African Pioneer extends Ongombo prospecting licence, upgrades mineral resource estimate

Development company African Pioneer has been notified that the exclusive prospecting licence (EPL) 5772, 40 km northeast of Windhoek, Namibia, has been renewed for two years.

The licence contains African Pioneer’s 85%-owned Ongombo copper and gold project.

In addition, the company revealed on February 7 that the environmental- and social-impact assessment (ESIA) for the project is at an advanced stage of completion.

The company also noted that X-ray transmission (XRT) ore sorting sensor tests have returned positive results and that laser or colour sensor technology can be used to separate ore and waste.

The independent updated total indicated mineral resource estimate, carried out by Addison Mining Services, showed 5.7-million tonnes at 1.1% copper equivalent, 0.94% copper and 0.23 g/t gold and a substantial inferred underground potential resource of 23-million tonnes at 1.1% copper equivalent, 0.95% copper and 0.24 g/t gold. This upside revision more than doubles the previously reported potential resources within the Ongombo project envelope.

The company said that it is in advanced discussions with multiple parties about project-level funding for the Ongombo project.

“We have made good progress on the Ongombo project with very significant increases to the previous indicated and inferred mineral resources and the potential for a starter mine using low-cost openpit methods. We plan to combine XRT with laser dry sorting technology to separate ore from waste and generate a high-grade concentrate for transport to an in-country processing plant for final separation before metal recovery.

“We are now sequencing the primary development infrastructure and the process flowsheet. As we advance towards the completion of the ESIA we expect to soon be in a position to move towards project implementation and the completion of development financing,” African Pioneer executive chairperson Colin Bird explained.

A 20-year mining licence (ML240) was granted on August 10, 2022, covering a portion of EPL 5772 and about one-third of the openpit resource. An extension to the mining licence was submitted on September 6, 2022, to encompass the wider resource area. African Pioneer is currently completing the permitting process by way of the near-term submission of an ESIA and the environmental management plan (EMP).

These are required to reaffirm the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) first awarded in April last year by the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism’s Department of Environmental Affairs. The EMP accompanies mine development and ore processing operations.

African Pioneer said that preproduction planning for the Ongombo project to make the transition from exploration to mining was now underway.

In that regard, critical items including the location and design of marginal ore and dry tailings storage areas have been identified within the ESIA.

Moreover, low water demand and modern XRT ore sorting technology and gravity concentrators have been shown by independent party Steinert to differentiate between high-grade ore, low-grade ore, and waste. Laser tests confirmed the potential to differentiate between ore and waste with induction sensor tests returning the required response to distinguish waste and ore fractions.

African Pioneer said that this meant that the project intended to use XRT to initially process crushed ore for transportation to an external flotation plant where the copper and gold would be recovered into concentrates for export for final smelting. The proposed offsite processing arrangement would significantly reduce the capital requirements of the Ongombo project, the company said.

In parallel, with metal recovery test work, Addison Mining Services has indicated significant increases in resources with further scope for another meaningful increase in project copper equivalent grade, contingent upon follow-up work to test gold content in the East/Ost Shoots.

As such, the board has approved a short drill programme to twin some historic Goldfields Namibia holes to assess the gold content. African Pioneer explained that Goldfields Namibia often did not assay for gold but in some of their drill holes in areas of East/Ost Shoots that were assayed for gold they returned values ranging from 9.6 g/t gold over 0.17 m to 0.12 g/t gold over 1.1 m.

The average calculated gold grade, based on a limited population of samples, if repeated across the shoots, potentially offers a significant addition to the overall copper equivalent grade of the deposit, the company said.

Studies were underway to optimise both the mining methodology most suited to the narrow orebody and the primary development required to ensure access to sufficient ore to maintain production, African Pioneer explained.

As such, the company has engaged the services of an experienced mining engineer with a career in narrow orebody exploitation in African projects.

African Pioneer is now in advanced discussions with parties regarding project-level funding that will enable progression of the initial Ongombo openpit to exploit the easily accessible surface ore resources.

In this context, engineering design of preproduction works has started, along with design of the layout of internal access roads and the accommodation, office upgrades and fencing required to securely operate the mine site.

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