Adding value through discovery
Our exploration and evaluation programs aim to discover new ore bodies, evaluate and quantify these new resources and reserves and to assess their economic viability in feasibility studies. This involves greenfield exploration on our regional exploration licenses or brownfield exploration in and around our operating mines and development projects.
Our exploration program over the last five years has helped Ma’aden build a pipeline of new mineral resources across gold, phosphate and metallurgical bauxite. Mineral exploration is a core element of Ma’aden’s strategy. This is essential to sustain, grow and diversify our businesses.
The role of Ma’aden’s exploration division is to explore, discover and evaluate new mineral resources and to replace current ore reserves that are consumed by our businesses.
Focus on EHSS
We give our highest priority to Ma’aden’s goal of zero harm to our people, the community and the environment. We continue to improve and strengthen our safety programs and conduct regular audits of our EHSS performance. We are fully aligned with the 51 high priority corporate EHSS standards, whilst still maintaining stronger standards for the unique challenges posed by exploration activities.
These challenges include EHSS procedures that are specific to Exploration’s operational requirements in remote desert locations. Our safety initiatives include real-time satellite tracking of all field vehicles to allow rapid emergency response if needed. We continue to make the utmost effort to reduce our environmental footprint at exploration sites. Our exploration techniques have a low impact on the environment. Where drilling is required for testing, the drill sites are backfilled, rehabilitated and drill holes are capped as standard practice. We conduct regular audits to confirm and maintain our full compliance with rigorous environmental standards.
Greenfields exploration is the initial exploration phase during which geology, geochemistry and geophysics are integrated to identify prospective areas and anomalies. During 2016, we conducted further analysis of the results from the previously completed three-year program of systematic greenfield and brownfield exploration over more than 47,000km2 of exploration licenses. This has resulted in many targets that will require drill testing in 2017.
Brownfields exploration near our existing mines and advanced mine development projects offers the opportunity to identify and potentially exploit smaller resources at lower capital cost by taking advantage of our existing infrastructure. The focus of our drilling and interpretation activity in exploration in 2016 occurred on primarily brownfields prospects
During the year, Ma’aden allocated a budget of SAR73 million towards greenfield and brownfield mineral exploration for phosphate, potash, bauxite, gold and copper.
Our main focus was on brownfield gold and copper exploration in the Arabian Shield. This included drilling of gold, copper, bauxite and phosphate target, identified from earlier regional geophysical and geochemical surveys. Ma’aden’s Exploration team completed over 12,000 meters of drilling in 2016 and collected over 20,000 geochemical and drilling samples.
We identified a large gold target at the Bir Tawilah prospect, located about 15km from the Mansourah-Massarah project. A resource estimate and conceptual economic study for Bir Tawilah is at an advanced stage and is scheduled for completion in 2017.
Greenfield work primarily focused on desktop analysis of the three-year geochemical and geophysical airborne surveys carried out previously. This enabled us to discover new target areas of gold mineralization where test drills will be conducted in 2017.
We continue to conduct geological assessment and research of the different mineral belts to select prospective exploration areas for new license applications. We applied for new exploration licenses over target areas to sustain our project pipeline as exploration matures on our existing licenses.
During the year, Ma’aden allocated a budget of SAR73 million towards greenfields and brownfields mineral exploration for phosphate, potash, bauxite, gold and copper.
Screening of our greenfield gold and copper exploration licenses covering a large area of the Saudi Arabian Shield using geochemistry and geophysics.
- Deep drilling near the Mansourah-Massarah project tested depth extensions of gold mineralization; these results are still being evaluated.
- Resource estimation on a number of other gold prospects, a bauxite prospect and a potash prospect.
- Evaluation of a potash prospect that has yielded a significant pre-resource inventory, which will be tested further in 2017.
- Identification of a large gold target at the Bir Tawilah prospect, located about 15 kilometers from the Mansourah-Massarah feasibility study project.
- Applications for exploration licenses after identifying new target areas based on geological assessment and research of the mineral belts of the Kingdom.
- Ongoing professional development and technical improvement programs for Exploration staff based on best practice in advanced exploration technology and EHSS.
- Multi-disciplinary training workshops for our team, strengthening core competencies in geology, geophysics, geochemistry and data management.