The crowning of two West African mining projects as the winner and the runner-up of the Investment Battlefield at the Investing in African Mining Indaba, held in February this year, indicates strong growth potential for mining and investment attraction in West Africa, says Canadian mineral exploration company Thor Explorations.
“Even though West Africa is underdeveloped, several mining projects have been delivered in recent years and the pipeline of opportunities is strong and growing,” enthuses Thor Explorations CEO Segun Lawson. Some of these mining projects include Roxgold’s Yaramoko gold mine, in Burkina Faso, which saw the first gold pour in 2016, Hummingbird Resources Yanfolila gold mine, in Mali, which poured gold for the first time in December 2017, and Toro Gold’s Mako gold mine, in Senegal, which poured its first gold in January.
Thor Explorations was the overall winner of the Investment Battlefield, with the junior exploration company focusing on its three West African projects – Segilola, in Nigeria, Douta, in Senegal, and Central Houndé, in Burkina Faso. Canadian gold exploration and development company Algold Resources, currently focusing on its Tijirit gold project, in Mauritania, was the runner-up.
Lawson emphasises that the increasingly stable regulatory environments of many countries in the region, and government support for the mining sector, are supported by excellent resource quality and significant exploration potential, making the region attractive to potential investors.
“In the past 15 years, there have also been a number of success stories that have demonstrated project delivery and, importantly, stable regulatory frameworks that support foreign direct investment and ensure that the financial returns from such investment are shared equitably,” he highlights.
For example, Burkina Faso had not seen significant commercial gold production until 2007, Lawson points out. Semafo had first gold pour at its Mana gold mine in 2008, and the country now has ten operations with another two in construction, Lawson notes. “In 2017, production in Burkina Faso has propelled the country to the fourth-largest producer of gold in Africa in just over ten years,” Lawson maintains.
Further, the World Bank’s 2018 economic review, ‘Global Economic Prospects: The Turning of the Tide’, of June 2018, includes Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal in its list of the top ten fastest-growing economies globally for 2018. However, not all of this growth is based solely on mining, as governments are looking to diversify their countries’ economies. Lawson notes that this adds to the investment-enabling environment in the region.
West African Interest
Thor Explorations’ wholly owned Segilola high-grade gold project, in Nigeria, is the company’s flagship project for which the company holds a 25-year mining licence from the Nigerian government.
The project has probable reserves of 3.35-million tonnes at 4.2 g/t for 448 000 oz, indicated resources of four-million tonnes at 4.3 g/t for 556 000 oz, and inferred resources of two-million tonnes at 4.7 g/t for 305 000 oz.
A definite feasibility study is being conducted at the Segilola project, and recent metallurgical testwork has confirmed gravity recoveries of 78% and total recoveries of 99% after leaching. Interestingly, the testwork returned an average recovered head grade of 8.73 g/t gold, compared with the previously estimated grade of 6.66 g/t gold, considered to be a result of the more representative whole core sampling applied in the testwork programme, which bodes well for production.
“We are extremely encouraged by these results, which confirm that significant opportunity exists for optimisation of the process plant with reduced operating costs, increased total recovery and improved process efficiency,” Lawson said in a statement in May.
An 8 000 m reverse circulation (RC) drilling programme started in March at Thor’s second project – the Douta gold project, in Senegal – following a successful 2017 RC drilling programme that identified a number of wide, near-surface significant intersects on the Makosa prospect, in the Douta project, notably 10 m at 8.1 g/t gold, and 7 m at 10.9 g/t gold.
The recent RC drilling has determined that there is continuous mineralisation down dip, over a 3 km strike. There are significant intersections, at 9 m at 1.84 g/t gold, 3 m at 13.2 g/t gold, 7 m at 2.3 g/t gold, 4 m at 3.0 g/t gold and 10 m at 1.86 g/t gold.“
Notably, the results are comparable with other major deposits in the region, which raises the potential of a discovery emerging on a significant scale,” Lawson said about the findings in a statement in June.
Thor Explorations’ third project – the Central Houndé gold project, in Burkina Faso – comprises three grassroots exploration permits in the Houndé greenstone belt, which covers 474 km2.
Meanwhile,there are significant opportunities for new mineral and resource discoveries in Nigeria, where there has been very little exploration in the past 50 years, says Lawson. “This is further enhanced by strong government support, fiscal incentives and a stable economy.”
Lawson underscores that Thor Explorations continues to invest and explore opportunities in West Africa, as the majority of the board and shareholders are West African. As such, the company understands the region, has good business relationships and knows how to operate in the region.
The geology of Nigeria is highly prospective, he maintains, noting that, with a land area larger than Ghana, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire combined, the country has significant potential. “Importantly, government supports minerals development as it continues to drive the diversification of the economy,” he concludes.