Following the release of first assays from the new Rodruin discovery, Mr. Javier Orduña, Exploration Manager of Aton Resources (TSXV:AAN) shared some thoughts with me on this exciting new target. The company is mobilizing equipment to build a road to Rodruin and is still on track to complete an economic study for an open pit, heap leach mine at Hamama. These 2 clear priorities for 2018 reflect the success of the company in 2017.
Peter Bell: Hello Javier, thank you for joining me.
Javier Orduña: You’re welcome, Peter. It’s very exciting to be talking with you about Rodruin. We are very pleased with the assay results from the first phase of surface sampling we did before Christmas. You can see that there is a widespread distribution of good mineralization.
The results largely confirmed what we saw when we first went out there, which we discussed with you in December. These samples should not be interpreted as being representative of the mineralization, as a whole. We specifically collected samples of what we thought looked like mineralized material with expectations that we would get assay grades back. It's not representative sampling, but it confirms that what we thought was mineralization is indeed mineralization. With quite a lot of very good grades, too.
Peter Bell: Right. That conversation in December was a treat for me. To see you have that discovery following a long year of hard work at many sites across the property – that was a win. I think last year was all about going out to look at new areas and it was successful. It’s really one of the first times that I’ve followed an exploration company so closely for so long that I can really understand how these things happen.
Great to see high-grade in these assays. One sample from the North Ridge with 321 g/t gold and over 61 of 74 samples coming back with over 0.5 g/t gold? Something for everyone in there.
Javier Orduña: And it wasn’t unexpected. When we talked in December, we had some clear ideas about what we were looking at. We were pretty confident that we were looking at good mineralization, but we were pleasantly surprised by some of the grades that did come back. Some were even better than we were expecting.
Peter Bell: How about the significance of that 0.5 g/t number?
Javier Orduña: Well, it's the gold equivalent cut-off grade we use at Hamama. Anything above 0.5 g/t gold is a potentially economic grade. The simple line here is that more than 80% of what we sampled is potentially economic mineralization.
Peter Bell: Great success on a first pass.
Javier Orduña: Yes, it’s important to remember that it is only a first pass. We selectively sampled material that we thought we would return good results, which is a reasonable thing to do on a first pass. Excellent results, though – no question about that.
Peter Bell: Thanks for providing a bunch of good technical information in the news release, too. It helped to see the individual sample descriptions and co-ordinates. And there was some discussion of the geology of Rodruin, particularly that it is a lower-temperature epithermal system. I’ve recently learned that carbonate rocks can be created by volcanic systems exhaling large amounts of carbon dioxide into host rocks rather than forming as sedimentary units, which makes me wonder which scenario could be at play in Rodruin.
Javier Orduña: The carbonates are interesting, Peter.
There are some VMS deposits around the world, Mattabi-style, that are associated with carbonate alteration and we have discussed for a long time, exactly what the carbonate at Hamama really represents. It's clearly related to mineralization but, until we found Rodruin, it appeared to be a one-off.
The fact that we've now found very similar mineralization at Rodruin tells us that Hamama was not just a one-off. We have some ideas on the genesis of the mineralization, but we are still bouncing them around. In short, we believe the presence of carbonate is related to the ultramafics.
Peter Bell: Those are rocks that come from the Earth's mantle, right? With that and the carbonate, I’m thinking heavy volcanic activity.
Javier Orduña: Yes and no, Peter.
We think the hydrothermal fluids that formed the mineral deposits at Hamama and Rodruin are associated with contemporaneous volcanism. The fluids are associated with andesitic and felsic packages of volcanic rocks in the area, but we don't think the carbonate is related to them. We think the fluids interacted with slabs of ultramafic ophiolitic rocks that were somehow accreted into the volcanic packages at a fairly early stage. We see lots of barren carbonates all over the Eastern Desert that are related to dewatering of ophiolitic units, are completely barren, and have absolutely nothing to do with this style of mineralization. However at Hamama and Rodruin we we think that the hydrothermal systems interacted with slabs of ultramafics that were accreted into the volcanic packages, causing the fluids carrying the gold and base metals to become very carbonate-rich. It is unusual.
Gold mineralization that we are seeing at other targets within the Abu Marawat Concession, like Sir Bakis for example is completely unconnected to these volcanic-hosted styles of mineralization we are seeing at Rodruin and Hamama, and other areas. The Rodruin/Hamama style of volcanic associated mineralization is probably 50 million years earlier than the granite associated mineralization we're seeing at Sir Bakis, for example.
