Strong leadership, a carefully laid out plan and forward thinking have ensured that ASX-listed Tietto Minerals is still able to fast-track the development of its Abujar gold project in Côte d’Ivoire despite the impact of COVID-19 in that country.
GERARD PETER finds out more from executive director MARK STRIZEK.
Tietto Minerals was founded in 2010 by Caigen Wang who has more than 25 years’ experience in mineral exploration in Africa, Australia, China and Canada. Funded by high net-worth individuals in the early days, Wang focused on exploration in Liberia followed by pursuing interests in Côte d’Ivoire.
The company listed in 2018. Among its leadership team is Strizek who has more than 20 years’ experience in gold exploration, resource development and operations of open pit and underground projects in African and Australia. The company also has a local partner, who is also a shareholder, and has been vital to of Tietto Mineral’s success in the Côte d’Ivoire.
Since listing, the company has been keenly focused on developing a multi-million ounce resource at Abujar, which is located approximately 30 km from the major regional city of Daloa in central western Côte D’Ivoire.
The project comprises three contiguous tenements over a total area of 1 114 km², of which less than 10% has been explored.
“When we started drilling in 2018, we were at 700 000 oz. As of the end of 2019, the current resource stands at 45.5 Mt at 1.5 g/t gold for 2.15 Moz of contained gold,” adds Strizek. The next mineral resource estimate update is planned for Q3, 2020.
Early preparation ensures continuity
Tietto Minerals’s steady progression of Abujar received recognition at this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba when it won the Investment Battlefield competition, a platform for junior mining companies with a market cap of $50 million to pitch their projects to high-profile investors.
“There has been a fair amount of interest after winning. It is a validation of the work that we were doing it,” states Strizek.
The win is testament to the potential of Abujar and Tietto Mineral’s effort to keep the momentum going – a recipe that Strizek says make good economic sense for investors.
“It’s a simple value proposition. We said that we were going to generate a resource of more than 2 Moz and we have delivered on that. We have been able to identify some very high grades from surface and this is very attractive from a mining proposition as we are looking for an early payback.
“Another thing we have done is create our own drilling company that allows us to drill further and at a low cost. This is important when you are trying to grow resources. We can currently drill about a third more than any of our competitors and that allows us to grow quickly,” he states.
Currently, Tietto Minerals is operating four company-owned rigs to undertake a 50 000 m drilling programme targeting rapid resource growth, with a fifth rig due to be added in the near future.
Now, while many exploration efforts have been hampered because of COVID-19, Strizek is confident that Abujar will meet its deliverables in 2020.
This is mainly due to the fact the company had already started putting in contingency measures as early as February. This includes the early adoption of extensive hygiene and self-isolation policies to protect its workforce and mitigate any potential impact from COVID‐19 in Côte d’Ivoire.
In addition, Tietto Minerals also began stockpiling supplies, fuel and drilling consumables in the event of a countrywide lockdown.
“We took early steps and we are able to keep drilling,” states Strizek.
“We put a lockdown on the site and are pretty well stocked up. The only thing that is leaving the site is core to be analysed and the only thing that might slow down is our environmental study work where you need to bring in specialist consultants into the country.
“At this stage, I am pretty comfortable that we can manage what we need to do. In terms of engineering studies, we already have samples in Australia. Our schedule is still on track. We are looking to do a pre-feasibility study by the end of this year.”
Abujar the main focus
Tietto Minerals is also in good financial standing to progress the project this year. Last year, the company was able to raise US$17 million and now has around $17 million in cashflow reserves.
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“At this point, we don’t need to go back to market as we are sitting quite comfortable and that allows us to complete our work and get to a funding point to build an open pit mine,” adds Strizek.
While Tietto Mineral’s priority is to get Abujar up and running, the company is also looking pursuing its other gold exploration interest in West Africa, but on a much smaller scale. The company has interests in Liberia as well as two other projects in Côte d’Ivoire that are in early exploration stages.
“One of these is close to Endeavour Mining’s Ity gold mine and we also have some good ground in Boundiali in the north of the country, so we have plenty of depth in the company going forward. But there is a lot to do around Abujar; we are only just getting started there,” explains Strizek.
As investors once again start to look at safe haven assets such as gold, this bodes well for gold miners. By ensuring that progress continues at Abujar amidst uncertainty, Tietto Minerals is in a good position to create one of largest gold mines in Côte d’Ivoire and capitalise on its vast resources once international gold markets stabilise.