Here at SolGold, we are all about copper or, more specifically, top-tier porphyry copper-gold projects across the up-and-coming mining jurisdiction of Ecuador.
To that end our pan-Ecuadorian strategy, first unveiled in May, is going from strength to strength with the country’s Department of Mines recently awarding us 21 new concessions.
These take our total Ecuadorian holdings to 59 tenements across almost 2,500 square kilometres. These are held by four new 100% owned local subsidiaries.
In short, the company holds high hopes of emulating the success at its most advanced project, the world-class Cascabel copper-gold deposit in the north of the country.
“The geology is the same and predictable throughout Ecuador so we have developed a blueprint for the discovery of these things,” says our CEO Nick Mather, who has targeted identifying five tier-one copper-gold porphyry targets across the expanded portfolio.
“We believe that there is potential in Ecuador for several projects that will ultimately match or exceed the Cascabel project,” he says. “SolGold has taken steps to secure these opportunities with a well organised and thorough exploration program.”
Initial results are highly encouraging, with first-pass exploration identifying 14 copper-gold porphyry targets.
So far we have identified outcropping copper-gold porphyry systems on five targets, notably our 100% owned Machos-Florida-Santa Cruz-La Hueca project in southern Ecuador.
Other tenements subject to reconnaissance and field mapping and rock chip sampling are Porvenir, San Antonio, Sharug, Agustin and Rio Amarillo. Initial rock chip samples have returned grades of up to 12% copper.
At La Hueca exploration to date suggests a 25km long porphyry trend, with the best rock chip samples ranging from 1.8% to 13.82% copper over a 5km by 1km area.
The age of the rocks (Jurassic era) is similar to those at two of Ecuador’s leading projects – Lundin Gold’s Fruta del Norte and the Chinese-owned Mirador – as well as Glencore's giant Alumbrera mine in Argentina.
SolGold’s pan-Ecuadorian success comes amid a land grab by foreign mining giants as the mining friendly regime releases new tenements.
Other active Ecuadorian participants include BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner, as well as Fortescue Gold, which is the second biggest Ecuadorian tenement holder behind SolGold.
Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting also recently won a concession while Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining also are reportedly keen on entering the country.
According to Mining Minister Javier Cordova, $US700m of foreign investment has already been committed, with this figure expected to rise to $US8bn by 2024.
Ecuador sits on the North Andean copper-gold belt. However, unlike in neighbouring Peru and Chile, the geologically fecund zone has not been well explored in Ecuador because the country has been off limits to miners until only recently.
SolGold has had an Ecuadorian presence since 2012 and was one of the first foreign miners to tap on the doors of the newly formed Mining Ministry in 2014, when a freeze on tenement applications was lifted.
We have spent about $50m on exploration and development in Ecuador so far, generating economic activity of about $200m.
SolGold is also building its own technical team with a view to development and production. This includes doubling the number of local geologists we employ to 100 next year.
Any projects are likely to be funded by third parties, with negotiations already taking place.
“In the past, juniors had to go to majors to get their projects developed but now there are broader options available to finance development,” Mather told the Mining Journal.
“The capital markets are deep and the expertise is available to build mines yourself.”
Ecuador’s underexplored status, its prospectively and the upside in the copper market all present an extraordinary opportunity to grow the company into a globally significant resource explorer, developer and miner.
The surging global copper price – up more than 20% in the past 12 months - adds weight to the likelihood that our pan-Ecuadorian strategy will succeed.