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Ivanhoe Mines to quadruple 2024 exploration budget

Published by , Editor
Global Mining Review,

Ivanhoe Mines Founder and Executive Co-Chair Robert Friedland and President Marna Cloete have announced that the company is substantially increasing its group exploration activities and budget for 2024.

The group budget for 2024 will quadruple to approximately US$90 million, with exploration activities primarily focused on the 2654 km2 Western Foreland Exploration Project. The budget increase follows the 28 November 2023 announcement of the geologically significant, high-grade Kitoko copper discovery, as well as the maiden Mineral Resource estimates for the Makoko and Kiala high-grade copper discoveries, announced on 13 November 2023, in the Western Forelands.

The Kitoko discovery confirms the presence of a globally significant high-grade copper mineralising system. Kitoko’s copper mineralisation is hosted in near flat-lying siltstone of the lower Grand Conglomerate, similar to the geologic setting observed at the Kamoa, Kakula, Makoko, and Kiala high-grade, sedimentary copper discoveries. All of these discoveries, including Kitoko, in the Western Foreland share the same characteristics of mineralisation being bottom-loaded with the highest copper grades occurring at the base of each sedimentary, copper-mineralised horizon.

However, what differentiates the Kitoko discovery from the previous Kakula, Kamoa, Makoko and Kiala discoveries, is that the Kitoko discovery exhibits two remarkably different characteristics. Firstly, the mineralisation is hosted within the Grand Conglomerate, directly overlying the Kibaran Basement rocks with no underlying Mwashia sandstones. This is significant as Ivanhoe Mines’ geology team previously conceived that the sandstones are the primary sedimentary aquifer allowing the circulation of oxidised copper-bearing basinal fluids, which precipitated copper when they were brought into contact with overlaying pyrite-rich reduced sediments. The remarkable Kitoko discovery proves the potential for copper mineralisation to occur across a greater variety of underlying aquifer conditions rather than being limited to areas where the Mwashia sandstones are present. Secondly, mineralisation at Kitoko occurs across at least two distinct, high-grade, sedimentary horizons. This emphasises the strength of the mineralising system, as sufficient copper remains in the fluid following the interaction with the lower reductant, to be able to subsequently mineralise a second horizon.

As a result, the Ivanhoe Mines’ exploration model has been disrupted by the Kitoko discovery, significantly increasing the proportion of the Western Foreland that is prospective for world-class, high-grade, sedimentary copper systems.

Ivanhoe Mines’ Board of Directors has just approved a quadrupled groupwide exploration budget to US$90 million for 2024. The increased budget will focus on activities around the Kitoko discovery, as well as testing additional new targets developed in light of the company’s new geological understanding.

The recent exploration success further reinforces the vital role of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the future of the world’s copper supply. As announced on 13 November 2023, the Makoko discovery ranks as the world’s third-largest and highest-grade copper discovery since Kakula in 2016.

Ivanhoe is in discussions with multiple potential strategic investors, including major international corporations and sovereign wealth funds, regarding matters including, but not limited to, fast-tracking the development of the Western Foreland.

Robert Friedland, Ivanhoe Mines’ Founder and Executive Co-Chairman, commented:

“Given the ongoing exploration success across the Western Foreland, highlighted by the recently announced high-grade Kitoko copper discovery and the release of the Makoko and Kiala maiden Mineral Resource estimates, we are really accelerating our exploration drilling into 2024.

“The goals of this expanded exploration effort will be threefold. Firstly, we will continue to expand the Kitoko copper discovery with additional drill rigs, thereby increasing our knowledge of its substantial exploration opportunities. Kitoko highlights the potential for high-grade copper mineralisation across a much greater area, and within a wider variety of geological conditions, than previously conceived by our geologic team who have decades of experience in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. Second, we will advance our understanding of the Makoko and Kiala deposits and optimise our studies for near-term copper mine production on our majority-owned licences. Finally, we will continue to evaluate high-priority targets across the Forelands, based on our fast-evolving proprietary database and geologic models for additional tier-one, high-grade copper discoveries.”

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African mining news Copper mining news