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Exciting developments at Norwegian ‘deposit of international importance’

BY JON RUSSILL, PRINCIPAL EXPLORATION GEOLOGIST, SRK

A lot of firsts… Drilling at Norge Mining’s Bjerkreim project in southern Norway has just begun – and it’s an exciting moment for them, and for us as their exploration consultants on the ground.

Given the current global pandemic, it’s taken a Herculean effort to begin this vital next phase of investigating the Bjerkreim intrusion’s deposits of Vanadium, Phosphorus and Titanium minerals. But it means we can now explore the reserves that the Norwegian government described as a ‘deposit of international importance’ underground for the first time. Our objective is to produce the project’s first Mineral Resource Estimate that complies with to international reporting standards for exploration. Put simply, it’ll be the catalyst to demonstrating critical evidence of economic viability.

Getting the industry moving again…

Much of the exploration industry has stalled and so it’s been a huge achievement in getting the drilling underway in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak; all involved can take pride in that. We are exceptionally lucky to have a project that’s relatively on our doorstep, that we’ve been able to reach overland. We’ve overcome hurdles in terms of quarantining and maintaining social distance among the field team. There is a six-strong SRK team, working alongside nine from Energold Drilling Corp. – for now. We’re adhering to very strict careful Covid-19 safety procedures in accordance with Norwegian regulations and with the consent of the local authorities. This accomplishment cannot be underestimated, and I hope it gives the rest of the industry some hope that they can get back to work soon too.

Drilling at Bjerkreim project in southern Norway has just begun.

No big surprises – and that’s promising…

Before SRK geologists were involved with Norge Mining’s Bjerkreim project, all previous work had been largely academic. Our team began work in 2018 and almost exactly a year ago, we were in the field and evaluating the historical work to confirm that it was a solid foundation for further work. That has given us a good understanding and confidence in the geology of the Bjerkreim project. Furthermore, our work has led to fairly significant expansions of previous interpretations. We hoped the deposits would be quite predictable and so far, the drilling shows that to be the case. There are no big surprises – and that’s a good thing. It means our previous interpretations (on behalf of Norge Mining) seem to be holding up and continue to support the presence of large deposits of Vanadium, Phosphorus and Titanium mineralisation.

The next level…

This drilling phase is about taking things to the next level. Previously, it was about understanding the surface expression of this mineralisation. Now we are extrapolating that knowledge and seeing if it rings true at depth. For the three minerals and metals I’ve mentioned, we are drilling holes that are 300 to 500 metres long, and the rate of work is according to plan so far. Our work is meticulous and unearths a lot of valuable data that can be used in studies for years to come. We take great care to minimise the environmental and social impacts of our activity. And all of the work is underpinned by the engagement of the local community; we have the full consent of landowners in the areas where we work and are extremely grateful for their support.

EU critical raw materials…

On that note, I am involved with other research projects looking at critical raw materials and the minerals that need to be mined for a sustainable future. This project ticks several of those in one go and could be important for supply security of raw materials in Europe. It’s motivating to be part of a team aiming to define resources of materials that are genuinely needed by society in the future. A lot of our research focuses on the reputation of mining; a great deal of work is needed to improve this if it is to succeed and be accepted by society, particularly in areas like Europe. We hope that if stakeholders can see that mining is being carried out for minerals that are genuinely needed, and in a way that exceeds best practices and creates shared value, then this may be helpful in establishing Norge Mining as a valued presence in the community.

Pro-mining country…

We’ve had quite a lot of dealings with the Geological Survey of Norway and the Norwegian Directorate of Mining. They are all very eager to promote the country’s excellent mineral endowment and mining as a growth industry in Norway. Norway has lagged behind its Nordic neighbours – Sweden and Finland – in the development of its mining industry, due to its historic focus on oil and gas. But there is great opportunity for this to change in the near future.

The next steps…

For now, SRK’s team of geological experts and I are focusing all our efforts on the drilling phase so we can advance the project as quickly as possible to the next stages of technical and economic assessment. Once we have enough data that shows the magnitude of deposits, we will move on to various mining and mineral processing studies. This will lay the foundations for how best to approach mining for Vanadium, Phosphorus and Titanium in Norway in the future. Norge Mining has an enthusiasm to accelerate the project, so I have every confidence it’ll advance quickly – with more exciting findings to come.

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