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Orion Minerals Strikes Big in South Africa’s Copper Revival

Historic Discovery Sends Stock Soaring, Revives Mining Sector

by Adenike Adeodun

The recent developments at Orion Minerals, a prominent mining company, underscore the untapped potential of South Africa’s copper resources. This narrative was highlighted when Orion Minerals, a Northern Cape mine developer and explorer, disclosed an extraordinary copper intercept at its Okiep project. This disclosure led to a significant 58% surge in its shares on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

Orion Minerals, under the leadership of CEO Errol Smart, maintains a primary listing on the ASX, supported by 1,300 shareholders, and a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) with 28,000 shareholders. The company is actively developing its flagship Prieska project and the Okiep project in the Northern Cape, a region that holds 30% of South Africa’s land mass but only 3% of its population, thereby offering vast, underutilized potential for mineral development.

The recent drilling results at the Okiep copper project’s Flat Mines area revealed a high-grade copper intercept of 4.89% copper over 49 meters, including an extraordinary 12.47% copper over 10.23 meters. These figures are unprecedented in South Africa over the last four decades and signal a significant discovery. Smart described the find as a confirmation of the high-grade mineralization in the area, emphasizing that this was not an isolated occurrence but part of a broader zone of rich copper deposits.

The context of this discovery can be traced back to the historical mining activities in the region. The original Okiep mine, operational under previous ownerships including Newmont and Gold Fields, historically processed over 900,000 tons of hand-sorted ore at an impressive grade of 21% copper. Today, Orion Minerals stands on these richly endowed lands, aiming to revitalize and extend the legacy of high-grade copper production.

Orion has secured substantial financial backing for its ventures, including a significant undrawn facility from South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and from Triple Flag, a precious metals streaming and royalty company. These funds are earmarked for the development of the Prieska and Okiep projects, with recent drawdowns aimed specifically at accelerating the Okiep project.

The Okiep district, alongside Prieska, represents a crucial area for Orion’s strategy. The company has initiated advanced exploration and development projects in Okiep, including two main development projects and two exploratory initiatives, poised to quickly add value and exploit the copper-rich area.

Orion’s engagement in the Northern Cape is not just about extracting mineral wealth; it also plays a transformative role in the regional economy. Historically, the mining districts of Prieska and Okiep have seen substantial copper production, collectively yielding about 2.5 million tons of the metal. However, production had nearly ceased until Orion’s interventions began to show promising results. Over the past seven years, Orion has consolidated its position through more than 17 acquisitions involving mineral rights and data, paving the way for rejuvenating mining operations in an area that was extensively explored in the late 20th century.

At Prieska, Orion is leveraging existing infrastructure and new investments to restart operations. The mine, which historically produced 46 million tons from a consolidated ore body, is now in a phase of trial mining, processing up to 40,000 tons a month. This project alone is expected to contribute significantly to local employment and economic activity, with plans to produce 22,000 tons per year of copper and 79,000 tons of zinc over a 12-year period.

The resurgence of these mining operations is anticipated not only to boost Orion’s fortunes but also to significantly impact the local communities. Investment in mining operations is translating into job creation and increased economic activity, exemplified by new infrastructure such as a KFC drive-through in Prieska, signaling newfound economic vitality.

Furthermore, the advancements at Orion are set against a backdrop of rising global copper and zinc prices, which enhances the economic feasibility of these mining operations. Today’s copper and zinc prices significantly exceed the figures used in Orion’s original feasibility studies, thus improving the financial outlook for the company’s mining projects.

The developments at Orion Minerals highlight a robust future for copper and zinc mining in South Africa. The company’s strategic investments, supported by historical data and modern exploration techniques, are set to revitalize the Northern Cape’s mining sector, offering long-term economic benefits and solidifying South Africa’s position as a key player in the global mining industry. The ongoing exploration and development efforts are not just about extracting valuable minerals but also about fostering sustainable growth and development in one of South Africa’s most sparsely populated regions. Orion’s efforts proves the potential that lies in well-planned, resource-based economic development, positioning the company as a leader in the industry while also contributing positively to the local economy.


Source: Mining Weekly

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