Thor Mining Plc has agreed to acquire an interest in the historically mined Kapunda copper deposit in South Australia. Thor will invest in a newly incorporated private company, Environmental Copper Recovery SA Pty Ltd (ECR), initially via convertible loan notes of up to A$1.8 million, which will be used to fund field test work and feasibility activities at Kapunda over the next three years. In turn ECR has entered into an agreement to earn, in two stages, up to 75% of the rights over metals which may be recovered via in-situ recovery (ISR) contained in the Kapunda deposit from Australian listed company, Terramin Australia Ltd.
Kapunda was a keystone in the early development of South Australia. It has the distinction of being the oldest copper mining town in Australia, but not the oldest copper mine. The honour of this goes to Noarlunga, where a copper deposit was discovered and worked on the banks of the Onkaparinga River in May 1841. Discovered in 1842 Kapunda can be considered the birthplace of Australia’s commercial mining history. Mining dominated the town for more than 30 years. The mine closed in 1877.
Mick Billing, Chairman of Thor Mining: “We are delighted to team up with the professional people of Environmental Copper Recovery in, what we expect, is to be the first of several low-cost copper opportunities in Australia.
“Kapunda is not an exploration project where we hope to find mineralisation. The presence of copper is well documented with significant prior production, and substantial historical drilling. The opportunity at Kapunda is to test, at modest cost, the potential for in-situ recovery to extract the copper mineralisation. While the characteristics of the deposit, determined from reviewing historical drilling results, appear suitable for this style of extraction, hydrogeological pump testing is required for validation.
“We look forward to updating the market shortly with a resource estimate and details of first steps in assessing for commercial development.”
The Kapunda copper deposit has been comprehensively drill tested over many years, however a JORC compliant resource estimate has not been published. The protocol for estimation, and reporting, of resources with potential for exploitation via insitu-recovery has a number of additional steps compared with conventional mining and processing, and this procedure is currently in progress, with an outcome expected in the coming weeks.
In addition to the substantial body of evidence from copper assays, while gold assays were not routinely conducted, subsequent work has since suggested gold mineralisation in parts of the deposit, although the data supporting this is limited.
ECR is a newly formed Australian private limited company established by METGH Pty Ltd, a 100% owned subsidiary of Midas Environmental Technologies Pty Ltd (MET), and Tennyson Wickham of corporate advisory group Fortis Ago, for the purpose of acquiring and developing the Kapunda resource (and potentially other projects of interest in the future). MET was founded in turn by a team of senior mining professionals with over 90 years’ experience in mine development and operations to pursue project development opportunities for the recovery of gold and copper. The team’s capabilities include an extensive background in South Australian uranium ISR production.
Over a period of 12 months, METGH has undertaken a detailed technical review and due diligence regarding the potential application of ISR at Kapunda as a low impact, environmentally friendly method of metal extraction. The group has also established relationships with several research organisations including the Australian government owned CSIRO who are developing new suites of environmentally benign lixiviants to extract and recover metals in low impact ISR operations.
ECR is proposing to test extraction via ISR of the copper, and potentially also gold, followed by either SX/EW or IX/EW. If field recovery tests are successful, then a prefeasibility study to project to assess the economic viability of producing copper (and possibly gold) at low capital and operating cost will be commissioned. Primary ore below the near surface oxide and chalcocite horizons is unlikely to be a mineable proposition until chemical recovery of those minerals becomes feasible and economic.