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Torrens Mining to list Papua New Guinea-focused play with Victorian gold upside

SNL Image
Exposed copper sulfide lens seen at Torrens Mining's Laloki project in Papua New Guinea in the 1980s, under previous operators.
Source: Torrens Mining Ltd.

Torrens Mining Ltd. is considering listing the highly prospective Laloki copper project in Papua New Guinea in 2020 with additional investment attraction from exploration potential close to the famed Fosterville gold mine in Victoria, Australia.

Torrens expects ministerial approval early in 2020, after which it plans to fly a helicopter-borne electromagnetic, or EM, survey over the tenement, having already received the greenlight from Papua New Guinea's Mineral Resources Authority and the Mining Advisory Council.

The asset would be listed within Laloki Mining Ltd., a separate entity owned by Torrens shareholders by virtue of a demerger arrangement.

Laloki Mining would also include the Mt. Piper advanced gold-silver exploration project that is 50 kilometers from Fosterville in central Victoria, and the Buldah orogenic project in eastern Victoria, which has fault-related gold targets.

SNL Image
Torrens Mining Managing
Director Steve Shedden
Source: Torrens Mining Ltd.

Torrens Managing Director Steve Shedden told S&P Global Market Intelligence that the Laloki project was an operating mine in the 1920s, but stopped after it had smelter issues and a fire in the mine.

Another group got a smelter running at Laloki's north end in the 1930s, but stopped with the onset of the Second World War, and the Australian army blew up the facilities with the Japanese threatening to come over the Kokoda trail.

The Australian government's then-Bureau of Mineral Resources ran surveys in the area, among others, to generate pre-competitive data in the 1960s before Newmex did a feasibility study in the 1980s, which is when Shedden got involved as a geologist.

Torrens will be able to look about 300 meters underground with the EM survey, technology not previously available that is expected to shed more light on the 40 mineralized occurrences known to exist within a 75-square-kilometer area.

Torrens is looking for volcanogenic massive sulfide, or VMS, ore deposits, with similar ore types to that which Nautilus Minerals Inc. is planning to mine off the seafloor in the nearby Bismarck Sea.

Shedden said that while Laloki, whose tenement covers all of the historical Astrolabe mineral field, has an estimated 373,000-tonne mineral resource at 3.93% copper, 3.75 g/t gold, 2.51% zinc and 10.7 g/t silver (non-compliant with JORC 2012) based in the 1987 drilling he was involved in, it was not considered big enough to mine.

Though Laloki's very high grade indicates potential for a successful small-scale mining and processing operation, Shedden said much larger deposits could well be unearthed.

Veteran Canadian geoscientist James Franklin, who was introduced to Shedden by Torrens shareholder and Rex Minerals Ltd. Chief Geologist Patrick Say, said most of Loloki's geological characteristics "closely fit" the "Besshi" style of deposit, the best-known example of which is the Windy Craggy deposit in British Columbia.

Franklin, who spent 33 years with the Geological Survey of Canada and keeps a constantly updated database of the world's VMS deposits, said the median size of Besshi deposits is about 4.7 million tonnes, but over 30% of Besshi deposits contain greater than 10 million tonnes, and over 10% contain greater than 30 million tonnes.

South Australian upside

Should Laloki Mining successfully list on the ASX, Torrens would stay a private vehicle with the 49%-owned South Australian Mount Gunson copper project as its primary asset, currently operated by Coda Minerals Ltd., which may earn up to a 75% stake in the project.

Coda has set a goal of 1.5 million tonnes of copper equivalent as it plans to list Mount Gunson on the ASX as a new IPO in 2020, the company's Economics and Geology Manager Matt Weber told the South Australian Exploration and Mining Conference on Nov. 29 in Adelaide.

Coda itself was spun out as a public unlisted company from former owner, Gindalbie Metals Ltd.

Mt Gunson, 35 kilometers west of OZ Minerals Ltd.'s new Carrapateena copper-gold mine, has already had significant work done by Coda and former owners.

Webber said Coda is now focusing on the Emmie Bluff exploration target defined in June, which could substantially add to Mount Gunson's existing JORC indicated resource of 280,000 tonnes of contained copper equivalent held in the Windabout and MG14 deposits to the south.

Coda aims to drill priority targets at Emmie Bluff — only a few kilometers southwest of BHP Group's recent Oak Dam discovery 65 kilometers southeast of BHP's Olympic Dam copper mine — over 2020 and 2021.

Emmie Bluff is well-known for its deeper copper-gold-uranium targets previously drilled by MIM Exploration and others. The high grade Oak Dam discovery has stimulated a thorough re-evaluation of those targets.