Continuing in my ongoing coverage of Aton Resources (TSXV:AAN), sponsored by the company, please enjoy this transcript from a conversation with Mr. Javier Orduña, Exploration Manager for Aton.
Peter B: Hello, I'm Peter Bell and I'm here with Mr. Javier Orduña, Exploration Manager of Aton Resources. Hello Javi.
Javier O: Hi Peter, how are you doing today?
Peter B: Wonderful. Phase 1 is complete at Rodruin – time for an exploration update.
Javier O: Yes. We finished drilling in December last year, just before Christmas, and we just put out our final results earlier this week. We're pretty happy with the program. We drilled 50 holes with a little over 4000 meters, so about average 80 meters a hole. Some of those holes were very short, as you know there are ancient workings very close to the surface at Rodruin. Some of the holes only got down about five or ten meters, but some of them go all the way to 200 meters. Pretty much every hole hit mineralization. We're pretty happy with what we achieved in the first program.
Peter B: Congratulations. Lots to discuss about it. Maybe one high level question first. Section diagrams and things like that, can we look forward to some?
Javier O: Yes, they are coming. Because of the nature of the ground, we weren't necessarily drilling on sections in all places. You've seen the photos and we're drilling on some fairly rugged mountainsides. We didn't have a nice, flat grid pattern to drill on so we don't necessarily have good sections for everywhere we drilled. We were spudding holes off specific pads. We're working our way through and, yes, they will be coming.
Peter B: All the roads that you've built are very noteworthy. Looking forward to Phase 2, I see mention of a road to be built going around to the north side of the North Ridge.
Javier O: That's the plan. We're gonna have to step back about a kilometer from Aladdin's Hill and take a road off down a fairly steep valley down on to the northern side, then work our way around to the back side of the North Ridge where, hopefully, we'll be able to get up some pretty steep screes as far as we can to test some of the high-grade, vein-like structures we see on the north side.
Peter B: Great. Any other guidance around what Phase 2 might look like?
Javier O: It's going to be a combination of a number of things. One, hopefully, we will be getting up onto the north side and doing some first-pass testing up there. We think it's gonna take at least a month and a half to get a road around that side, so that's gonna be an issue time-wise. We're very excited with the sulphide mineralization we're seeing at depth to the northeast of Aladdin's Hill. I think that's where the big potential for Rodruin lies. We believe we clearly hit the primary equivalent for mineralization we're seeing over a lot of the South Ridge. So we'll be chasing that out in all directions – north, south, east, and west – and at depth, of course. Basically following up some of the drilling we've already done on the various areas so far. There's quite a bit to do.
Peter B: And hole number 50, I believe that was a vertical hole in the bottom of the valley that went quite deep and hit some of the fresh sulphides, as you mentioned.
Javier O: Yes, it went deep. It was from the bottom of the valley. It wasn't a vertical hole, it was an inclined hole, which was angled to the south. It went underneath two of the shallow vertical holes, 44 and 48, which both appeared to have ended in un-mineralized sediments. We drilled under them with hole 50 and got this big wide intersection within the sulphide with some pretty nice grades at the bottom of it, I think it's about 11 meters at five grammes at the bottom. It's a complicated area. We keep saying it’s structurally complex, but it is. There's folding in the area, we believe there is recumbent folding. There's low angle thrusting and faulting, and then there's various orientations of more vertical faulting as well. We're still trying to pull it all together and we don't always see what we expect in every hole. That deep mineralization in hole 50, we had seen that in another hole, 17, so it wasn't a total surprise but we weren't necessarily expecting it in the place where we saw it.
Peter B: And hole 50 didn't end in that sulphide zone.
Javier O: No, it didn't end in it. It passed through into another un-mineralized section.
Peter B: Is it starting to become a little more clear what the structures look like from here to there?
Javier O: Well, we have a reasonably good idea of what the structures look like in that area. We have a series of fairly flat-dipping, thrust-type structures, north-dipping, one of which basically parallels the hillside on the north side of the South Ridge. And that, in itself, is a fairly major structure, which basically controls and actually parallels the actual surface of the hillside. That makes mapping a little bit difficult in places. So we know we've got these flattish, north-dipping faults.
