Orion Minerals Ltd (ASX:ORN) (JSE:ORN) workers dedicated 128,971 man hours to exploration in the September 2018 financial quarter as the company worked towards producing an updated resource for its flagship Prieska Zinc-Copper Project in South Africa.
The workers spent 2,380 man hours on preparing the re-entry area at the old copper mine on Areachap Belt.
Orion reported today its mine feasibility studies had reached significant milestones during the September 2018 quarter.
The preliminary mine design layout and schedule were completed along with a selection of the underground mining fleet.
Locked-cycle metallurgical test work on Prieska’s Deep Sulphide target was also completed, confirming targeted recoveries and production of saleable zinc and copper concentrates.
There are now 86 massive sulphide intersections at the target, with the company reporting these had confirmed historical results.
An updated JORC mineral resource statement for the project is expected in December 2018 ahead of a definitive feasibility study in the June half of 2019.
The resource is sitting at 29.4 million tonnes of zinc-copper.
The Prieska Copper Mine ran for the 20 years to 1991, employing about 4,000 people
Orion managing director and CEO, geologist Errol Smart, told Proactive Investors: “We are reaching the end of our bankable feasibility study (BFS).
“Last week we announced that we had completed the infill drilling program and those final samples have gone to the lab, and the lab are quite busy at the moment, but we expect that we’ll have the final assays in the next few weeks.
“Then we are in the final stage of resource estimation and we expect to get the mine’s resource out mid-December.
“That is obviously a key cornerstone for the BFS because we need those final resource block numbers to run the mine scheduling, to work out the ramp-up and ramp-down on the mine plan.”
The company reported today it also made “significant progress” with permitting, power and water supply agreements, product logistics and marketing in the September 2018 quarter.
Earlier this week Orion revealed test work had shown “excellent” recoveries of copper and zinc to concentrate.
Smart told Proactive: “We’ve got assays that show that the minor elements that are in the ore will not be concentrated into the concentrate that we offer for sale to a level where they attract penalties.
“The engineering design work is well advanced on the expectation that we would be able to use the historical plants for the historical met process and, along with all the other engineering design work, that’s all well advanced for the shaft refurbishment, the dewatering of the shaft, the re-establishment of underground operations.
“We’re in very good shape to get our feasibility study completed probably March, April next year.
“Quarter 2 is when we are targeting for the release of the bankable study and, in the meantime, we continue with starting to discover the exploration upside.
“This resource that we put out in December is really the initial resource for conversion to reserves but the orebody still remains open and we’ve got a lot of expectation to keep expanding this.”
Orion’s latest mineral resource statement, published in April, puts Prieska resources at: 1.126 million tonnes grading 3.8% zinc; 365,000 tonnes grading 1.2% copper; 8.896 million tonnes grading 9.4 g/t silver; and 198,000 tonnes grading 0.2 g/t gold.
Orion's latest resource statement for Prieska project
Yesterday the company reported it had intersected massive sulphide stringer veins in a diamond drill hole at the Rok Optel nickel-copper target, 80 kilometres from Prieska.
Geologist Smart reported: “The identification of magmatic sulphide veins injected into the country rock is also particularly encouraging as it highlights the potential to discover bulk massive sulphide mineralisation.”
Rok Optel is in the Namaqua-Disawell project area and is contiguous with Orion’s Masiqhame project.
The managing director spoke further about large massive sulphide bodies at Prieska and satellite deposits found near them in volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) environments.
Smart told Proactive: “Over and above the general geological understanding that when you’re dealing with these VMS environments everywhere else in the world where’s there significant VMS deposits being mined they are always in a close cluster.
“Certainly within a 10-kilometre radius you would expect that the single largest massive sulphide body, the satellite bodies surrounding that add up to as much as the single largest body.
“Now at Prieska, it’s one of the only VMS deposits in the world that’s been mined where only the single largest body’s been mined and the satellite deposits haven’t been drilled out or mined yet, so we feel that there’s a lot of blue-sky upside on this deposit and we are now going to be moving to the next phase — starting to discover and drill out those satellite deposits.”
Orion ground on Areachap belt
Orion has 2.4 million square kilometres of mineral rights on Areachap belt, with 7,819 square kilometres located near-mine.
The company’s drilling and DFS are being bankrolled with the $18 million it collected during its last capital raising efforts, with $7.9 million of the sum collected in the September 2018 quarter.
Among Orion’s significant shareholders is Nova-Bollinger deposit owner Independence Group NL (ASX:IGO) (FRA:IDZ) which has first rights to pick up the Melbourne company’s nickel projects on Areachap belt or form a joint venture.
ASX-listed Orion is running its Fraser Range project in Western Australia as a joint venture with Independence Group.