and indicated: 15.7 million tonnes averaging 0.94% copper, 0.74% acid-soluble copper, 0.379 g/t gold and 3.971 g/t silver

  • inferred: 900,000 tonnes averaging 0.45% copper, 0.3% acid-soluble copper, 0.119 g/t gold and 1.9 g/t silver

Sulphide mineralization

  • measured and indicated: 8.1 million tonnes averaging 0.68% copper, 0.178 g/t gold and 2.332 g/t silver

  • inferred: 8.4 million tonnes averaging 0.63% copper, 0.15 g/t gold and 1.994 g/t silver

Meade wants additional drilling in and around the three new zones this spring to upgrade the inferred numbers and maybe expand the resource too. “Then we’ll do some engineering to design a pit to add to the existing plan,” he says.

And we’ve still got a lot of room for exploration and expansion. I think there’s significantly more copper oxides and sulphides if one turns on the drills.—Harlan Meade,
president/CEO of
Copper North Mining

Another priority will be silver recovery, now down to 9.4%, compared with 85.5% for copper and 84.4% for gold. Silver took a hit when tests sped up the leach process by increasing heat. “But we’ll probably get it back,” says Meade.

At some point the sulphides should undergo metallurgical studies to produce either cathode copper or a concentrate. “There’s work to be done that might significantly extend the mine life,” he points out. “And we’ve still got a lot of room for exploration and expansion. I think there’s significantly more copper oxides and sulphides if one turns on the drills.”

Permitting could begin in fall 2017. “Carmacks has already been through the process and I think this proposal would be a lot simpler than the previous heap leach project,” he maintains. “I think the regulators will find much of this has been reviewed before so we think it’ll take about eight months. If that’s done you could begin production in early 2019.”

Community relations look positive, he adds. “My predecessor spent a lot of time building a relationship with two first nations. They’re keen to get started on a benefits agreement. They’re supportive of what we’re doing and hope we get this going sooner than later.”

The 4,933-hecatre project has nearby water, sits 11 kilometres from power and has 13 kilometres of road and trail access to a seasonal road that’s 34 kilometres from the town of Carmacks.

Having kept costs down to the lower decile, “we think Carmacks has a very good probability of being financed fairly quickly, especially if we see a small improvement in the copper price. We see it developing quickly and probably becoming Canada’s next copper mine. It’s financeable and it’s a low-cost producer, what more could you ask for? I guess a little more mine life, but we’re working on that.”

The company has also been active in northwestern British Columbia, where summer drilling has wrapped up on the Thor copper-gold porphyry project. Meade expects to release assays shortly.

This month Copper North closed private placements totalling $279,050.

Pushing the boundaries

October 12th, 2016

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes challenging human endurance

by Greg Klein

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.

“Deep underground, deep sky and deep sea” comprise the lofty goals of Three Deep, a five-year program announced last month by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources. Part 1 of this feature looked at the country’s ambitions to take mineral exploration deeper than ever on land, at sea and into the heavens, and also outlined other countries’ space programs related to mineral exploration. Part 2 delves into undersea mining as well as some of the world’s deepest mines.

Looking to the ocean depths, undersea mining has had tangible success. De Beers has been scooping up alluvial diamonds off southwestern Africa for decades, although at shallow depths. Through NamDeb, a 50/50 JV with Namibia, a fleet of six boats mines the world’s largest-known placer diamond deposit, about 20 kilometres offshore and 150 metres deep.

Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

Workers at AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng operation
must withstand the heat of deep underground mining.

Diamond Fields International TSXV:DFI hopes to return to its offshore Namibian claims, where the company extracted alluvial stones between 2005 and 2008. The company also holds a 50.1% interest in Atlantis II, a zinc-copper-silver deposit contained in Red Sea sediments. That project’s now on hold pending a dispute with the Saudi Arabian JV partner.

