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Novamera surgical mining tech to be evaluated for Jaclyn Main Zone project

Great Atlantic Resources’ wholly owned subsidiary, Golden Promise Mines Inc, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Novamera Inc to evaluate the use of surgical mining and Novamera’s technologies as the extraction method for the Jaclyn Main Zone in central Newfoundland, Canada.

The Jaclyn Main Zone is part of the wider Golden Promise gold property, and currently contains an NI 43-101 compliant mineral resource estimate of 119,900 oz at 10.4 g/t Au in the inferred category.

The MoU sets out a series of milestones that include a conceptual surgical mining economic desktop evaluation, Guidance Tool calibration activities and a bulk sample. The parties expect to complete these activities within the next 12 months.

Novamera is a surgical mining technology company that has developed data driven hardware and software solutions that pinpoint, map, navigate and extract high value narrow vein deposits. Its precision drilling products integrate into conventional drilling equipment, enabling mining companies to quickly and sustainably mine various metal and mineral deposits that are otherwise uneconomic due to size, geometry and orientation, it says. The process has large scale environmental and social impacts to support ESG targets and improve social licence. Requiring a small footprint with no blasting, the solution produces 95% less waste, 44% less GHG emissions and 99% less water discharge.

Surgical mining is an option for bringing deposits into production that are the size and style of the Jaclyn Main Zone, according to the companies.

Given the low upfront capital costs and minimal development costs, surgical mining enables junior mining companies to get into production and generate cash flow, offering a second source of cash and relying less on the capital markets to fund strategic plans, Novamera states. In addition, the time to permits can be reduced because of the small footprint and scale of the operation.

Newfoundland is well known to Novamera, with some of its surgical mining technology tests taking place in Baie Verte at the Signal Gold-owned Romeo and Juliet deposit.

Christopher Anderson, CEO of Great Atlantic Resources, said: “We are thrilled to embark on this partnership with Novamera Inc. as we explore the potential of surgical mining and Novamera’s innovative technologies for the Jaclyn Main Zone project. This collaboration underscores our commitment to sustainable and efficient mining practices, which we believe will not only benefit our shareholders but also contribute positively to environmental preservation. We look forward to the journey ahead and the possibilities it holds for our company and the mining industry as a whole.”

Dustin Angelo, Novamera CEO, said: “We’re excited to be working with Great Atlantic and demonstrating the capabilities of surgical mining and our technologies. Mining companies like Great Atlantic are looking for solutions to bring deposits into production with a smaller environmental footprint than that of conventional mining methods. The willingness to look at a different business model will open more strategic options to generate value for their shareholders and realise positive cash flow sooner for a project.”

The Golden Promise property is located within the central Newfoundland gold belt, near the town of Badger. Multiple gold bearing quartz veins/quartz vein systems and zones of gold bearing quartz boulders are reported within the property. One such quartz vein system is the Jaclyn Main Zone.

Just last month, Novamera signed a MoU with E-Tech Resources Inc to evaluate the use of surgical mining and Novamera’s technologies as the extraction method for its Eureka project in Namibia.

Novamera plots path forward for surgical mining technologies

Having completed a proof of concept of its entire surgical mining technologies portfolio in 2021, Novamera has furthered its credentials in the narrow-vein mining space by proving out its proprietary guidance tool in the same setting and testing out the ability to transport the concept to an underground mining environment.

Novamera’s proprietary hardware and software seamlessly combine with conventional drilling equipment, allowing mining companies to surgically extract deposits while minimising dilution, according to the company. Real-time data, machine learning and production analytics drive the ‘surgical mining cycle’ to make extraction of complex, narrow-vein deposits not only viable but highly profitable.

A low capital expenditure solution requiring minimal mine development, surgical mining presents miners with a flexible, scalable mining method that can help get into ore quickly with small-scale deposits, it says.

Working together with conventional drilling equipment and operations, the solution generates circa-95% less waste and less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of selective mining methods, according to Novamera. In addition, a closed-loop system is employed to minimise water discharge and real-time backfilling reduces environmental impact and tailings storage needs.

The 2021 proof of concept was designed to test the entire surgical mining system and process, which is made up of three steps. This includes drilling a hole with a standard NQ-sized diamond core rig and sending Novamera’s proprietary guidance tool down through the core barrel on wireline to image the orebody in high resolution and with close spacing; bringing in a large-diameter drill, coupled with the company’s course correction device and positioning control system, to drill to depth following the trajectory provided by the guidance tool and transporting the cuttings using reverse circulation air-lift assist; and backfilling the holes thereafter.

The latest in-field demonstration, completed in late 2022, took place in Baie Verte, Newfoundland, at the same Signal Gold-owned site (the Romeo and Juliet deposit). The trial highlighted the technical capabilities of the guidance tool, the operational impact of real-time data in a production setting and the economic potential of surgical mining, according to Novamera.

Carried out under the auspices of the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), the demonstration highlighted to the sponsors – OZ Minerals, Vale and an unnamed global gold producer among them – that the guidance tool was integral to effective surgical mining.

Dustin Angelo, CEO of Novamera, expanded on this.