We also know we've got a series of east-west faults, which we see at Aladdin's Hill that appear to control the very high grades of mineralization. We see them in other areas through the whole of the Rodruin area. Then, specifically passing through this area where hole 50 is, we've got a northeast trending structure. You can see it if you look at the imagery, you will see a wedge of green sediments, which look rather out of place, to the east of Aladdin's Hill and that is controlled by this northeast trending structure.
Javier O: Where we've been drilling, we've got a combination of all these fault structures in the same place. We've also got some fairly significant folding of the actual sedimentary sequence itself. So we've got all these structures, all on top of each other. We know they're there, but actually joining all this up with what we're seeing in the drilling is ongoing.
Peter B: And a question that you can start to answer with the drill bit.
Javier O: Yes. We'll get back and do more drilling on either side to try to get more of a pattern to illustrate more clearly what we're seeing.
Peter B: Interesting to hear about the unit paralleling the slope of the South Ridge. I wonder if that comes to surface on the south side of the South Ridge?
Javier O: No. If you draw a cross section running from the south to the north looking to the west, then you have more than one of these flattish structures. They dip to the north. They actually dip under the North Ridge, whereas they daylight around the top of the South Ridge.
On the south side of the South Ridge, we don't see any mineralization. You have the carbonates, which control the top of the South Ridge, and below them on the south side, you're in to basically un-mineralized sediments, siliciclastic sediments. On the north side, however, you've got a lot of mineralized carbonates and also mineralized sediments but it's a little bit complicated because these thrust-type structures are not continuous and they appear to die out laterally. Rather than individual structures, they're more like dislocations than continuous structures. They are quite substantial, but they also die out laterally.
We have a series of quartz vein blows, which appear to be zones that actually take up the strain. I don't want to keep harping back to it, but it is not straightforward. It's not like Hamama, for example, which is relatively simple from a structural point of view.
Peter B: And all the thrusting, would you use the word anticline there at all?
Javier O: No, I wouldn't necessarily say there’re ‘anticlines’. There's plenty of folding, including recumbent folding. What we appear to have is two boundary faults about a kilometer apart, which run north and south of the Rodruin mineralized system. They strike roughly west-northwest, about 300 degrees, and you can see them quite clearly on the satellite imagery. These are two very strong structural features, which control the topography and the distribution of the valleys. Right in the middle of them is Rodruin. We appear to have a classic sort of Reidel type shear environment, where you've got a whole series conjugate structures and folds that are controlled within these two boundary faults. You've got a number of structures in a number of different orientations and directions, which are clearly strongly associated with the mineralization we see at Rodruin.
Peter B: Wonderful. Interesting to hear that just some sense of the topography locally can give you some indication of the geology there.
Javier O: It's interesting. Mapping on the South Ridge is a little bit tricky because, literally, one of these low angle thrust structures is parallel to the hillside. As the hillside dips down at about 40 degrees, the structure is absolutely parallel and is on the surface of the hillside. Sometimes where we get gullies cutting down through it, you can see spectacular zones of shearing at the western end of the South Ridge, and you pass into a series of effectively barren rocks within a hanging wall block of this structure that you can see. However, what can be very hard to actually see on the ground is when you go through these structures and into the mineralized footwall block of this structure, as the hillsides are covered in scree. It's very hard to get an actual sense of where exactly we are in this set of stacked structures. It's challenging. We have a good understanding of what we're seeing, but we don't have a perfect understanding.
Peter B: I wonder with what you're saying about how things are changing laterally and what to expect kind of between the Central Buttress and Aladdin's Hill?
Javier O: Well, the geological maps that we've put out show an area as surface scree and talus but it's actually a bit more complicated than that. We've got what is actually a mega-breccia, which is a landslide type feature, where basically the top of the mountain has fallen off and you can see it's been re-cemented around blocks the size of houses. The carbonates have been re-cemented and sedimented, so we've got this zone which is basically a paleo landslide or landslip feature that covers about 200 meters of the hillside. That totally covers a large chunk of the northern side of the South Ridge.
What's underneath it? It’s hard to say. It could be a continuation of the surface mineralization, but it disappears under this mega-breccia unit. We’ve got a good sense that most of the mineralization is confined to the carbonates now. We do see some mineralization within the sediments, but pretty much most of the mineralization is in the carbonates.
