Cora Gold has established itself as an expert gold explorer thanks to its flagship asset Sanankoro which comprises a substantial, large-scale gold resource within Mali’s Yanfolila Gold Belt.
The imminent confirmation of a maiden resource for the project however is only the beginning of the company’s journey as it aims to quickly advance the project up the value curve with the hopes of transitioning from exploration specialist to mine developer and operator - within the next two or three years, head of business development BERT MONRO tells LAURA CORNISH.
Cora Gold’s story began in 2016 when the company amalgamated and took over a set of non-core assets belonging to one of its largest shareholders Hummingbird Resources.
“We knew the value of these assets but needed to work alongside a company who could dedicate its time, money and effort into advancing them beyond high-potential exploration targets,” says Monro, who also fulfils the position of business development head at Hummingbird Resources.
As a result of the project spin-off, Cora Gold now owns in total principal de-risked project areas within two known gold belts in Mali and Senegal covering over 1 400 km².
On the back of a successful initial public offering to AIM in October where the company raised £3.45 million, the company has made significant headway in moving its primary and flagship asset Sanankoro up the value chain.
This can be attributed to the company’s management team, which together have a track record discovering and proving >8 Moz of gold discoveries and the consequently development of seven separate projects across Africa.
The financial support of a significant shareholder base is further indicative of Cora Gold’s potential to continue fulfilling its aspirations.
With the immediate focus on completing an in-fill drilling campaign required to issue a maiden resource in the nearby future, as well as finalising a scoping study before year-end, the company may be seen as acquisition hot property for a gold producer looking to grow or expand its own asset base.
True or not, Cora Gold remains focused in transitioning Sanankoro into a producing mine.
“While the development of Sanankoro is our primary drive, it will not detract from our maintaining a strong focus on exploration which the company’s team has become well known and respected for,” Monro states.
A closer look at Sanankoro
Sanankoro’s exploration target alone, completed by SRK, outlines a +1 Moz deposit at roughly 1.5 g/t. This covers only near-surface oxide material, meaning the deposit’s potential in the long-term should definitely extend further.
Sanankoro has a known 14 km strike length that is naturally amenable to free digging and simply processing.
“While we are working to complete a 6 000 m in-fill drilling programme which should enable us to announce a maiden resource, the approach we are taking towards development is not exploiting a massive portion of the resource but rather building our mine from a smaller base and expanding from there as we start to generate cash,” Monro outlines.
As such the company’s vision is to delineate what will be two starter pits in its maiden resource of between 300 000 and 400 000 oz, “hopefully, if both the maiden resource and scoping study are positive, equating to mining at a grade of around 2 g/t which when combined with a low stripping ratio in the early years could deliver a low cost, profitable 50 000 ozpa operation from which we could expand using cash flow moving beyond that.”
Crucial steps to achieve this year, as mentioned, include the completion of a scoping study (in addition to publicising a maiden resource). The successful achievement of these two work streams, “will mark a key milestone for the company in the development of Sanankoro,” says CEO Jonathan Forster.
“Work to date at Sanankoro has consistently demonstrated its significant potential and we believe
that the upcoming scoping study, will provide not only an initial indication of the project’s economic feasibility but will also act as a guide to future expansion.
“We are well-funded to complete these activities and I am grateful for the support we have
received in our most recent £1.35 million fundraise that included contributions from board members and long-standing shareholders. Their continued commitment is testament to the potential of Sanankoro and the other licences in Cora’s portfolio.”
Depending on the results of the scoping study, Cora Gold will look to move straight into a definitive or pre-feasibility study which should take approximately 12 months to complete.
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“With the right level of confidence and the ability to secure all of the necessary permits we could move this project into construction in 2021,” Monro confirms.
Truly committed to Mali, and further exploration
As confirmation of its commitment to remain an exploration-focused company, Cora Gold in June announced it had been awarded 100% ownership of the 82 km² Tagan permit, partially overlying the company’s previously held ground, located on the Yanfolila Gold Belt in Mali.
The Tagan permit lies approximately midway between the Sanankoro permit and Hummingbird Resources’ Yanfolila mine, lying within a 30 km radius of both.
Historic exploration covered the permit with reconnaissance soil geochemical sampling, primarily on a grid of 800 m x 100 m, with local areas infilled on 200 m x 50 m. Shallow auger and aircore drilling was also undertaken locally.
One target at Tagan, an aircore hole, returned a grade of 1.1 g/t gold over 44 m, which was undercut by a diamond core hole, which reported a grade of 1.7 g/t gold over 14 m.
Through the combination of historic data and the results of the Cora exploration programme, over 20 priority targets of length typically between 800 m to 2 000 m have been identified closely related to regional structural features that cross the Tagan permit. The priority targets include the area identified by previous drilling, around which occurs evidence of historic artisanal mining.
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This work justifies a future exploration programme that might benefit from a regional geophysical programme to aid “looking through” the cover material, followed by extensive reconnaissance shallow drill programmes.
The Tagan permit is awarded for an initial period of three years, with two subsequent extensions available of two years each.
The pleasure of working in Mali
For a junior looking to establish itself in the market, Mali is a good choice destination. The country has a well-established mining code and a relatively mature mining sector.
“This equates to working with a government that understands the mining industry and a multi-generational workforce,” Monro highlights.
Further to this Mali has good infrastructure and contractors and consultants don’t shy away from doing business there.
For now, Cora Gold owns 95% of a local holding company that owns Sanankoro. As the project develops the government is entitled to a 10% free carry and also has the right to buy an additional 10%.
The company hold exploration permits over its properties but will look to negotiate a mining agreement in 2020.
“While we excel in exploration Cora Gold is also an aspirational developer. With a quality asset and a quality share register of long-term mining investors, we believe our ability to deliver on our goals is achievable,” Monro concludes.