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By leasing sections to miners TVC has additional eyes on the ground.

The area around Don Gabriel mine

In its former incarnation as SRHI Inc., Three Valley Copper (TSX-V:TVC) acquired the Papomono and Don Gabriel duo of adjacent deposits in 2017, and while it sees great potential for continuing to mine them, the large number of artisanal pits in the surrounding area are tempting indicators that more of the package is worth exploring.
This was the exact strategy that led to original owner Vale finding Don Gabriel in 2006, since it was already active nearby drilling the buried Papomono deposit.
To emulate this strategy, and because Vale never drilled the area surrounding the two active pits, TVC has leased part of the land package to third party miners. “That allows us to gain some information about the different areas that they’re mining,” TVC president and chief executive Michael Staresinic told Chilexplore Group. “Simultaneously, we are also supplementing previously obtained information from third-party surface mining by drilling in the same area,” he added.

The full package is 46,000Ha and TVC’s online material notes that less than 10% of this has been properly explored. This led the company to launch a near-mine drilling program in September 2021, which according to Staresinic covered merely 1% more of the property. The desk-top work for this began earlier in 2021 and identified additional interesting targets, including a potential porphyry location.
This success was the result of head exploration geologist John Mortimer being trapped in Australia due to Covid-related travel restrictions, which meant desk-top work was the only option for him. Advances in satellite imagery and data processing resources allowed him to improve the interpretation of fault lines and crossreference them with the artisanal pits. 

“Many of the faults interpreted by John do not appear in existing government survey geological maps, which were published in 1986. New technology, including more detailed radar topography that was not available to Vale when it worked on the project over 15 years ago, has aided him in this interpretive work,” Staresinic explained.
Upon finding this new porphyry target Mortimer immediately sought to dedicate more time to it and since October the team has “been collecting rock and stream sediment samples and walking the location, determining whether they should redeploy resources there. They’re waiting for some results before they do that,” Staresinic pointed out, adding that the board has given him free rein to be as dynamic as necessary, opting to redeploy resources or do more drilling as he sees fit.
“He knows we have a beautiful infrastructure package that can be utilised if we find something nearby. Then the NPV of that decision alone is multiplied.”
For now, TVC prefers to glean more information about the porphyry before publishing the exact location, but Staresinic did confirm that it is not in the 3km stretch between Papomono and Don Gabriel, which is where both third party partners are operating and near-mine drilling is currently taking place.

TVC president and CEO Michael Staresinic

The rapid discovery of a new porphyry
was the result of applying new
methodology to historic data

Mortimer’s interpretation of fault lines in the area


TVC has budgeted US$2.5mn for the current exploration campaign, which started late 2021 but has been subject to assay delays due to a backlog at the labs. Staresinic estimates that roughly a third of the budget correlates to 2021, and preliminary results should appear mid-2022.
“That US$2.5mn is going to carry us forward during the bulk of 2022. The major expenditure items will be done primarily through the first half of 2022 but we’re still going to be working on exploration work after that, it just might not have the drill spinning, “ he said.
At this stage then, it’s not clear whether this budget will include depth drilling at Don Gabriel, an idea that runs parallel to exploration between the pits.
This is where Mortimer’s dynamic planning comes in. There may be continuity between the 

two known deposits, and if not, the firm may accelerate depth-testing of Don Gabriel. After all, exploration is secondary to the primary objective of expanding the Papomono mine operation, which should double production in 2022, bearing in mind that Staresinic now believes production in 2021 will prove to be at the lower end of the 4500-5500 tonnes given in previous guidance. 
Preparation of Papomono as a block caving operation is due for completion early January, and Staresinic expects production to start that same month.
It is the expected cash flow from Papomono that will drive exploration beyond the 1% of surface area being looked at today, and once production starts ramping up in 2H22, Staresinic expects Mortimer to start planning “many more thousands of metres of drilling and exploring out the property.”

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