Symbol Mining has begun full-scale mining at the Macy lead and zinc deposit and is on track to deliver its first shipment of high-grade zinc direct shippable ore in Q4, 2018.

The project has set the pace for ASX-listed base metals mining and exploration company Symbol Mining to develop further deposits as it progresses along its journey of becoming a mid-tier mining company in the next two to three years.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 9 2018

Having undertaken exploration activities in Nigeria since 2012, Symbol Mining has secured two promising project tenements in the country’s highly prospective yet underexplored Benue Trough – a major geological structure underlying a large part of Nigeria and forming part of the broader Central African Rift System.

AUTHOR: Mining Review Africa's senior deputy editor, Chantelle Kotze

An early mover in this largely under-explored and emerging mining province, Symbol Mining has taken advantage of Nigeria’s mineral potential.

This potential is increasingly being supported by the government, whose vision is to develop the country’s solid minerals mining potential as it diversifies from its deep oil and gas roots.

Nigeria’s mining evolution and Symbol Mining’s foray into base metals exploration has coincided with a climate in which zinc prices have increased largely due to mine closures and production cuts causing a global supply shortage of high quality zinc concentrates.

Lead prices have followed suite. With price rise benefits and reduction in the supply of zinc, the development of Macy could not have come at a better time.

Production commenced from the Macy project in June this year, and Symbol Mining is now focused on reinvesting the free cash flow from the project into further expanding its resource base via exploration at its Imperial and Tawny Joint Venture projects, says CEO Tim Wither.

“This achievement is evidence that we are committed to realising our ‘Explore-Extract-Expand’ strategy."

Exploration and initial production

The Imperial project, which comprises three exploration leases and three small-scale mining leases, spanning 510 km2 in Nigeria’s in Bauchi State, is a joint venture project with development partner Nigeria-based Goidel Resources (40%).

In the past six years, Symbol Mining has completed over 4 500 m of exploration drilling and in May 2018 released a maiden JORC-compliant indicated and inferred resource of 132 000 t grading at 18.3% zinc and 2.1% lead, for 24 284 t of contained zinc and 2 787 t of contained lead for the Macy deposit, which lies within the Imperial project.

This was followed by the completion of the Macy deposit scoping study, also in May, which confirmed the economic viability to produce 38 100 t of high-grade shippable product over a 12 month life of mine from 90 242 t of run of mine.

Pre-stripping on site at Macy commenced in April followed by full-scale mining in June.

The Macy deposit hosts a 250 m shallow open pit mining operation located within the 5 km strike of the Imperial orebody.

Symbol Mining has only explored 400 m of the 5 km strike at the Macy deposit. “Within the Imperial project, we have 30 of these mineralisation targets to explore,” says Wither.

The operation has a simple processing flow sheet which entails the crushing, screening, washing and hand sorting of the 20% zinc product (head grade) to produce three product lines of high-grade direct shippable ore, namely a zinc product (50% zinc), a lead product (60% lead) and a mixed product (30% zinc/4% lead).

The ore produced on site will be containerised and trucked to Lagos to a Bollore warehouse where it is kept until loaded on a bi-monthly shipping service to China (80% of product) and Europe (20% of product).

Portfolio expansion

In addition to the development of Macy, a regional exploration strategy has been developed including initial testing of further exploration targets within the Imperial Joint Venture project tenements.

A 4 700 m drilling programme has been completed at Aisha. The Aisha discovery confirms the region’s prospectivity and potential.

At Aisha, 39 reverse circulation drill holes have been drilled for a total of 3 439 m and three to five mineralised veins of between 1 m and 8 m thick have been identified across the width of the 800 m mineralised strike length.

Drilling at the Imperial project is planned to recommence in the fourth quarter following the Macy project’s first shipment and generation of cash which will fund the exploration programmes.

“This drilling programme is aimed at developing additional resources within the Imperial project as a means to replicate another Macy in the next six months, while also securing additional regional tenements in proximity to our current Imperial project.”

In the search for regional tenements, Symbol Mining is in the process of identifying and securing additional zinc and lead tenements and is also considering tin, niobium and tantalum assets within Nigeria.

The company is currently building a geological model and targeting criteria for tenements.

“We would like to secure additional tenements in the lead and zinc space within the next six months and within the next 12 months secure a tin asset,” says Wither.

Tawny – the other project

Meanwhile, at Symbol’s second project, the Tawny project – a joint venture with indigenous partner Adudu Farms Nigeria (40% interest) located 200 km south west of the Imperial project – Symbol Mining has undertaken an initial mapping programme to define the extent of mineralisation and plans to conduct a drilling programme in late 2018.

The Tawny project comprises an exploration lease covering 7 km2 in Nigeria’s Nasarawa State and is also highly prospective for lead and zinc. The attractiveness of this project for Symbol Mining is its high silver credit.

“Once we generate extra cash we will identify targets and follow-up with drilling to understand the potential at Tawny,” says Wither, noting that it will most likely be developed as an underground mine.

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