Aton Resources (TSX.V:AAN) has made an important discovery with Waayrah, the first target that appears to fit a classical VMS model at the Abu Marawat Concession. The company announced a resource estimate on Hamama West last year, which is a hybrid epithermal-VMS style deposit. I had the opportunity to discuss this over several hours on September 22nd with Javier Orduña and Tim Neall. This classic VMS target adds to the geological variety at Abu Marawat Concession.
This first interview provides a couple of photos from the field at the Waayrah target.
Peter Bell: Hello, Tim. This first photo of Waayrah is intense. To start, I will point out this person. Is that you?
Tim Neall: Yes, that was me. I believe this photo was taken on our third trip to site.
Peter Bell: And when you're walking this ground, do you get a sense for what you’re looking at?
Tim Neall: Yes, I certainly did as I’ve worked on this type of deposit before. Each deposit has its own unique features, but this one seems to fit the standard model of a VMS quite well.
A key feature in this photo is the large pit in front of me. The pit we can see here extends approximately 45 meters across and 10 meters deep, but as its collapsed we don’t know how much deeper it goes. It is an ancient mine site.
The flat area just behind me in the photo is where they were hand cobbing the mineralized material from the outcrop of the gossan. They separated out the rock they wanted from the waste rock by hand and threw the waste down the hillside, which we can still see today.
In fact, that footpath going off to the left side of the photo goes around the hill to some more pits, which are around the corner in a gully. And those pits are the southernmost end of the known mining here – at that point, the VMS horizon is cut off by a fault and we haven't found the mineralization beyond this fault.
Peter Bell: Okay. And we are looking to the south this photo?
Tim Neall: Yes, more or less.
You can see another path that goes to the lower-right side of the picture and it actually continues past the photographer to the right. That path runs to another series of pits located north of this large one.
Peter Bell: We have another photo of that to discuss, but before we do I would like to ask about out something you said. Did I hear you right that you encountered the end of the known mineralization a few hundred meters to the south?
Javier Orduña: Yes, Peter. The mineralization is cut off at surface by a fault on a very steep gully. We have not been able to track it any further south. It may continue but it's been offset by a fault and due to the nature of the exceedingly steep topography here we haven’t been able to identify any mineralized outcrop further to the south. That doesn't mean that it can't continue somewhere further south, of course.
Peter Bell: In a way, I am glad to hear that. You are nearing the southernmost boundary of your concession area, and I imagine it would be a bit frustrating to find some exceptional gold just outside your area.
Tim Neall: I don't think it will be a problem as there's no adjacent license holder to the south. The next license is probably 200 kilometers further south of this license boundary.
Peter Bell: And your Concession extends nearly 20 kilometers due north from Waayrah – the distances here are just staggering.
A quick question about some rocks that I see on the hillside in this photo, the ones covered by shadows. Are those rocks indicative of something of interest?
Tim Neall: The blocky rocks on the top of the hill are felsic sub-volcanic intrusive rocks, probably rhyolites or maybe rhyodacites. They look to be high level hypabyssal sub-volcanic intrusive bodies.
Peter Bell: Way over my head, Tim, but I’d be happy to unpack all of that with you at some point. Thank you.
Now, this photo is taken at surface and there is opportunity for extensive weathering here. We've talked before about the enrichment of gold in gossans that may have occurred here and how the natural chemical processes lead to concentration of gold in the rock. A familiar story to many, but something new for this project – particularly with these high-grade samples of gold, zinc, copper, and more.
Tim Neall: That’s right, Peter. The development of a gossan, similar to what we're seeing at Waayrah, is a very typical surface expression of volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits. Where you have bodies of massive sulfide mineralization exposed at surface, the chemical interaction of the sulfide minerals and rainwater or groundwater produces sulfuric acid, which promotes preferential weathering down the sulfide body. This weathering process results in what is called a “gossan”, which is basically the weathered and oxidized portion of the primary massive sulfide mineralization.
What you tend to see in these massive sulfide gossans is significant enrichment of gold. In some cases, you may also get significant enrichment of the base metals, like zinc and copper. The more soluble metals, such as the base metals, may have been concentrated later in the gossans by fluctuations of groundwater levels. From the surface sampling that we've done at the Waayrah gossan, we're getting very good grades of gold, silver, zinc and copper.
Peter Bell: Amazing. Encouraging to step back and consider that this is a relatively new discovery for you.
Javier Orduña: Yes. We identified the area from imagery and remote sensing in the past, and this year we’ve had the resources to be able to get out there and progress our regional exploration program. We were keen to put some boots on the ground, identify targets from the imagery, and to get out there and have a look around. That is exactly what we did.
The guys climbed up an exceedingly steep hill to get up to the workings. They did it because they wanted to visit these ancient workings and sample them, which yielded some pretty encouraging results.
Peter Bell: Let’s have a look at this other photo, which is looking in the opposite direction to the north. The photos were both taken along the area of ancient mining along this ridge. I believe this photo was taken further up the hill in the first photo, looking back down onto the spot from where the first one was taken.
