KEFI Gold and Copper plc (LON:KEFI), the gold and copper exploration and development company with projects in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has announced positive licencing progress on the Jibal Qutman project, plus the award of two further exploration licences through the Company’s Gold and Minerals Limited joint venture in Saudi Arabia. G&M is owned 30% by KEFI and 70% by its partner Abdul Rahman Saad Al Rashid and Sons Ltd.
· G&M has received the anticipated formal notification from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources (“MIM”) that land access issues which halted the mine development application in 2016 are now resolved, clearing the way for the re-issuance of exploration licences (“ELs”) as a precursor to the granting of the Jibal Qutman mining licence.
· Exploration programmes and environmental baseline studies, as well as geotechnical and metallurgical drilling for the final development planning (“DFS”) will commence once the ELs are issued.
· Given the considerably stronger gold price outlook now prevailing, as compared with that in 2015 when preliminary development studies were completed, the Jibal Qutman DFS is being adjusted to focus on recovering over 500,000 oz of gold rather than the originally envisaged 200,000 oz of gold.
· The DFS remains on-track for completion at the end of Q4 2022, with environmental permits targeted for Q1 2023, leading to a Mining Licence Application (“MLA”) resubmission in early 2023. Project financing for Jibal Qutman is expected to be sourced and implemented within Saudi Arabia, which has well-developed international capital markets with a mandate to invest in the country’s mineral resources. Therefore, development commitments are expected to proceed in an expedited fashion upon the granting of the mining licence.
· As anticipated, G&M’s exploration areas are being expanded in Saudi Arabia where the newly overhauled regulatory regime is speeding up progress. Two further exploration licences have now been awarded to G&M on an initial five-year term, bringing the total number of exploration licence issued to seven covering a total area of 462km2.
· The two new licences are Abu Salal South and Jadib Al Qahtanah:
– The Abu Salal South EL hosts Volcanic Massive Sulphide (“VMS”) mineralisation and is located 50km south of the Company’s discovery at Hawiah, within the same geological belt, the Wadi Bidah Metallogenic Belt (“WBMB”). G&M geologists have already identified gossan outcropping discontinuously for 2km with grades of up to 4.0 g/t gold.
– The Jadib Al Qahtanah EL is situated approximately 45km east of the Mahad Ad Dahab mine, the principal historic Saudi gold and silver mine, in the Central Arabian Shield. Mineralisation presents as quartz vein hosted gold within a diorite body, with gold grades from crush dumps of up to 52 g/t.
Jibal Qutman Project Developments
The Company is pleased to report that discussions with the MIM regarding land access have successfully concluded. The current landowners have agreed to allow the MIM to start the process of issuing licences and the Company is in receipt of official notification setting out the process for recommencement of work on the Jibal Qutman Project.
Stipulations around licencing remain the same as previously announced and G&M will need to submit an updated Development Plan and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to enable the resubmission of the mining licence application under the new Saudi Arabian Mining Investment law.
G&M currently has five exploration licence applications within the Jibal Qutman area and work is now underway to finalise the issuance of an initial three exploration licences which will enable the above studies and planned exploration works to commence.
A base of operations has already been established in the nearby city of Bisha and the exploration team, project team and drilling contractors are lined up to re-enter the area and commence work. An initial 5,000m diamond drilling programme has been designed by the G&M team, with input from supporting consultancy groups, to enable geotechnical and metallurgical testing and facilitate resource expansion.
Abu Salal South and Jadib al Qahtanah Exploration Licences
Building on the award of the Jabal Hillit and Qunnah Exploration licences, announced on 12 July 2022, G&M have been granted two further exploration licences: ‘Abu Salal South’ and ‘Jadib Al Qahtanah’. This increases the number of G&M’s active exploration licences across the Arabian Shield to seven, covering a total area of 462km2. The G&M exploration team are already active on these new sites with mapping and sampling to expand the footprints of known mineralisation.
Abu Salal South
The Abu Salal South exploration licence is situated approximately 50km south of the Hawiah deposit, hosted within the same Wadi Bidah Metallogenic Belt.
Exploration works are focused on a previously poorly understood gossan horizon that was subject to limited work by the French Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (“BRGM”) in the late 1980’s. The G&M team have subsequently identified this gossan as akin to the Hawiah style of VMS deposit, with similar textural and alteration facies noted at both deposits.
Initial mapping and sampling conducted under the reconnaissance licence has established several gossan areas that outcrop along a currently discontinuous strike horizon of 2km.
Gold mineralisation has been confirmed along the strike with grades of up to 4.0 g/t in the gossan. Copper carbonate minerals have also been noted on the flanks of the horizon, indicating copper mineralisation at depth.
The widest gossan exposure, located at the southern end of the horizon has returned an interval of 38m at 0.75g/t gold from channel sampling. The team are now focused on mapping out the extents of this horizon with a mix of mapping, sampling and self-potential (SP) surveying, which has proved to be highly effective at the analogous Hawiah and Al Godeyer sites also within the WBMB. These works will help focus the planned trenching and scout drilling phases.
Jadib al Qahtanah
The Jadib al Qahtanah exploration licence presents as a grassroots gold target approximately 45km from the Mahd Ad Dahab mine, Saudi Arabia’s principal gold and silver mine, in the central portion of the Arabian Shield (see Figure 2 in the attached appendix).
Gold mineralisation within this licence appears to be structurally related, presenting as quartz veins within a diorite host. Rockchip samples from ancient crush dumps taken during early G&M reconnaissance visits returned grades of up to 52g/t gold.
Large flood basalts related to Red Sea rifting, cover a substantial portion of the exploration licence, and appear to be masking the main area of mineralisation. These flood basalts, which can be found across the Shield are known in Arabic as ‘Harats’. In the Jadib al Qahtanah licence area these basalts are relatively thin, ranging from 2m to 20m.
Exploration efforts will start by establishing the structural framework of the area and strike extents of the mineralised system, focusing on the structure as it disappears under the Harat, allowing for a targeted geophysics and drilling programme.
The task of exploring these four new licences in tandem to the Company’s Hawiah and Jibal Qutman projects, has required the establishment of a dedicated regional exploration team. As well as working the early-stage projects, this team will continue to assess additional targets across the country and seek to grow the G&M project portfolio.
Harry Anagnostaras-Adams, Executive Chairman of KEFI Gold and Copper, commented:
“We are extremely excited to announce the positive conclusion of the land access issue which has delayed the development of the Jibal Qutman project since 2016. The Company is very grateful for the support of the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources in these matters, who have gone to great lengths to secure this ground on behalf of the Company.
“This news, coupled with the KEFI Saudi Arabia team’s early recommencement of studies in Q1 this year, paves the way for the fast-tracking of the project. With modern finance regulations already in place in-country along with strong Saudi capital markets, we can now realistically target bringing the mine into production in H2-2024, around the same time we expect to start production at Tulu Kapi in Ethiopia.
“We are also pleased with the granting of the new exploration licences. The Abu Salal South EL reinforces our position near our Hawiah discovery in the Wadi Bidah Metallogenic Belt which we believe will host multiple copper-zinc-gold mines. And the Jadib Al Qahtanah EL expands our portfolio across the Kingdom into another area that has already demonstrated great potential for gold mining, hosting Saudi Arabia’s principal historic gold and silver mine.
“We are delighted that the Company is now positioned as a major explorer and developer in the Saudi Arabian shield.”