“Throughout the technology development, we have had questions or statements about the ability to carry out the type of narrow-vein mining we are talking about by simply using a large diameter drill rig to extract the orebody following a conventional resource model,” he told IM. “The typical spacing a narrow-vein orebody is drilled on – traditional cross-cutting holes associated with exploration and infill work – is too wide to get the resolution needed for an exact picture of the orebody geometry.

“What we were able to demonstrate in the latest trial is that you need a tool like ours to collect, in real time, the amount of data required to accurately extract the orebody in question.”

Novamera demonstrated this in a March webinar, which highlighted the existing infill model at the Romeo and Julie deposit implied a large-diameter drill hole could be drilled on a 62° dip angle to accurately extract the orebody.

“In actuality when we imaged the hole and used our guidance tool, it suggested the orebody was on a 67° dip angle,” Angelo said. “We validated this assessment with data and then reconciled the results to show the impact.”

The original drill hole dip angle coordinates would have resulted in only 60% of the orebody being extracted, whereas Novamera’s guidance tool-aided drilling obtained 87% of the orebody.

“At the same time, the data coming back allowed us to locate where the other 13% would be, allowing the company to pick the remainder up with the next hole,” Angelo said.

Also part of the CMIC consortium, the company brought the guidance tool to an underground mine and was able to successfully operate it in that underground environment.

“We had never been underground, so we simply wanted to show we could take the tool underground, operate it and gather data in real time,” Angelo said.

Able to break the unit down into two pieces and mount the technology in stages on the drill rig, this was a pivotal demonstration for the company, opening up further possibilities with its solution.

“Novamera’s technologies can go underground; it is the large diameter drill we are piggybacking off that has issues due to its sheer size,” Angelo said. “We are working with OEMs and contractors to augment existing large diameter drilling equipment so it can be easily deployed in the confines of an underground deposit for the surgical mining application.”

In terms of the next steps for the technologies, Angelo was keen to fabricate a “course correction device” able to compensate for the impacts of gravity on drilling such holes and the rock dynamics at play, equip the drill rig with a 2-m-diameter cutting head (as opposed to the 1-m-diameter head used in the proof of concept), prove out the guidance tool at a number of sites to build up a “geological database” and then get to a full production test at a chosen mine site.

Such a mine site test was recently confirmed after the Government of Canada announced the 24 recipients of support selected through the Mining Innovation Commercialization Accelerator (MICA) Network’s second call for proposals. Novamera was named within this select pool, with the government granting it C$850,005 ($643,984) for a project to deploy its surgical mining technologies at the Hammerdown mine site, in Newfoundland, Canada, a site owned by Maritime Resources.

This project, which has a budget of circa-C$8 million – will see the company test out its technologies on a vein located outside the current proposed open-pit mine plan, demonstrating one use case where surgical mining can help mining companies add production to supplement the conventional method being employed.

Angelo said of such testing: “When we get to this point, it is no longer about simply a proof of concept, it is about demonstrating the capabilities and value of our technologies to enable surgical mining by reconciling the grade and tonnes associated with that mining exercise against an already established resource model.

“This is where we will really generate significant interest from the mining community, when we can show that we can help mining companies add production and extend mine life from currently uneconomic, steeply-dipping narrow vein deposits or zones in their mineral resource portfolio.”

Anaconda Mining ready to disrupt narrow vein mining sector

Anaconda Mining’s goal of finding a technology to economically extract gold from the Romeo & Juliet deposit at its Point Rousse operation in the Baie Verte region of Newfoundland, Canada, has gained a global audience since it was named a finalist at the Goldcorp-backed #DisruptMining event earlier this year.

The company’s technology-focused subsidiary thinks a combination of drilling and imaging techniques already proven in the oil & gas industry will provide the technical and economical means to mine the steeply dipping narrow vein mineralisation at the deposit.

The process, Sustainable Mining by Drilling (SMD) is divided into two campaigns: drilling the pilot holes and accurately mapping the vein, then enlarging the pilot holes to predetermined sizes to recover the ore. Using an inclined mast drilling rig, an inclined pilot hole is drilled along the centre line of the vein (equidistant between the hangingwall/footwall) with a directional drilling system.

Steering the pilot holes live with a survey tool will determine the current orientation and refine the 3D model of the vein used to plan the pilot hole enlargement, Anaconda says, adding that once the pilot has been drilled, a large hole-opener can be used to open up the hole’s trajectory up to 2 m in a single pass.

While Anaconda is focused on using SMD to mine its own problem deposit, as with many innovations in the mining sector, the technology looks like having global applications, and not just within mining.

Ahead of IM’s annual focus on narrow vein and low profile mining – to be published in the July issue – editor, Dan Gleeson, spoke with Dustin Angelo, President and Director of Anaconda Mining, to find out, among other things, how SMD can: reduce the cost to extract ore by 50% over conventional underground narrow vein mining techniques; increase operator safety by locating personnel above ground; access areas not open to conventional mining; reduce the environmental footprint of an operation; and bypass the crushing and grinding circuits by moving the +/-2 mm drill cuttings in a slurry direct to the mill.