Javier Orduña: Yes, that’s right Peter. The big pit there in the front of the picture is the same one as we were looking at in the first photograph. In this case, we're on the south side of it and we're now looking north. You can see the line of pits, which extend north along this VMS horizon.
Peter Bell: And this big pit was where you found a grab sample with approximately 1-gram gold and 25% zinc. I believe this big pit is indicated on a map included in the news release on all this from June. I look forward to hearing more about what is underground there, both the ancient workings and the mineralization. Early days here.
Javier Orduña: Yes, it is early days but we're pretty hopeful that we've identified a VMS gossan that is sitting on a body of massive sulfide mineralization.
Peter Bell: OK, thanks Javier. I imagine it’s just great when one of these things fits an established model. It is great to see these mountains in the distance on this photo looking north – they are probably located in the Abu Marawat Concession! Impressive to see the scale of the landholding here from the ground.
Javier Orduña: Yes, it's a big landholding. Some places are pretty rugged and it's not always easy to get into some of these places. Again, when the guys first visited this place they walked up from a wadi to the left of this picture from the west. They probably came 200 meters up a pretty steep hillside to get to where they were. There's a lot of ground that needs to be covered and not all of it is easy to get into.
Tim Neall: Yes, we kept going up the hill because we kept stumbling across ever bigger blocks of blue copper-stained material.
Peter Bell: Glad to hear there was a good reason for it all! What about the road off to the east in the map from the news release?
Tim Neall: We actually drove up to a small quarry there in the morning, approaching it from east on the first occasion. We looked at the quarry which the Bedouin claim was a pigment quarry and thought that it looked interesting and there appeared to be older workings high up on the ridge. We came back later in the day and tried the other side of the hill to see if we could find an easier approach to access the ridge. It was much more rugged coming up that way but it did give us the opportunity to look at the rocks on the other side of the ridge. When we got to the top we realized that the route up from the recent quarry is shorter though equally steep.
Peter Bell: And you have been back there several times now?
Javier Orduña: Yes, we've been back quite a few times.
Tim Neall: On later visits we also wanted to pursue the structures further to the north, going over the ridge north of the quarry. Subsequently we have managed to successfully identify two of the structures in the rugged valley on the other side of the hill to the north.
Peter Bell: Glad to hear you persevered and made it to the up there.
Javier Orduña: I would mention that the quarry is also interesting, Peter. It was worked relatively recently, compared with the ancient workings at the top of the ridge where we took these photographs. We're not sure exactly when the quarry was worked, but we think it was probably worked about 10 years ago, or maybe a little more. Some of local Bedouin have told us that it was mined for an iron-oxide material used for ochre pigment. We had no information about anyone having mined here.
Peter Bell: And that quarry is down the hill, to the right side of the photograph looking north.
Javier Orduña: Yes, that's right, accessed by the road from the east.
Peter Bell: What an area at Waayrah.
Tim Neall: As in that picture from the news release, we have identified three zones of interest. The best mineralization is in the western one, which contains the old pit in the photos, on the crest of the ridge. The recent quarry is actually on the eastern zone and it is weakly mineralized, but we're not quite sure what we’re seeing in there yet.
Peter Bell: It’s encouraging to hear that you found the best stuff after the hardest climb, isn’t it? It’s encouraging to hear about mining having been done at the site thousands of years with these old pits, and maybe 10 years ago with this quarry.
Based on this map from the news release, it looks like 200 meters from the end of the road to the western zone – the one with the photos we’ve been discussing. Do you have a sense of the change in elevation there, too?
Tim Neall: It is about 200 meters of change in elevation from the wadi up to the ridge, coming up from the western side.
Peter Bell: That's a pretty serious hill.
Tim Neall: It's about 35 degrees on both sides. That may not sound steep but, believe me, it is and it is covered with loose talus on both sides of the ridge.
Peter Bell: That sounds like a black diamond run at a ski hill! And you guys walked up and down the backside. You took samples down from there?
Tim Neall: Yes, we carried them down. Just stick them in your ruck sac and carry them. Easier to carry them down than up!
Peter Bell: I bet, Tim! Anything else you'd say about all this?
Tim Neall: Lots, Peter. As I say, we did an initial phase of sampling and initial results were good, with gossans containing up to 16 g/t gold, up to 25% of zinc and almost 2% copper. It certainly looks like a gold-rich VMS gossan. It bears similarities to some other well-known deposits in the Arabian Nubian Shield with a gold-oxide cap on top of primary VMS mineralization.
Tim Neall: We've released the initial results, but we have been back and taken some more samples. We're still waiting on results to come back on them. We believe that we've extended the mineralization further to the north at least in the western and the central zones, which are the two zones we've focused on. We're confident that we're looking at VMS mineralization and will move ahead with geophysics as soon as possible.
Peter Bell: Wonderful. Thank you very much.
You can find additional information on the Waayrah prospect in the June news release here https://ceo.ca/@marketwired/aton-makes-a-new-vms-discovery-at-the-abu-marawat-concession
Please note that I have been compensated to prepare and distribute this promotional material.
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