Orion has more tricks up its sleeve

2021-12-08T11:25:48+00:00 January 1st, 2022|Mine Excursion|

Edited by Leon Louw

Australian-listed Orion Minerals has more than just the Prieska zinc/copper deposit in their bag of surprises for 2022.

What other surprises might Orion Minerals have in store for 2022? Image credit: Leon Louw

What other surprises might Orion Minerals have in store for 2022? Image credit: Leon Louw

While Orion Mineral’s work at the historical Prieska zinc/copper mine has been the centre of attention over the past few years, the company has surreptitiously started serious exploration and mapping work on other very promising deposits in the Northern Cape mining complex.

According to Errol Smart, Orion’s geological team continue to unpack huge value from historic data in the area that the company has managed to secure. “Using modern 3D GIS modelling, we are able to get a better understanding of the geological controls which assist in identifying high priority targets for drill testing,” says Smart.

One area of particular interest has been the historic copper area of Okiep, not far from the town of Springbok in the Northern Cape Province.
According to Smart, due diligence work at the Okiep Copper Project (OCP) has defined high priority drill targets on the Carolusberg – Koperberg line.

The Carolusberg – Koperberg line was first discovered in 1680 and subsequent workings have been intermittently mined from 1850-2001. The Carolusberg – Koperberg workings contributed approximately 35% of the total post World War II production of 105 Million tonnes (Mt) of copper ore produced by the O’Okiep Copper Company (OCC).

Walter Shamu, COO at Orion Minerals. Image credit: Leon Louw

Walter Shamu, COO at Orion Minerals. Image credit: Leon Louw

Global mining giants Newmont and subsequently Goldfields, who were the owners of OCC, undertook extensive drilling and geological mapping during their tenure. Paper records of the historic exploration have now been digitised and are being modelled by Orion.

“We have already demonstrated that the high-quality data allows us to fast-track the re-estimation of resources using historic drill data with a Mineral Resource of 11.5Mt at 1.4% Copper (Cu) already reported in accordance with JORC 2012,” says Smart

This Resource was confirmed within three months of securing options on the mineral rights and the historic data. Resource estimation work continues under the guidance of Paul Matthews, Orion’s group mineral resource manager.

“I am particularly thrilled to be working with Paul again, as he was a key member of the contracted team that helped us identify the early potential at Prieska. Paul’s early resource estimates for Prieska, back in 2015, have proved to be accurate after extensive follow up drilling and resource estimation,” says Smart.

Identifying additional targets

Orion’s’ attention at OCP is now turning to identifying high-quality targets for undiscovered high-grade deposits such as those historically discovered in the Okiep district including the Okiep Mine (that gave the district its name) which yielded 907,000 tonnes of sulphide ore at 21% copper, and Nababeeb South which yielded 816,000 tonnes at 5.5% copper.

The company is focused on similar geological settings to that of Okiep and Nababeeb South and have identified high-priority targets to be tested on the BCC property which is currently under option to Orion.

These high-grade deposits are usually found in pipes or blows and have very small dimensions of 150m – 250m diameter and were easily missed by historic wide-spaced drilling.

Orion cooperates with geoscientists

Meanwhile Orion last year announced that it will cooperate with geoscientists from the South African Council for Geoscience to advance the geological understanding of the Northern Cape province further.

The studies will aim to stimulate greenfields exploration in an underexplored geological terrain. Particular focus will be on the application of modern exploration techniques, including geophysics, geochemistry, and remote sensing.

Figure 1: Locality plan of the 1,872km2 SkyTEMTM survey over the OCP area.

Figure 1: Locality plan of the 1,872km2 SkyTEMTM survey over the OCP area.

Smart, commented on the collaboration: “We have been impressed by the CGS’s recent drive to acquire, organise and make baseline geological data available to assist explorers and help stimulate a greenfields exploration boom in South Africa.
“CGS have recognised that their counterparts worldwide play a critical role as the custodians of historic exploration data, as well as in undertaking large, district-scale geoscientific studies that are often not within the capabilities of individual explorers.

Figure 2: A Z-Channel 40 AEM image over the OCP area, with preliminary SkyTEMTM anomalies selected for follow-up.

Figure 2: A Z-Channel 40 AEM image over the OCP area, with preliminary SkyTEMTM anomalies selected for follow-up.

These surveys and related geoscientific studies often result in accelerated exploration programs by mineral exploration companies that can sometimes lead to major discoveries that bring economic benefits to the regions.

“There have been many examples of this in Australia – most recently in the East Tennant region, where regional initiatives by Geoscience Australia have effectively led to the discovery of an entirely new IOCG district.

“Under this MoU, we intend to work with our geoscientific colleagues at the CGS, sharing both data and technical skills. The collaboration is on a non-exclusive basis, and we sincerely hope that our fellow exploration and mining companies in the Northern Cape will join us in this exciting endeavour.

“While we recognise and respect the need for confidentiality for each company’s key intellectual property and commercially sensitive exploration results, we think we can all gain much more by sharing and working together for a mutual good, than for each team to be working in ‘secret silos’.

“The sooner we pool the extensive geoscientific skills available in South Africa, and collaborate on gathering and harmonising datasets, the sooner we will make major new discoveries.

Figure 3: AEM targets close to Nababeep illustrating the proximity of these targets to known deposits.

Figure 3: AEM targets close to Nababeep illustrating the proximity of these targets to known deposits.

Orion seen as a trailblazer

According to CGS CEO Mosa Mabuza Orion Minerals has been a trailblazer for the junior mining and exploration sector in South Africa, both at their flagship Prieska Copper-Zinc Project and more recently in the Okiep Copper District.

Underground work at Orion Minerals’ Prieska shaft in the Northern Cape. Image credit: Leon Louw

Underground work at Orion Minerals’ Prieska shaft in the Northern Cape. Image credit: Leon Louw

“We see this partnership as a great opportunity that will demonstrate the importance of collaborating with key stakeholders to uncover the untapped geology that South Africa is blessed with. It will go a long way to secure the 5% global exploration share consistent with the commitment of the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of South Africa, Gwede Mantashe (MP).

“This collaborative effort established with Orion, marks a quantum leap to work together by acquiring, sharing data and information as well as ideas to make the next generation of discoveries for South Africa’s future.

“The Northern Cape Province is one of the most geologically prospective regions in the world, and yet has had very little modern exploration over it. We believe that there is a major opportunity by applying the latest exploration techniques and methodologies to make significant new discoveries. It all begins with having access to high-quality data, and that’s what this MoU is all about,” he says.