TSX-V-listed Canadian precious and base-metal explorer and developer Aton Resources has completed its initial 4,000 m drilling program at Rodruin.
Mark Campbell, President and CEO of Aton reflects on 2018:
“2017 was an exceptional year for Aton and our exploration teams’ achievements, but these now pale almost into insignificance not only compared to what they have accomplished in 2018, but also in comparison to what has been accomplished by Aton as a whole, and everything that has transpired in Egypt over the last year.
"Last year Aton not only saw significant strides in the exploration program at Rodruin, but forward progress in the development of Hamama West, success for the Aton in attracting new investors to the company, and a tectonic shift in the Egyptian Government’s move to overhaul the mining code.
"It seems hard to believe that it is a scant 13 months ago that the exploration team first climbed the remote and extremely rugged and steep mountain near Eradiya that had no name, but turned out to be what was known as the “lost mountain of gold” and that Aton now calls Rodruin.
"With intrepid hard work by our geologists we were able to perform the vital initial exploration work, carrying out a comprehensive surface sampling program that indicated the presence of gold mineralization over a wide areal extent at Rodruin.
"We then built a 4.5 km road up the side of the mountain, as well as constructing several more kilometers of drill access roads around the South Ridge along with numerous drill pads, while all along continuing our surface and channel sampling program.
"We then began our reverse circulation percussion (RC) drilling program at the end of August, the first in Egypt in twenty years. In spite of the early glitches with the rig, which were to be expected and with local crews new to RC drilling, Capital Drilling performed like champs, getting into their stride and performing impressively in tough drilling conditions.
"By early December, almost exactly a year after the first discovery of Rodruin, we had completed our initial 4,000 m drilling program, with some very impressive results.
"The results have so far borne out our exploration team’s view that sub-surface gold mineralization occurs over a wide area at Rodruin at good grades, with high-grade shoots and zones interspersed throughout, and also carrying good zinc and silver values in places.
"Gossan-hosted oxide gold mineralization has been identified at surface from several different zones, and good widths of primary sulfide mineralization at depth indicates the potential for a large bulk minable target at Rodruin, and we have not even got to the North Ridge yet!
"Our plan now is to start the second phase of the RC drilling program at Rodruin, following up on the successful first phase and also to test the very high grades above 300 g/t Au sampled from surface on the North Ridge, while taking breaks to drill some of the most prospective of our other 17 exploration targets, with a view to building value into our overall exploration portfolio at Abu Marawat.
"In November of 2017 Aton announced its intention to make a declaration of commerciality at Hamama West and began the process of producing a study for the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA) in support of this declaration as per our Concession Agreement.
"We engaged the engineering consultancy, Wardell Armstrong International (WAI), to oversee the delivery of this study in support of a commercial declaration. The study was submitted to EMRA on May 31 last year, two months ahead of the contractually required date, which was an outstanding result by WAI and the other subcontractors, Metallurg and Cube Consulting.
"Again, another great achievement!
Additionally, belief in Aton’s exploration team, management and board saw us add new investors to our shareholder list. Most significantly was Sandstorm Gold Royalties, the large and very successful TSX listed gold royalty streaming company, as well as for the first time in Aton’s history, domestic Egyptian investors.
"It is very gratifying and humbling to receive the confidence, trust and support from these new shareholders.
"But maybe the most significant development is one that will not only be transformational for Aton and its worldwide shareholders, but most importantly for Egypt, its future exploration and mining industry, its economy and its people, is the Government’s recognition of the need to reform its mining law and to attract much-needed investment into the sector.
"The reason that Egypt has developed only one operating gold mine in the last 100 years is not due to its geological potential, which is recognized to hold vast undiscovered and under explored mineral wealth, but from a misguided mining regime that had been put in place back in the early 1980’s.
"At the time it was thought that as both oil and gas and mining are extractive industries, the oil and gas production sharing agreement structure would work for both.
"However, this did not recognize that although both are extractive industries, that is where the similarity ends, and that their economics are wholly different.
"It is like saying Uber and American Airlines are the same business just because they are both in transportation!
"And because the mining industry had lain dormant for so many decades, there was unfortunately nobody within the governing bodies who had the experience to guide the lawmakers.
"Having been personally involved in gold exploration in Egypt for the last quarter of a century, it was at times, soul destroying to see Egypt’s vast mineral potential being wasted by its inability to attract exploration investment.
"What was needed was vision and at the beginning of last year this started to appear. In my opinion, President El Sisi is the most pro-investment leader this country has ever had and he saw that there was something wrong, resulting in the lack of development in the sector.
"But just as importantly, Egypt has a Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, whose accomplishments in the oil & gas sector have been nothing short of amazing, who also saw that there was a problem. He also recognized that not being from the mining business, he needed some experienced independent advice.
"Thus, in March of last year the Ministry engaged the global resources consulting firm, Wood Mackenzie, to undertake a study to highlight the impediments to investment in the sector, and to develop recommendations on the required changes that needed to be made, and a roadmap to implement them.
"Wood Mackenzie have been extremely successful in helping Ecuador to develop a new successful exploration industry. This is the biggest shift in terms of thinking regarding Egyptian mining policy in 40 years. It has been very clear from the public pronouncements made by the Minister that Egypt is totally committed to this reform and that they are working at a very rapid pace to implement the required changes.
"We look forward to seeing these changes and the positive benefits they will bring, not only to Aton shareholders, but for exploration investment in Egypt.
I would like to say that none of this could have been accomplished if not for our outstanding exploration team, both expat and national, based at the Hamama exploration camp, and our staff in both Cairo and Vancouver.
It is a real privilege for me to be associated with them. It is also important to recognize the support that we have received from our contractors, consultants, suppliers and legal advisors, for they have also helped to make this possible.
"Furthermore, the support and guidance from our Directors and Advisory Directors over the past year has been a huge help in achieving our goals and especially to me personally.
"And of course, it goes without saying that I extend my gratitude to our investors, both new and old, who have supported us over the years, and in particular to our two cornerstone investors OU Moonrider and OU Hektik.