JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Irish explorer Connemara Mining chairperson John Teeling is open to bringing in a new joint venture (JV) partner for the company's zinc exploration projects in Limerick and Meath, claiming on Wednesday that progress is too slow in a market where zinc prices are rising fast.
Connemara has two JV agreements with Canadian major Teck Resources. One at Stonepark, a few metres away from Glencore’s Pallas Green project, and the other in the Oldcastle area straddling the border of Meath and Cavan.
At Stonepark, Teck is the operator and controls over 76% of the JV, while at Oldcastle, Teck is earning into a 75% interest. However, with exploration budgets having been slashed in recent years, little progress has been made at the JV projects.
A Teck spokesperson declined to comment.
Teeling said the excitement of the early years, when three good zinc-bearing zones were discovered at the Stonepark JV, had given way to care and maintenance. “This is not a good position for a junior explorer like Connemara, which needs news and excitement. We believe there is interest in acquiring Teck's share of the JV and we would be more than pleased to support any sale.”
At Oldcastle, Teck drilled one deep hole on the block, which reportedly delivered disappointing results. Teeling does not believe that one hole is sufficient, although he concedes that further holes would be expensive, costing up to €100 000 each.
“We would be pleased for Teck to drill both JVs, but that does not look likely for Stonepark. We would support any transfer of the Teck interest to a new explorer willing to invest in the property.
“Though the pace of exploration in Oldcastle is excruciatingly slow, we are not spending any money and will not for some time. Given the prospectivity and potential of Oldcastle, a new partner with more commitment and deeper pockets would be our preferred way forward,” he said in a statement.
Teeling said that there had been a dramatic revival of interest in zinc exploration in Ireland, with up to seven new companies entering the sector in recent times. Higher zinc prices are incentivising explorers.
“A rising tide lifts all ships. So it is with Connemara. Better zinc prices, renewed exploration actively in Ireland and the arrival of new explorers is good for Connemara.”
Besides zinc, Connemara also has two gold exploration programmes – a 100%-owned licence block in Donegal, which is actively being explored, and a JV with private Canadian gold prospector Hendrick Resources in Wicklow/Wexford, which is effectively on care and maintenance.
The Inishowen block in Donegal covers 187 km2 in 11 licences. Connemara drilled four holes last year with positive results, including 4.82 m at 5.48 g/t of gold. The company also explored the old Glentogher silver mine, about 4 km away from its discoveries, but failed to significant gold grades.