Peter B: And we've talked about those carbonates before. Any new thinking?
Javier O: Lots of new thinking, but I wouldn't say we've got all the definitive answers. They look like sedimentary carbonates. We can go out and map clear stromatolitic type textures, so it looks like a very shallow water environment as we’ve talked about before. It certainly looks like a sedimentary sequence, with the mineralization mostly in the carbonates. It's got a distinct zinc assemblage, very similar to what we see at Hamama, but the rock package is rather different. There are a lot of broad similarities to what we're seeing at Hamama, which is interesting, but when you actually look at the nitty gritty it's also quite considerably different to Hamama. What we think we're looking at in places like Hamama, Abu Marawat, and Rodruin is a single mineralizing style or system that occurs within these shallow water, volcano-sedimentary, low temperature fluid environments. What we're seeing at these different deposits are slightly different manifestations of or a continuum of deposit types, if you like, formed from very similar hydrothermal systems. It's interesting.
There are very few volcanic rocks, for example, in the immediate area of Rodruin. You get out a little bit and there's some volcanics that you see, felsic lapilli tuffs – but actually at Rodruin the rocks are pretty much entirely siliciclastic sediments and carbonates. The mineralization in many ways looks very similar to Hamama, with notably higher gold grades, but you don't seem to have the same sort of volcanic component to the actual mineralization.
We also know a lot of the mineralization is structurally controlled at Rodruin. That's obvious. Hamama, for example, appears to have more of a VMS sort of, syn-sedimentary, epithermal type association. What we we're tending to believe now is that it's more a replacement style of mineralization of these sedimentary carbonates at Rodruin.
And of course, we've got these high grade zones, which are clearly structurally controlled into structurally favorable sites such as at Aladdin's Hill. These are the kinds of ideas we're knocking around, but we don't have all the answers yet. There's a lot of things we're thinking about, but it's gonna take a bit more work before we've got this thing properly nutted out.
Peter B: And I wanted to ask about the zinc with this discussion of hybrid VMS.
Javier O: The metals assemblage is very similar to what we see at Hamama, in reality, and also what we've seen in Abu Marawat and Waayrah. At all these deposits we have a zinc-copper-lead assemblage with substantial amounts of silver, also tellurium in places – and again, we're seeing it at Rodruin, and this is one of the things that makes us think that we're looking at a similar broad style of mineralization through all these deposits.
Then when we go to some of the other deposits we’ve got like Sir Bakis, Abu Gaharish, well these are completely different beasts. But Rodruin, broadly, looks similar to Hamama, Abu Marawat, and Waayrah.
Peter B: And the broader project area, there's some new information on the website describing all these different target areas in detail. It remains an impressive list. Any new thinking on all that?
Javier O: It is. I think it's an amazing license area. As we've talked about in the past, we certainly have more than this one broad group or type of mineralization that we see at Rodruin, Hamama and Abu Marawat. We’ve now found mineralization over a very large area on our first-pass drilling at Rodruin, which was the intention of the program. We're very happy with it.
But, as you know, two years ago we basically commenced a more regional evaluation program to go and look at some of the other prospects and targets within our license area. We have, probably, over a dozen, a dozen and a half stand-alone, good quality exploration targets, of which probably five or six are ready to drill now.
Obviously, our main focus will be on advancing Rodruin as that's clearly our number one prospect, but we need to do it in phases. We can't just go out there and drill 10,000 meters in one hit with a rig that drills more than a hundred meters on day shift, as it might take a week to construct a single drill pad, so we have to do it in phases. Plus of course, we have a whole bunch of other targets, some of which are quite close to Rodruin within the license area. So, we've got other good quality exploration targets within the license area, which we’re gonna go and test this year as well, we hope.
Peter B: Wonderful. I wondered if that area around Rodruin had other potential or if it was really just the South Ridge and North Ridge at this point.
Javier O: We need to get out and look around more in the area. Again, you know what the country's like – it's a pretty rugged sort of country. It's not like just going for a walk in the park. We have walked some of those hills and found scraps of mineralization in other areas, but we haven't found anything to date that looks like what we've found at Rodruin. We are now concentrating on the immediate Rodruin area, which is certainly pretty substantial in itself, and it’s plenty enough to be going on with for now, but hopefully one day when there's a mine there, you’d be doing more detailed mine-based exploration in the surrounding areas once you actually have a project up and running.