Peter Bell: Interesting. I recall that the ophiolites are quite important across the Abu Marawat Concession area and they are pieces of oceanic plate that were thrust up onto the edge of continental plates. The fact that you have evidence of that kind of tectonic activity on the Concession continues to fascinate me. I think you mentioned there was a back-arc basin here at one time, too. The geology of this place is just amazing but let’s save that for another day. For now, please let me ask about the gold in the high-grade shears at Rodruin – do you seeing anything like that at Hamama?
Javier Orduña: No, Hamama is essentially is a body of relatively undeformed VMS-epithermal mineralization. We're seeing 2 phases at Rodruin. The first is the background Hamama-style mineralization and in the other we see later remobilization of metals into the high-grade shears and veins, associated with later tectonism and deformation.
There are strong correlations between gold and silver in the shear-hosted mineralization at Rodruin but none whatsoever in the background Hamama-style mineralization.
Peter Bell: You mentioned bismuth in the press release?
Javier Orduña: Yes, bismuth, as well as other metals, is highly elevated at Rodruin. Elements such as bismuth, antimony, and arsenic are typically elevated in acidic, magmatic-associated hydrothermal systems. Although the bismuth is elevated, the correlation analysis did not indicate any particularly clear relationship between bismuth and other metals. There were clear associations between other metals, though. For example, the copper and zinc were strongly correlated with cadmium in the background mineralization. Gold and silver were clearly very strongly correlated in the shear zone mineralization. Arsenic strongly correlates with lead, which reflects the arsenic is probably occurring in certain sulphosalt minerals. The bismuth wasn’t really strongly correlated with any other metals in particular, though.
Peter Bell: Well, I hope that proves helpful as you better understand the geochemistry of all this stuff. It occurs to me that when you get Hamama into production, you will probably learn much more about this in ways that will be helpful for Rodruin. But that’s years away from now. In the next few months, you’re going to build a road to Rodruin. Some people have commented and asked if you could go quicker, but April sounded to me like a good timeline to me. Can you go quicker?
Javier Orduña: No, we can't. Even if we wanted to start drilling tomorrow, we can't, that’s just the reality. It's rocky and mountainous terrain – it will probably take a minimum of 2 months to build a road in if everything goes well. It may take longer, we don't have access to explosives to build the roads, so we're basically up there with excavators and bulldozers. It takes time.
Peter Bell: The exploration team covered a lot of ground last year with the “Regional Exploration Program”. Will it pivot this year to focus on Rodruin?
Javier Orduña: We won’t just stop looking everywhere else, Peter, but we do believe this is a very significant discovery. We do believe it's potentially an order of magnitude bigger than Hamama, and potentially clearly much higher grade.
We will not just forget about everything else, but Rodruin will become our #1 focus. We will go in, drill some holes, and then take a pause. We can't just drill 10,000 meters off the bat. We need to do the initial drilling, get the results, and see what it’s telling us. Once we start drilling, we will do a first phase campaign and then will, ideally, be able to take the rig to drill some of our other targets while we are waiting for results to come back and guide the next phase of drilling. We will try to do other things as we go along, but there's no question that Rodruin will become our absolute #1 exploration focus. We will go at it as hard as we can.
Peter Bell: I loved those 3 samples from the North Ridge – you went all that way just for those 3 samples and they all came back with +5g/t grades. What an adventure.
Javier Orduña: We talked about some of this in our first interview, Peter. There are several deep slots on the North Ridge that were created by the ancient miners. They are vertical slots that go down 20 meters from the top of the ridge and there is only about 1 meter of rock between them and fresh air going down a few hundred feet along the steep edge of the mountain.
These workings were located up near the top of the hill and there was a reason why they were mining this stuff, right? Well, the reason is clear from the assays, 321 g/t! We had identified abundant free gold in hand specimens as we discussed in December, but they were mining some exceptionally good material up there on the North Ridge.
There were more workings on the South Ridge, but they are also up there on the North Ridge. It really is exceedingly steep in places, and much harder to get up there than it is to get up the South Ridge, where we concentrated our initial sampling programme, which also has much more evidence of ancient workings. But we’ll be back to look at the North side in more detail.
We’ve now found more workings on the South Ridge, similar to these super high grade slots on the North Ridge, that appear to go down 40 meters or so. I imagine that they were mining similar grade material from those ancient workings as the samples we've had from the North Ridge already.
Peter Bell: Wow.
Javier Orduña: We had a short time period between discovery and shutting down for Christmas, but we are back at it now. Our intention was to cover as much as we could in the short time period before we shut the Camp for Christmas. The first pass sampling broadly covered three main areas on the South Ridge with good results and now we are covering it in more detail. We want to get broad surface coverage of the South Ridge to start with.