IM: Anaconda says the technology that has gone into SMD is proven in other industries: what are these industries?

DA: We’re basically adapting technologies that have been used in the oil & gas industry for quite some time; directional drilling and sub-surface imaging. Even though we are dealing with new technology and a new process, what we’re working with, fundamentally, has been used elsewhere in other industries. We’re not reinventing the entire wheel; we’re just adding to that wheel.

We have got patent-pending inventions within SMD related to two key areas – the drilling and imaging. From the drilling standpoint, one of the key considerations we need to address is being in ore right from surface. We have developed some inventions that are added to a pile top drill rig to be able to get the required torque and thrust immediately from surface. We have also created a component that enables a drill string to be more flexible than normal to allow for course change during the hole opening phase.

In terms of sub-surface imaging, we are looking at ground penetrating radar (GPR), which is right off the shelf, but we’re adding some surveying tools to it in order to be able to improve visualisation and more clearly orient ourselves when steering.

IM: How flexible is that drill string? Are there limitations in terms of angle and depth?

DA: We’re looking at a 1 degree change every three metres in the work we are planning to carry out at Romeo & Juliet. And, right now, the depth is down to about 300 m. What we’re using is RC airlift assist to bring the cuttings back up, so the technologies that are out there allow us to go to that depth. Yet, one of the drill manufacturers we are talking to is experimenting with getting down to 400 m; this is all dependent on the angle of the hole. In our field test, we intend to initially go down to 50-100 m depending on how much drill string we want to acquire.

IM: Speaking of your field test, what application are you looking to test SMD on?

DA: The deposit we are looking at trialling this on – called Romeo & Juliet – is, so far, measuring around 3.5-4 g/t Au, which is roughly three times the grade we have been mining in the area at Point Rousse. This is significant for us in terms of grade.

What we’re trying to do with the trial is test the imaging technology and the ability to steer; the ability to put the pilot hole down the hole, roughly half way between the hanging wall and footwall of the vein, and then bring the pile-top drill rig in to enlarge that pilot hole. It is a proof of concept from that point of view.

We’re going to try and select areas of the deposit to test where the dip angle and width of the vein is representative of where we want to be mining. The drill rig we are proposing to use right now for the trial is smaller in diameter to what we propose you can ultimately use SMD for. It’s a 1-1.3 m diameter drill rig, so we are looking for a portion of the vein at Romeo & Juliet with that thickness for the trial.

IM: Aside from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Memorial University of Newfoundland, are there any other partners you are working with on SMD?

DA: Because of the notoriety we got from being a finalist of #DisruptMining, it has accelerated development of this technology in the sense we have had a lot of interest from gold producers and drill manufacturers – we are talking to them about potential partnerships, strategic investments and field trials.

The common theme among all these conversations is that SMD makes a lot of sense and many companies could see it being applied at their sites.

While we haven’t signed any specific agreements with drill manufacturers, if this is a concept that takes off and there is lots of demand for it, it would make sense for them to be involved. They want to sell drills and we’re not going to manufacture drills, so it is an opportunity for them to have another product to sell. We want to licence our technology and the SMD process while providing services to optimise the system by end users.

IM: Have you been surprised by the industry response to SMD since it has been more widely publicised?

DA: It’s not surprising to us that there is global interest, as there are narrow vein deposits all over the world – we’ve had interest from Russia, South America, South Korea, Ghana, the US, Australia, all over the place. We’ve been focused on gold deposits, but it is certainly applicable in other deposits where there is narrow vein mineralisation, too.

One of the interesting things to come out of this exercise, which we didn’t necessarily foresee, is that the imaging technology could also be applicable in mineral exploration, especially with the imaging and GPR capabilities.

IM: Because the technology is new and unproven within a mining context, how do you see companies modelling resources based on SMD to a 43-101-compliant status?

DA: We’re not sure, from a regulatory perspective, how this technology could impact that. I would imagine, at this point, we would need a longer track record to prove its ability to transform uneconomic mineral resources into economic reserves. Once you start to build a history, companies can use that as a legitimate way to delineate reserves that they previously had to leave behind.

That’s the whole purpose of SMD; there are mineral resources in the ground, whether it is whole deposits or certain zones of existing mines that cannot be mined by conventional methods. You can use this methodology in certain cases to extract the ore. If you can do that economically, by definition, it should be a reserve.

Up to this point, most exploration has been about trying to find orebodies to match conventional mining methods; your risk factor here is finding the ore. With SMD, we’re flipping it round; you know where the ore is because you’ve already outlined a mineral resource. It just so happens that it is not economic using conventional mining methods. So, you just need to find a technology that can mine it, which we think we have for narrow vein deposits and zones.

From an exploration standpoint, you can use that image and extrapolate out better than with a conventional drill hole, so, in theory, you can carry out less drilling. Depending on the bandwidth and the GPR, you can look out five metres from where you are currently drilling. This allows you to get a better representation of the orebody and model it more accurately with less drilling.

IM: What is the timeline on SMD demonstrations? And, will the first trial take place at Romeo & Juliet?

DA: It would be Romeo & Juliet first, and we’re targeting late-August/September with the trial lasting around two months.