Peter B: And I heard mention of the word extension to the east off from some of the drilling at the GF Zone in the latest news release there.
Javier O: Ah OK, that extension – I thought you were talking about the extension of the exploration license, which we're very happy with, in that it allows us to continue exploring as we are for at least another year, before making the next steps. Yes, we drilled from the Central Valley. The mineralization that we're seeing at the bottom of the Central Valley appears to be an extension of the carbonate gossan-hosted mineralization, which we see at the eastern end of the South Ridge in what we call the GF Zone.
Peter B: I wonder going out into some of these valleys, is there potential for more surface sampling?
Javier O: There is. We can go out and do more, but I think we've covered most of what we think is at surface pretty effectively in the immediate Rodruin area. We also sampled some more Au-Pb-Cu-Te bearing ‘veins’ on the North Ridge before Christmas. The next big question for us is, how does the South Ridge connect to the North Ridge. Again, that is another question for which we don't have clear answers to just now. As I say, if you imagine these northeast-dipping low angle thrust structures, one of which basically parallels and outcrops on the hillside on the north side of the South Ridge, these effectively dip under the North Ridge. So their outcrop position roughly controls the location of the Central Valley, which is the valley that runs between the North Ridge and South Ridge. But it's very hard to actually see this in the Central Valley, because although the surface structures are quite substantial, over a distance of less than 100 meters it dies away to nothing, and you don't actually see it outcropping on the ground.
So it's challenging trying to pull this together, but in simple terms what we think we're looking at is a very different block of rock on the North Ridge to what forms the South Ridge. And we're seeing different types of mineralization in it. We're seeing these quartz veins, which again are not true quartz veins – they're more sort of mineralized, silica-flooded structures, interestingly similar to the mineralization at the Abu Marawat deposit, which carry the exceedingly the high grades that we sampled on the North Ridge. We've also got big areas of argillic alteration on the back side of the North Ridge. We assume these are all features of a single large mineralizing system we see at Rodruin, but how all this joins up – we just don't have the answers at this stage.
Peter B: Well, after phase one that's fair. It is a pretty exotic project.
Javier O: Yeah, I think so. I'd be impressed if anyone had all the answers at this point!
Peter B: I think you mentioned a particular aspect that had some textbook features. Is there starting to get a sense for comparable deposit types maybe in the Arabian-Nubian Shield or elsewhere around the world.
Javier O: Rodruin is a little bit unusual. There's nothing that we’ve found yet that we think is a deadset lookalike. In some ways, Rodruin looks like one of these replacement manto type style deposits, as it definitely has a replacement feel to it. I certainly still believe that Hamama is, on a macro-scale, clearly a VMS deposit. On a micro scale, it's not – it's epithermal. So it's a transitional or hybrid deposit, not a classic example of either. Again I think all these deposits at Rodruin, Abu Marawat, and Hamama are all formed from similar mineralizing systems as part of a continuum. And such is the nature of mineral deposits. Mineral deposits do not fall into separate distinct boxes, these ‘separate boxes’ in reality grade into each other. We're seeing different manifestations of a certain type of mineralizing system through these deposits.
But when we go to places like Abu Gaharish and Bohlog they are very different. The gold mineralization at these prospects is associated with a very distinct suite of late post-orogenic alkali granites and these targets have a completely different affinity to what we're looking at at Hamama and Rodruin. We're starting to look on a regional perspective, and as I say, these things look like classic reduced intrusive related gold deposits. Again, within our license area we have all these different types of mineralization, which is pretty unusual and pretty special.
Peter B: Javier Orduña, Exploration Manager for Aton Resources. Thanks very much for talking with me.
Javier O: It's a pleasure, Peter. I hope we can catch up again sometime soon.
Peter B: Absolutely. Goodbye.
Find out more on https://www.atonresources.com
Please note that Peter "@Newton" Bell was compensated to prepare and distribute this interview.
This material contain statements that are forward looking statements and are subject to various risks and uncertainties concerning the specific factors disclosed under the heading “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in the Company’s periodic filings with Canadian securities regulators. Such information contained herein represents management’s best judgment as of the date hereof based on information currently available. The Company does not assume the obligation to update any forward-looking statement.