I’ve recently returned from southern Norway, where I’ve been checking in with SRK’s 13-strong team of geologists acting on behalf of Norge Mining and its exploration of potential vanadium, phosphate and titanium mineral resources in the region.
Titanium: EU critical
Titanium has just been added to the EU’s list of Critical Raw Materials, which is great news. We thought that Norge Mining was in a lucky position before, when two of the minerals we were investigating were on the list. But now there are three, it could elevate the importance of this deposit in terms of a source of these raw materials for Europe.
Full speed ahead
As well as that piece of significant news, we also recently heard an announcement regarding the new E39 road route that’s planned for the area. One of the proposed options for the motorway upgrade would have passed straight through some of Norge Mining’s main areas of exploration interest. Now that a different plan has been accepted, that level of uncertainty has been removed and we can proceed with more confidence.
20,000 metres of drilling
Meanwhile, a lot of drilling has been happening. We started with two rigs in July; by August we had four up and running. We’ve just begun our 47th drill hole and we have completed more than 20,000 metres of drilling. We are hitting mineralised zones almost exactly where we expect to hit them. That means the drilling is proceeding as effectively as possible, and our approach to targeting mineralisation is working well. It’s a big exploration programme by anyone’s standards. Furthermore, a deep drillhole has just been completed; with a final depth of 2,200m, this is Norway’s deepest onshore drillhole and has provided a fascinating insight of the heart of the Bjerkreim intrusion, proving that the mineralisation we see on surface continues to very great depths.
Drilling results are also generally in line with what we expected, and we’re really getting a good handle on some of the geology’s finer detail. In fact, some of the mineralised zones are somewhat wider than originally mapped; this may elevate the size of potential Mineral Resources in the area significantly.
More fronts of activity
The ‘Mineral Resource Estimate’ process has already started for one of the exploration areas, and we are compiling all that data and producing a geological model from it. Through a process of statistical analysis and geological interpretation, we will estimate how many tonnes are there and the content of the targeted minerals. That’s underway and will be ongoing for the next couple of months. In the meantime, drilling continues in new parts of the Bjerkreim licences. Work has also started on some of Norge Mining’s other licences where there has been some historical drilling for ilmenite and nickel mineralisation. Geophysical surveys will be underway there soon, so we have another front of activity opening up.
Norge Mining is working hard to build relationships in the community and keep communications open with all stakeholders, particularly local landowners and people that use the land. They have had to upgrade farm tracks to get the drilling equipment in and out and that’s been really positive for those landowners. Norge Mining and SRK will always listen to people’s concerns and change plans accordingly, or find new ways of working if it means there are benefits to landowners and the community. It’s all about dialogue and keeping people informed; we think this has been a strength of the project so far, although we will see renewed efforts in the coming months.
An international venture
As I reflect on what we’ve achieved so far, I’m extremely proud of our strong, international team. Meeting our exploration goals and producing very high-quality work in a global pandemic has come with some new and unusual challenges, such as quarantine and regular COVID tests. But they have managed this admirably and, more importantly, safely. We have also helped Norge Mining to build and train a team of young Norwegian geologists. This is their first taste of the industry and they’re learning cutting edge exploration procedures; a hugely positive thing as Norway seeks to build their mining industry, especially as academic study has been curtailed due to coronavirus.
Our next priority is to use the excellent data we’ve acquired to build our understanding of the project’s economic viability and its potential as a mining operation. We will do this carefully and rationally – but with much anticipation.