Continuing with our case studies, we now turn our attention to the Moonta ISR Copper Project Joint Venture in Southern Australia.
Description of Project and Location
The Moonta Copper Gold Project lies in the southern end of the renowned Olympic Copper-Gold belt of South Australia which contains 75% of Australia’s copper resources. The Oxide Copper Gold is prospected by some world class mines operating here. The deposits formed here about 1,600 million years ago, and mineralisation took place because of intense alteration of the host rocks. The depth and thickness of these deposits are widely varied.
However, the Moonta Project – which is spread over 819 sq kms on the northern part of the Yorke Peninsula, which itself lies at the southern section of the Olympic Copper-Gold Province which is a world-class lode of copper – has a working depth of 10 metres. This is thin enough for a wide range of cost-efficient exploration including geo-chemistry and shallow air-core drilling.
Ninety percent of the equity in the 106 sq km Moonta Porphyry Joint Venture is held by Andromeda Metals, with Minotaur Exploration holding the remainder of the share. A small number of production leases are held by others, but, since they are cut off from the Company’s land, by legislation.
A portion of the Moonta Project covers the Alford Copper Belt which is an area displaying intense alteration and structure and falls to the south and east of a large store of Hiltaba granite.
The northern part of the Moonta land holding is called the Moonta ISR Joint Venture with Environmental Metals Recovery Pvt Ltd (EMR). In-situ recovery method – which recovers metals using a fluid circulated via drilled wells in a process called ‘leaching’ – are used in this northern portion. This method impacts the environment minimally and disturbs the surface the least. Therefore it is least disturbing to the existing landowners. The costs of this process are a fraction of those of conventional mining and it also allows production from much lower grade deposits.
A brief history of exploration and mining in the Project Area
In 1859, copper was discovered in the Yorke Peninsula, and large-scale mines were set up in Moonta and Kadina. Smelting and export facilities were set up at Wallaroo. These three centres made up what was then known to be the ‘Copper Triangle’ which was a very well known geographical term in the history of South Australia’s economy.
The dimensions and continuity of the mineral lodes at Moonta and Kadina are distinctive in nature. For instance, the Main Lode of the Wallaroo Mines has a series of sharply dropping, high grade ore shoots. Mining was done right from the surface to a depth of 900 metres. At this great depth, the Main Lode varied in width from 4 to 30 feet, and assayed 3.5% copper. Mining, here, was done over a horizontal distance of nearly 2000 feet.
From 1959 onwards, mining in this region has seen major names in the industry in operation. There is also a huge amount of exploration information including data that has come from exploratory drilling in the past. There is also a wealth of recorded history that has come from geochemical and geophysical surveys.
Therefore no further costs have to be incurred for this information. It is estimated that the present mining enterprises have saved themselves more than $ 50 million because of the historical records and past information.
About the Moonta ISR Copper Joint Venture
This JV, as mentioned earlier, is with Environmental Metals Recovery Pvt Ltd of Australia. The work here is with in-situ recovery of copper from the considerable mineralisation in the northern part of the Moonta land holdings. The characteristics of the deposits are suitable for hydrometallurgical recovery techniques.
The deposits at Alford West and Wombat have deeply developed weathering troughs that extend hundreds of metres below the surface. The rocks on the northern and southern sides are fresh and impermeable, but the trough material shows copper mineralisation which is oxidised, porous and, perhaps, permeable. These caches are well below the water table and the sea level. The strike lines of both the deposits are exposed. Therefore, there are opportunities of finding further mineralisation in the trough extensions.
Exploration targets of the mineral resource
The mineral resource graded as ‘Inferred’ consists of 114,000 tonnes of copper within 66.1 Mt of ore grading 0.17% Cu at a cut-off grade of 0.05% Cu.
A broader target has been fixed at around 428,000 to 713,000 tonnes of copper at a grade range of 0.18% to 0.23% Cu in the region between 238 Mt and 310 Mt.
Exploration Targets are, by nature, theoretical and enough exploration to define a mineral resource under the JORC code – which is a professional code of practice which sets minimum standards for the public reporting of minerals exploration results – is yet to be done.
Terms of the Moonta ISR Joint Venture
In December, 2018 the main terms of the Moonta ISR Joint Venture were laid down, and they are:
Stage One Commitment –
- Environmental Metals Recovery Pvt Ltd (EMR) can earn 51% interest by funding $2 million of project activities in the project area., which would be executed within 4 years of the signing of the JV Agreement.
- EMR has to spend a minimum of $200,000 on the project in the first year and $300,000 in the second.
Stage Two Commitment –
- EMR would be given the choice to acquire an additional 24% equity interest ( bringing it up to 75% total) by spending another $ 3.5 million over another three-and-a-half years (making their total investment time 7.5 years).
As a result of this two stage commitment, Andromeda Metals (ADN) may elect not to contribute to any proposed JV programme or budget, in which case its interest in the JV would reduce according to the standard industry dilution formula.
In case ADN’s involvement drops to less than 10% equity interest, its interest would revert to a 1.5% smelter return loyalty payable for any minerals produced in the project area.
EMR would manage and operate the JV as long as it is the sole contributor, and also later if it holds a majority equity.
Old exploration records pertaining to the Moonta Copper Gold Project, which are all hand-written, mentions further potential at Alford West such as West Doora, Doora, and Vulcan prospects.
In the southwest town of Kadina, located in West Doora, drilling had taken place between 1966 and 1974 by third parties where intersection of copper was found from depths as shallow as 20 metres. Significant intersections were found at 7.31 metres, 71.02 metres, and 276.15 metres with compositions ranging from 2.29% copper to 0.82% copper.
The Doora and Vulcan prospects were offer equal possibilities – and all of these add up to possibilities within the land owned by Andromeda Metals showing a broader project resource inventory.
Business for now and in the future
This favoured mining site has seen much action over the last few decades and is still a very busy site with several operations taking place at several locations within the project area. The range of mining processes used here are also multiple. Moreover, the immediate future holds a lot of potential and the future has given a promise that would be addressed in the time to come.
The Moonta ISR project at the southern end of the Olympic Copper Gold belt of South Australia would be a location the world would be watching with great interest for some time now.