Copper exploration activity intensifying, says Orion as it reports new drill results

Orion Minerals’s Prieska project at Copperton in the Northern Cape. SUPPLIED

Orion Minerals’s Prieska project at Copperton in the Northern Cape. SUPPLIED

Published Jun 25, 2024


Orion Minerals managing director Errol Smart yesterday said that there was an intensification of copper mining exploration activity.

This comes after the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in May approved an additional R43.7 million financing facility for Orion Minerals’s acquisition of a controlling stake in the Okiep Copper project in the Northern Cape.

Orion reported yesterday that new “drilling results further amplify the potential for the Flat Mines ore bodies to replicate the typical nature of Okiep copper intrusive mineralisation, where zones of very high-grade mineralisation are commonly contained within large bodies” of moderate grade.

The fresh assay results received for a further three diamond drill holes at Flat Mine East built up on assays reported in April.

The Flat Mine East project described as a “virgin discovery that is blind to surface” forms a key part of Orion’s early production plan for the Okiep Copper Project.

“The intersections achieved to date support geological and grade distribution interpretations incorporated in Mineral Resource modelling and estimation for the Okiep Project,” said Orion on Monday.

It added that further drilling of planned 11 more diamond drill holes totalling 5 800m at Flat Mine East, Flat Mine South and Flat Mine North to confirm historical drilling results, provide geotechnical information, and generate material for additional confirmatory metallurgical test work were ongoing and nearing completion.

According to Smart, the new drilling results explain why “the district has been such a prolific producer of copper” for such a long period of time.

This comes at a time when copper is a sought-after metal crucial for the renewable energy industry across the world.

The company had, however, been frustrated by slow delivery of results from laboratories that are swamped with requests for tests as copper exploration activity resurges.

“We have been frustrated by the slow turnaround from accredited laboratories, which are overloaded with exploration samples,” Smart said.

“This is indicative of the intensity of activity in the copper exploration industry and is in itself an indicator of the challenges involved in accelerating mine development to counter the global metal-supply deficit that is developing.”

He added that the company was pleased to be nearing completion of its bankable feasibility studies that will enable it to project finance and mine development on the brownfields redevelopment sites.

This would be undertaken in parallel with ongoing drilling and exploration to expand Orion’s resource base on the surrounding and highly prospective mineral rights.

The Okiep project has been described as a “highly strategic asset” for Orion and is “located within a prolific copper-producing district that historically produced over 2 million tonnes” of contained metal.

The Okiep district is currently undergoing a major revival against the backdrop of surging copper prices, Orion previously said.