Orion to resume exploration drilling at Northern Cape site after 9 month Covid-19 delay

ORION Minerals, the Johannesburg-listed base metals development firm, is to restart exploration drilling after a nine-month Covid-19-induced hiatus.

Errol Smart, MD of Orion Minerals, said the company was “itching” to resume drilling across its tenement holdings in the Northern Cape province in South Africa.

“Our management team has used the lockdown period to progress licensing and access agreements, and we are now about to re-commence an exciting new phase of exploration across the belt,” said Smart.

Orion said in an updated bankable feasibility study in May that it would spend A$432m building the Prieska Copper-Zinc mine. Once completed, the project will produce 22,000 tons of copper and 70,000 tons of zinc annually over 12 years. Cash flow from the project is estimated to be A$1.6bn over the project’s life of mine.

“Our exploration team believes there is exceptional potential both to grow production and extend mine life, both within the mine itself and in the surrounding tenements,” said Smart. “We believe there is also potential for a major nickel-copper-cobalt-PGE mine at Jacomynspan, 65km north of the Prieska Project.

Smart said copper and zinc, as ‘new era’ metals required for the decarbonisation of the global economy, were “… set to surge in coming years”.

Details of how Orion might finance the Prieska Copper-Zinc project are to be finalised, but it’s thought that an equity investment from South Africa’s state-owned Industrial Development Corporation, or the Public Investment Corporation might be options.

“They have a good understanding and are the kind of investor with whom we’d be comfortable, but they don’t want to stand alone,” said Smart in May.

Smart said previously that construction on the project was only likely in the first quarter of next year with first production in 2024.

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