With deeper, more technologically advanced ambitions, Nautilus Minerals TSX:NUS holds a mining licence for its 85%-held Solwara 1 project in Papua New Guinea waters. A seafloor massive sulphide deposit at an average depth of 1,550 metres, its grades explain the company’s motivation. The project has a 2012 resource using a 2.6% copper-equivalent cutoff, with the Solwara 1 and 1 North areas showing:

  • indicated: 1.03 million tonnes averaging 7.2% copper, 5 g/t gold, 23 g/t silver and 0.4% zinc

  • inferred: 1.54 million tonnes averaging 8.1% copper, 6.4 g/t gold, 34 g/t silver and 0.9% zinc

Using the same cutoff, the Solwara 12 zone shows:

  • inferred: 2.3 million tonnes averaging 7.3% copper, 3.6 g/t gold, 56 g/t silver and 3.6% zinc
Technology opens new mining frontiers, sometimes pushing human endurance

This Nautilus diagram illustrates
the proposed Solwara operation.

A company video shows how Nautilus had hoped to operate “the world’s first commercial high-grade seafloor copper-gold mine” beginning in 2018 using existing technology from land-based mining and offshore oil and gas. Now, should financial restructuring succeed, Nautilus says it could begin deployment and testing by the end of Q1 2019.

Last May Nautilus released a resource update for the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the central Pacific waters of Tonga.

Another deep-sea hopeful, Ocean Minerals last month received approval from the Cook Islands to explore a 12,000-square-kilometre seabed expanse for rare earths in sediments.

A pioneer in undersea exploration, Japan’s getting ready for the next step, according to Bloomberg. A consortium including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal will begin pilot mining in Chinese-contested waters off Okinawa next April, the news agency stated. “Japan has confirmed the deposit has about 7.4 million tons of ore,” Bloomberg added, without specifying what kind of ore.

Scientists are analyzing data from the central Indian Ocean where nodules show signs of copper, nickel and manganese, the Times of India reported in January. The country has a remotely operated vehicle capable of an unusually deep 6,000 metres and is working on undersea mining technology.

In August the World Nuclear News stated Russia is considering a nuclear-powered submarine to explore northern seas for mineral deposits. A government report said the sub’s R&D could put the project on par with the country’s space industry, the WNN added.

If one project alone could justify China’s undersea ambitions, it might be a 470.47-ton gold deposit announced last November. Lying at 2,000 metres’ depth off northern China, the bounty was delineated by 1,000 workers and 120 kilometres of drilling from 67 sea platforms over three years, the People’s Daily reported. Laizhou Rehi Mining hopes to extract the stuff, according to China Daily.

China’s deep underground ambitions might bring innovation to exploration but have been long preceded by actual mining in South Africa—although not without problems, as the country’s deplorable safety record shows. Greater depths bring greater threats from rockfalls and mini-earthquakes.

At 3.9 kilometres’ depth AngloGold Ashanti’s (NYSE:AU) Mponeng holds status as the world’s deepest mine. Five other mines within 50 kilometres of Johannesburg work from at least three kilometres’ depth, where “rock temperatures can reach 60 degrees Celsius, enough to fry an egg,” according to a Bloomberg article posted by

In his 2013 book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal, Matthew Hart recounts a visit to Mponeng, where he’s told a “seismic event” shakes the mine 600 times a month.

Sometimes the quakes cause rockbursts, when rock explodes into a mining cavity and mows men down with a deadly spray of jagged rock. Sometimes a tremor causes a “fall of ground”—the term for a collapse. Some of the rockbursts had been so powerful that other countries, detecting the seismic signature, had suspected South Africa of testing a nuclear bomb.

AngloGold subjects job-seekers to a heat-endurance test, Hart explains.

In a special chamber, applicants perform step exercises while technicians monitor them. The test chamber is kept at a “wet” temperature of eighty-two degrees. The high humidity makes it feel like ninety-six. “We are trying to force the body’s thermoregulatory system to kick in,” said Zahan Eloff, an occupational health physician. “If your body cools itself efficiently, you are safe to go underground for a fourteen-day trial, and if that goes well, cleared to work.”

Clearly there’s more than technological challenges to mining the deeps.

By the way, credit for the world’s deepest drilling goes to Russia, which spent 24 years sinking the Kola Superdeep Bore Hole to 12,261 metres, halfway to the mantle. Work was halted by temperatures of 180 degrees Celsius.

This is the second of a two-part feature. See Part 1.