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SA gold miner mulling various development options for its massive copper-gold prospect in PNG
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10th November 2006
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Africa’s third-biggest gold producer, Harmony, is focusing its capital-expenditure efforts for the next quarter on its Papua New Guinea (PNG) projects where it anticipates spending some R80-million during the December quarter.

While Harmony’s exploration efforts in PNG have focused on potential gold deposits, the com- pany’s Wafi/Golpu project has also uncovered a sizeable copper deposit, which could be large enough to tempt the gold producer into the copper arena. Speaking at the presentation of the company’s quarterly results, CEO Bernard Swanepoel said that while approval for prefeasibility work at the Wafi/Golpu site has been approved, exploration suggests that the site may be well suited to the development of a copper mine. “It’s a copper mine with significant gold credit and we’ll see how to take it forward,” he commented.

He admitted, however, that the size of the deposit is daunting. “This is probably a gorilla we caught by the tail, which is already so big that it’s scaring us”.

Current resources for Golpu are estimated at 145,1-million tons at 1,11% copper and 0,57g/t of gold. Wafi’s resource estimates include 109,64-millon tons at 1,85 g/t of gold at a 0,8 g/t gold cutoff.

Swanepoel offered ballpark figures of between $600 000 and $1,4-billion for the possible development of a copper mine on the site, but raised doubts over whether Harmony would want to build such a mine – its first copper mine – in PNG, at this point in time.

He added that there is nothing to guarantee that copper will still be fashionable in five years’ time, despite current copper trends and its favour among shareholders.

While Harmony could mine the gold and sell the infrastructure to a copper producer, Swanepoel acknowledged that the idea of sell- ing the mine does not excite the company, but that partnering a copper producer may be a pos- sibility going forward.

He asserted that no decisions had been made regarding the project as yet, but said that the company was continuing to spend money on that area and “always had a reasonably open approach to people who may want to look at the orebody and see if they want to partner”.

“We’re not actively pursuing it yet,” he said, though the company could look at it towards the middle of next year.

Deep drilling at Golpu proved strenuous during the quarter owing to contractors drilling more slowly than expected, worker strikes and difficulties with hydrological testing equipment. The drilling programme was pushed forward by five months, but is expected to be completed this month and prefeasi- bility is anticipated for the July to September 2007 quarter.

Meanwhile, Harmony is moving ahead with its Hidden Valley project, which Swanepoel says “has finally moved from a paper exercise to a construction exercise”.

Construction of a permanent camp began in September and the project is now two months into the 26-month construction period.

The quarter saw the access road completed and drilling has started, with 12 drill pads completed.
Edited by: Laura Tyrer

 

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