Orion Minerals
Photo: Mining Review Africa

Dual-listed Orion Minerals’ Prieska zinc/copper project could potentially be one of the larger exploration projects being undertaken in South Africa at present. As Orion Minerals is able to apply modern technology and engineering solutions that previous generation miners never had access to, the company is confident it will fast-track the Prieska zinc/copper project development.

Orion Minerals acquired Agama Exploration and Mining in March 2017, which, through its subsidiary companies, holds a 73.33% majority interest in a portfolio of projects, including an advanced volcanic massive sulphide zinc/copper exploration project with near-term production potential at the Prieska zinc/copper site.

This is an edited version of the original article published in the December 2017 edition of Mining Review Africa which can be read here

This project, located near the town of Prieska in the Northern Cape Province, is the company’s flagship project. It was successfully mined for 20 years and Orion Minerals believes has the potential to be re-established and mined once again.

Sascha-Lee Solomons
AUTHOR: Sascha-Lee Solomons, content editor at Mining Review Africa.

Infrastructure supports operation

The Prieska zinc/copper project is located 270 km south-west of Kimberley in the Northern Cape province.

The project has access to local and regional infrastructure, which includes a tarred road leading into the middle of the desert where the mine is located and a regional power grid feed linked to the mine substation which has become a hub for 600 MW of independent power production using solar and wind power.

There is also a 1 900 m landing strip.

“Proper infrastructure, services, power, water and professional skills, which are readily available in South Africa, are crucial when it comes to big base metal projects,” comments Orion Minerals CEO Errol Smart.

Several large commercial wind and solar generation projects are operational in the surrounding area and the mine is located just 48 km from a railway siding at Groveput with an open-access line connecting the site to the world-class export port of Saldanha Bay.

The Prieska project covers unmined dip and strike extensions from a historical underground mining operation.

The underground mine is accessed through an 8.8 m-diameter concrete-lined vertical shaft to a depth of 1 024 m.

“Three separate ramp declines have been established to access the deepest ore at a vertical depth of 1 140 m,” notes Smart.

The mineralisation lies in a synformal structure and the target lies in the keel and upturned limb of the syncline, above 1 200 m.

Drilling success

Orion Minerals has further improved its understanding of the existing mine workings with continued inspections of underground workings to collect geotechnical information for mine planning and design purposes.

The Hutchings Shaft was probed down to 910 m, some 500 m below the accumulated water level and the shaft was determined to be clear of obstructions.

This further confirms the integrity of the existing infrastructure for mine re-establishment.

The company has also continued with an intensive drill programme on the deep sulphide target aiming to extend and validate the mineralisation along strike.

14 surface diamond drill rigs are in operation and a total of 18 140 m of diamond drilling and 8 456 m of percussion drilling was completed to systematically test and confirm the extensive historical drilling data in 2017.

Results from Orion Minerals' drilling aim is to provide statistical validation of historic drilling that intersected unmined mineralised zones and add infill data so that the resultant data spacing meets the requirements for a mineral resource estimate.

In addition to infill and validation drilling, Orion Minerals has also used modern geohysics including down hole electromagnetic surveys to discover new extensions of wide, high grade ore.

“Orion Minerals currently has the biggest drill-out programme being undertaken in South Africa.

We have 14 drilling rigs on surface and two rigs underground at the moment and expect to complete drilling by February,” adds Smart.

Project progress

Orion Minerals is undertaking a capital raising of $5.5 million, made up of $3.47 million in tranche 1 and an additional $2.03 million in tranche 2.

The placement to sophisticated and professional investors will be for up to 229.167 million ordinary fully paid shares (shares) at an issue price of 2.4 cents per share to raise up to $5.5 million. It is proposed that the capital raising will occur in two stages, being:

  • Tranche 1 – 144.583 million shares using the company’s 15% placement capacity under ASX listing rule 7.1 to raise $3.47 million and
  • Tranche 2 - up to 84.583 million shares to raise $2.03 million (subject to shareholder approval, at a general meeting planned to be held mid-December 2017)

“The Orion Minerals has received commitments from investors to subscribe for the placement, with Tranche 2 being subject to shareholder approval,” comments Smart.

Proceeds from the placement will be used principally to progress the intensive resource drilling campaign at the company’s Prieska zinc-copper project.

The next step in the process is to define a maiden mineral resource estimate which will be fed into the BFS.

The BFS will build on both the substantial existing historical dataset relating to mining and processing activities as well as the new information being generated by the on-site activities.

Funds will also be used to continue exploration programmes, including a large airborne electromagnetic survey and regional geochemistry on the company’s Northern Cape South African tenements, and for working capital purposes.

Feature image credit: Mining Review Africa