Consort Gold Mine
When people speak about ‘striking gold’ or say, ‘this is a gold mine’, it usually means they have found extraordinary success in an undertaking.
For gold mining companies, the above phrase holds both figurative and literal meanings. In the last two years, Pan African Resources (PAR) has increased its efforts in active gold exploration at the New Consort Mine, near Barberton, Mpumalanga, while continuing to mine successfully, finding high grade areas predicted from its advanced geological models.
The South African company has struck it ‘lucky’, with the discovery of one particularly rich zone within the existing gold-bearing ore body, containing Mineral Reserves of 5,000 tonnes, at an average grade of 25g/t delineated.
This is comparable to the famous historic Golden Quarry (at Sheba Mine) noted to have produced 5Koz of gold from 13,000 tonnes of ore (equating to an average grade of 12g/t). Currently, the New Consort Mine produces approximately 12Koz of gold per year.
A Significant Breakthrough: High Values of Gold in Grams Per Tonne (G/t)
G/t is the universal measure of the concentration of a precious metal found in an ore deposit and measured on a scale of gold in grams per tonne. Certain ore samples show grades over 300g/t. This is significant because on average, native gold ore grades vary between 8 and 10g/t at Barberton, and much lower on average anywhere else in the world.
The PAR discovery is an exceptionally high-grade orebody. This makes the discovery more impressive at a time where the gold price now is consistently in excess of a million rand per kilogram of gold. Dollar projections put it at over $2,000/oz soon, with certain commentators predicting even higher prices based on world macro-economic scenarios of negative interest rates, low inflation and monetary stimulus.
It’s even more opportune for the fortunes of PAR, as its miners were finally able to access the gold deposits in May 2020, after the government eased COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. The key strategy for pushing exploration was lowering costs and safely driving production increases. The main projected execution is the 42 Level Prince Consort (PC) Shaft Project. People should see the New Consort Gold Mine as a business extension of the Barberton Mines and other mining activities in the PAR Group operations.
The Science Behind PAR’s Gold Exploration
During late 2017, PAR established a list of project and exploration targets at the New Consort Mine as part of its growth and sustainability strategy for Barberton Mines. These projects and targets were subsequently ranked, studied and prioritised. The first of these targets is the 42 Level PC Shaft project. During December 2019, PAR commenced in earnest with activities underground, to get to the target block on 42 Level through a sequence of sub-inclines from 44 Level up to 42 Level. For initial access, the mining teams used ladders for a 200m climb against the surrounding wall rock.
Studies associate the orogenic hydrothermal deposit types with a chert bar (the Consort Bar) which provided competency contrast, during deformation and gold mineralisation events, relative to the softer country rocks.
This competency contrast resulted in fractures and pressure shadows allowing the deposition of sulphide hosted gold mineralisation (pyrite and arsenopyrite) along with native gold in thin quartz veins. Both the mineralisation and the surrounding rock formations are caused by various phases of metamorphism that altered the structure and mineralisation of the rocks within the area.
The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the development of the crosscut to the target block, especially during the lockdown restrictions on underground mines in South Africa. In May 2020, with these restrictions relaxed, PAR was allowed to resume underground mining activity at New Consort Mine at a reduced rate. This is when the newly established crosscut successfully intersected the target block.
Investing In A South African Gold Mine
Pan African Resources continues to prove its value as a viable investment option and profitable producer of gold, with historically, high-yields at Barberton, and a producer focused in South Africa with an exciting pipeline of long-life organic growth opportunities, including the Egoli Project at Evander. The New Consort Mine discovery joins the Groups’ other innovative mining operations at the Elikhulu Tailings Retreatment Plant and Evander Mines, in Mpumalanga; as well as the Fairview and Sheba Mines in Barberton.
The Barberton Greenstone Belt is well known for its gold mineralisation and ultramafic igneous rock formations, which are some of the oldest and best preserved rocks in the world and of international significance. It is important to note that gold was discovered in Barberton even before the Witwatersrand Goldfield in Johannesburg, and Barberton also had the country’s first ever stock exchange!
Current Mineral Reserves at the New Consort Mine estimate an 8-year remaining Life of Mine (LoM). To extend this LoM, over 30 exploration targets were identified between 2017 and 2019. Systematic diamond drilling of these targets takes place at scheduled intervals to further understand the orebodies and geological models to prioritise future targets.
The future prospects of PAR appears highly favourable, as the Company’s strategy of focusing on costs and efficiencies, reducing debt and having multiple assets that allow flexibility of production comes to fruition. With this strengthened balance sheet, PAR intends to resume its above average dividends to shareholders in the near future.
The Group projects New Consort Mine’s monthly production increasing from an average of 20kg to 26.38kg smelted in June 2020, to further increase in 2021. PAR commits to exploring additional deposit types to increase the New Consort operation’s LoM and continue with Barberton’s legacy of mining that commenced over 130 years ago. Using modern exploration techniques, innovations and mining sustainably, there may be another 130 years to go!