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Rich new Copper 360 discovery points to big Chile-type copper mine potential

Copper 360 CEO Jan Nelson interviewed by Mining Weekly's Martin Creamer. Video: Darlene Creamer.

20th February 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Okiep Copper Company, which mining company Newmont established in 1937, is today one of the 100%-owned subsidiaries of South Africa’s Copper 360, the only pure copper play listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Under Newmont, the Okiep Copper Company paid out about R30-million in dividends every year during the 25 years that it operated in the Northern Cape.

“That’s certainly where we’re going with what we are doing now,” said Copper 360 CEO Jan Nelson in a Zoom interview with Mining Weekly to mark Copper 360’s latest stunning copper discovery in what is proving to be a highly prospective part of South Africa.

“We’re looking to create immense wealth for South Africa, for our shareholders and the communities around us, by becoming one of the prominent copper players in South Africa.

“We’re here to create a bright South Africa, create wealth and show that building a world-class company is possible in South Africa and that we can compete with anybody anywhere in the world,” said Nelson. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

South Africa should always have been excited about the assets Copper 360, which listed in April last year, has in this area. After all, Rietberg, the first of its dozen resources, turned out to be 220% greater than historic data indicated.

But this new huge discovery simply lifts the company’s copper potential to yet another far-reaching level.

The discovery has been made alongside the historic Okiep-linked Tweefontein mine. This mine produced 138 683 t of rock at a recovered grade of, wait for it, 25.4% between 1937 and 1950, the highest grade ever mined in the region.

“There is close to 35 m of 4.5% copper on surface, which is massive, and our geophysics show that we’ve got multiple zones. The significance now is that this shows for the first time that we can have copper deposits in the Northern Cape the size of which you see in Chile, those big openpit mines, but a difference being where Chile’s mines are running at a copper grade of about 0.25%, our surface deposits, which are looking to be similar in size, are running at between 2.5% and 4.5%,” Nelson enthused.

The ongoing drilling under way is being assisted by the orebody being easily accessible.

“In the next six months, we’ll drill this extensively and then from there, we’ll get the mining engineers in on it and hopefully we can plan a significantly huge openpit the size of what you see in Chile and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Nelson outlined.

RIETBERG MINING FROM APRIL

At the Rietberg mine, the provision of ancillary services is under way to allow the mine to start up in April.

“We’re very excited about that,” said Nelson.

The total resource of contained copper at Rietberg has rocketed by 220% to 81 200 t from 25 275 t in 2022, with the maiden and indicated resource of 60 800 t of copper declared.

That exceeded expectations and the company is now looking at about R12-billion to R15-billion worth of copper in the ground.

A geological team has put all the historical data together and drilling is confirming high-grade zones.

From April, three plants will provide a total processing capacity of 70 000 t of ore a month, and consideration is being given to building a fourth plant at the end of the year, which will lift total processing capacity to about 120 000 t a month.

“You will have seen that we’ve just raised about R350-million to accelerate our activities. This includes targeting the new orebodies at Rietberg and the acquiring of Nama Copper.

“We’ve had very good support in that fundraising. We’ve got another additional facility of R600-million so we’ve almost got close to R1-billion that we’ve got available for development. That’s come as a result of very good support from fund managers and private individuals that see the potential in Copper 360.

“We’ve even seen our share price come a little bit under pressure and people try to force the price down a little bit to buy the shares at a cheaper price.

But the good thing about that is the immense liquidity we’ve started seeing in the price.

“I think everybody is realising that this is going to become a huge copper play and we’ve seen very good support,” said Nelson.

FIRST OF FOUR ANOMALIES

Returning to the latest exciting discovery, the drone survey confirmed the large high-grade copper deposit on surface as being the first of four magnetic drone delineated anomalies tested.

Delineated is a 1.5 km magnetic anomaly on surface with four distinct copper anomalies.

Surface sampling confirms copper grades of 2.12% and 17.47% on surface at the first anomaly.

Follow-up drilling confirms a zone of between 4 m and 8 m drilled to a depth of 50 m and being open-ended to depth, again at the first anomaly, where mineralised borehole intersection grades vary from 5.8 m at 2.71% copper in situ to 13 m at 4.69% copper in situ.

The strike extent of this anomaly is projected to be 500 m from current geological data and the copper mineralisation represents what could be a new copper mine adjacent to the old Tweenfontein mine.

Drilling is ongoing and will target anomaly 2, 3 and 4 next.

“Magnetic drone surveys and surface sampling by our geological team delineated a 1.5 km anomaly adjacent to historical copper pay-shoots, confirmed by surface sampling over the anomaly on zone one with copper values of up to 17% in situ.

“Our drilling down to 50 m confirmed a zone of between 5 m and 13 m with grades of between 2.7% copper and 4.69% copper in situ. We have values of up to 6.5% in the core runs.

“The mineralisation is open to depth. This discovery is significant as we have only scratched the surface. We have yet to drill further to depth and test the other three anomalies which are much larger than the first anomaly we drilled.

“Should these anomalies yield the same result then we could easily have identified a new mine that could be four times the size of the Rietberg mine and three times the grade,” Nelson stated in a report to the Stock Exchange News Service.

GLOBAL REALISATION

At this time of global realisation that the world cannot transition into the climate-friendly energy era without copper, Copper 360 is in the advantageous position of being the holder of a mining right that hosts a dozen copper mines – some with developed infrastructure – and 60 copper prospects with advanced geological datasets. Life-of-mine across the various operations is estimated at more than 100 years.

Conveniently, Nababeep, a town in Namakwa district municipality, is the locality for all of Copper 360’s plants – and the initial Rietberg mine coming on steam is able to produce double the volume of rock that the plants need.

Interestingly, a mill has been installed for the solvent extraction and electrowinning that can process 40 t of rock an hour, twice the requirement of 20 t, which forms part of Copper 360’s double-redundancy approach to ensure reliability and consistency.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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