Major new copper find for BHP
Copper grades at triple the last major discovery in South Australia could signal major new copper find for BHP
BHP has made a copper discovery described as both “pretty amazing” and “the most phenomenal drill hit anywhere in the world in many years’’, raising hopes that another major mine will be developed in South Australia.
The company is emphasising that the discovery, at a prospect called Oak Dam, is “at an early stage and there is currently insufficient geological information to assess the size, quality and continuity of the mineralised intersections’’.
But the intersection of copper grades of more than 6 per cent over a length of 180m were described by PAC Partners senior analyst Andrew Shearer as “pretty amazing’’.
David Upton, who wrote the definitive history of the discovery of the Olympic Dam deposit – now the world’s largest polymetallic deposit with a mine life of potentially another 100 years – said: “This is the most phenomenal drill hit anywhere in the world in many years.
“BHP might be making cautious statements about the discovery, but the fact they felt obliged to release this news says it all.
“This discovery is so good it could be material to the share price of the world’s biggest miner.
“As a discovery hole, it even dwarfs Olympic Dam, which announced itself in 1976 when drill hole RD10 assayed 170m at 2.12 per cent copper.’’
While the discovery is at a depth of about 1000m, OZ Minerals’ $916 million Carrapateena mine, being built 45km to the southeast of Oak Dam, is being developed at depths of about 500m and mining at these depths is feasible.
“The economic benefits will start flowing to South Australia right away as BHP sends a fleet of rigs in early 2019 to drill more holes into the massive discovery,” Mr Upton said.
BHP said drilling would start again early in 2019, and typically, assays from such drilling would be tested later the same year.
Mr Shearer said the SA Outback had long been considered to have great potential.
“These world-class results reinforce that the region has the potential to host more Olympic Dam and Prominent Hill-style deposits,’’ he said.
“What is really interesting is that the reinterpretation and deeper drilling of an old prospect has delivered these outstanding grades.
“This opens the scope to look at the whole region with new eyes.”
The copper grades are more than three times higher than the Carrapateena discovery hole, which was sunk in 2005, and the discovery lies on a line connecting the Olympic Dam and Carrapateena mines.
There is also uranium associated with the find. So far only four holes have been drilled.
South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Rebecca Knol said the discovery was “welcome news” and it was encouraging that BHP, as a larger company, was spending money on exploration.
Ms Knol said it reinforced the need to reinstate government funding support for high-risk minerals exploration drilling, which was cut in this year’s state Budget.
“The results … are extremely positive and again demonstrate that mineralisation in South Australia lies beneath very deep cover.
“The South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy has consistently called on the Marshall Government to reinstate PACE (plan for Accelerating Exploration) funding and assist companies like BHP with the task of unlocking the states abundant resource potential.’’
Energy and Mining Minister Dan Van Holst Pellekaan said BHP’s announcement was extremely positive news. “Whilst there’s a great deal of work to be done before the actual value of the deposit can be determined, this discovery offers exciting possibilities for new investment and jobs in South Australia,” he said.