Javier Orduña: This is a plan showing the locations of the next round of samples that we’ve taken so far this year, as white circles. It should give you an understanding our plan of attack at the project.
As you can see, we started at the far western end and are working back along the South Ridge, sampling the bedrock where it is not concealed under scree. Ultimately, we want to get a fairly comprehensive sampling plan of where we are seeing mineralization at surface. We have been working hard and we think those white circles will provide a good a coverage of purple, red, and orange when the next round of assays come back.
Peter Bell: One spot that seemed really important to me is the exposed area on the top of the South Ridge. All that exposed rock on the top of the ridge is great.
Javier Orduña: Certainly, Peter. That’s where you see the best outcrop and where most of the ancient mine workings are located. A lot of the northern flank of the South Ridge is just a steep hillside covered by scree. We know that the ancients didn't mine there because of the overburden, but there's quite probably still a lot of mineralization underneath the cover that isn't exposed. The ancient miners didn't get to it because there was plenty of the good stuff exposed at surface. So our plan over the next couple of months is to get full coverage over the surface to guide the development of the drill plans.
Peter Bell: Was this scree area eroded material from the top of the ridge?
Javier Orduña: Yes, it’s fairly typical mountainside scenery. The important thing is that when you break open blocks of scree at surface then you often find gossanous material within the carbonate.
It is important to note that the scree has been transported down the side of the mountain, so it is not in situ. It may be mineralized, but it doesn't reflect what the bedrock is underneath. We don’t yet know if there is mineralization underneath or not. When our field geologists have managed to see through the scree into exposed bedrock material, they have sampled it. There were no such samples in the first sampling program, but there will be now in the second and I look forward to seeing what comes back from those particular samples.
Peter Bell: Did you have a sense for the angle of dip from this unit that was exposed at the top of the Ridge?
Javier Orduña: It's a bit hard to tell, Peter. Some of the rocks in the pictures look green and those are relatively unaltered volcanics. They have clear foliation which appears to be close to vertical. In contrast, the buff-colored carbonate on the South Ridge appears to be dipping roughly parallel to the flank of the mountain, which is towards the northeast. It’s hard to say until we actually drill it.
It's not clear yet to be honest and the area is certainly structurally complex. We need to put some holes into it to get a handle on the 3D picture.
Peter Bell: I can just imagine a slab of it sitting on the hillside waiting for you.
Javier Orduña: Yes maybe. What we are seeing on the South Ridge may be, in simple terms, a 50-100 meter thick slab of mineralized carbonate that is roughly parallel to the dip of the mountainside. It dips towards the northeast down to the Central Valley. It may even continue at depth under the North Ridge, we just don’t know at this stage. It may be comparable to what you have at Hamama, where you have a thick slab of mineralization, although it's very early days.
Peter Bell: Hamama is vertical though, right?
Javier Orduña: Yes, while the South Ridge at Rodruin appears to be inclined to the northeast at about 45-degrees.
Peter Bell: And close to surface!
Javier Orduña: It's right at surface, Peter. If that is the case then it would be very favorable from a mining perspective, with a minimal strip ratio, as you’d just be taking off the side of the mountain.
Peter Bell: We can imagine, can’t we? How about the valley – there were some samples taken down there, right?
Javier Orduña: Yes, there were a few. It was just a quick first-pass program done over a few days to get some samples and some numbers on the board to confirm what we thought we were seeing. It has confirmed it -- plus!
Peter Bell: Any indications of those old dams they were using to wash around here or was that somewhere else?
Javier Orduña: No, the processing sites were down in the surrounding wadis. I think there was some limited evidence of processing in one place, but most of the ore appears to have been taken down from the top of the mountain and processed in the wadis around East Eradiya where there was water available.
Peter Bell: Well, thanks for putting the co-ordinates on the maps too. I found the area on google maps and it’s stunning to see it online.
Javier Orduña: No worries, Peter. And I will briefly mention that we plan to dispatch our second set of samples from site next week and we hope to have another set of results to report a month hence. We are going to be doing as much as we can as quickly as we can, and we do think it is very important to keep the momentum going at Rodruin.
This document contains 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.
The technical information contained in this News Release was prepared by Roderick Cavaney BSc, MSc (hons), MSc (Mining & Exploration Geology), FAusIMM, GSA, SME, Vice President, Exploration, of Aton Resources Inc. Mr. Cavaney is a qualified person (QP) under National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
Peter Bell has been compensated to prepare and distribute this promotional material.