Shares of Canadian-based junior explorer, Tembo Gold Corp., (TSX-V:TEM) jumped last week on news of the first deep-drilling results at its wholly-owned Tembo Property in the Lake Victoria Goldfield in Tanzania.
The results appear to validate Tembo Gold’s geological game plan and establish the Company’s path towards completing an initial NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate later in 2013.
While senior management is cautious about prestating any resource estimate, industry watchers say that even a conservative guess that Tembo Gold has the potential to become the newest multi-million ounce gold deposit in East Africa.
Such a prospect would quickly bring potential buyers knocking at Tembo Gold’s door. A multi-million once discovery like this would not be the first time that a junior explorer has hit the jackpot in Tanzania. The Lake Victoria Greenstone belt is already home to over 40 million ounces of high-grade gold reserves and several world-class mining operations. With most if not all of the land in the Greenstone belt held by large mining companies, Tembo Gold’s property, which consists of 100km2 that borders a large-scale producing mine operated by one of the world’s biggest gold companies, seems to have the right address.
This neighboring gold mine is the largest operating in the Lake Victoria Greenstone belt and is African Barrick Gold’s (ABG: LSE) Bulyanhulu Mine. It produces 260,000 ounces of gold a year from reserves estimated at more than 13 million ounces. The history of Bulyanhulu will resonate with many investors. Once operated by Placer Dome, the property was acquired in the 1990s by ex-Placer Dome management in a junior exploration company called Sutton Resources. Over the next several years, approximately 8.5 million ounces of gold were discovered until, in 1999, Barrick made an offer that Sutton couldn’t refuse. Barrick then grew the gold resource to over 17 million ounces in less than 18 months via an aggressive exploration program.
Tembo Gold’s President and CEO, David Scott, is himself a former Barrick veteran with many years experience working in Tanzania that gives him intimate knowledge and understanding of Bulyanhulu’s structure and geology. Likewise, Tembo Gold Chairman David Anthony is the former Chief Operating Officer of African Barrick, where he was responsible for the construction and operation of several of its mining operations including Bulyanhulu. Scott’s and Anthony’s conviction that Bulyanhulu’s rich mineral seams extend far and deep into Tembo Gold’s property has been the inspiration behind the junior company’s exploration program. “I always looked over the border to the Tembo property and was certain that the Bulyanhulu structure continued there. This conviction is why when the opportunity to run Tembo came up I was very excited,” says Scott.
Scott told the Engineering and Mining Journal in December 2012: “Tanzania is still under explored, even for gold, which has received the most exploration. Some say that the exploration industry in Tanzania is mature, but the history of any goldfield shows that people continue to make important discoveries 100 years after everything was thought to have been found.”
One of the first things to attract the attention of Tembo Gold’s management’s to the property was the large number of local villagers that have been actively mining the area with artisanal techniques for decades. There are currently more than 2,000 artisanal miners working in more than 100 adits or shafts down to depths of approximately 30-50m where they meet the water table. With only limited capital and rudimentary technology, local miners mine grades of 5 to 58 g/t of gold, worth millions of dollars per year. This mining has, over decades, left a trail of up to 2,800 shallow pits and shafts across Tembo Gold’s property. These local miners’ workings provide Tembo’s geologists with a wealth of information about the underlying gold-bearing structures that they have been able to utilize to identify and prioritize drill targets.
Combining the knowledge obtained from the extensive underground artisanal workings with modern exploration techniques such as ground geophysics, LIDAR surveys and airborne geophysics led Tembo Gold to identify several high priority targets that are being tested in the first phase of an 87,000m drill program. Tembo performed a total of 35,000m of drilling in 2012. Even though the spaces between the holes was relatively wide, often a few hundred meters apart, this exploration methodology had an astonishing 93% success rate with the company intersecting gold mineralization in 53 of 57 diamond drill holes completed to date, with grades as high as 200g/t gold, although typically within the 5 to 25 grams per ton range.
One of the largest hurdles that exploration companies face in Africa is access to infrastructure, such as the existence of paved roads, electricity and water services, and airports. Such infrastructure costs hundreds of millions dollars to develop and this cost is one reason why many discoveries never make it into production. However, for Tembo this infrastructure already exists as it has already been developed for the Bulyanhulu mine next door. “There was limited infrastructure in place before the arrival of Barrick. A lot has been built by or for Barrick Gold and now there is power and water supply,” said Scott upon landing at Bulyanhulu on a recent analyst trip to the Tembo Property.
So the scenario in which Tembo Gold finds itself is that it is a junior gold explorer operating in a known gold-producing region within earshot of one of the world’s largest gold producers that is exploiting a 13-million ounce gold reserve, , and it is now releasing drill results showing extremely high-grade mineralization over mineable widths.
Last week Tembo announced initial deep drilling results from its 2012 drill program. The first deep hole drilled at the Ngula 1 target returned 22.81 grams per tonne gold over 15 metres from a depth of 299 metres, including 34.78 g/t over 9.7 metres from a depth of 302.3 metres, and 205 g/t over one metre. These results support the Company’s geological hypothesis that gold grades improve with depth, as they do at Bulyanhulu.
Tembo performed a total of 35,000m of drilling in 2012. Even as the spaces between the holes were still relatively wide and often a few hundred meters apart, more than 90% of all drill holes intersected gold. Some drill holes intersected over 90 g/t of gold content. Regular findings were within the 5 to 25 grams per ton range.
“Given the robust nature of the structures hosting the mineralization, and these results, our expectation and confidence of discovering multiple parallel laterally and vertically extensive zones of high-grade gold mineralization at depth has increased,” said Scott, “We eagerly anticipate the 2013 drilling program that will be designed to delineate resources and extend the depth and strike of high-grade mineralization at Ngula 1.” he added.
The 2013 exploration campaign consists of in-fill drilling of the shallow zones, with drill spacing on average of approximately 50-metres to improve the company’s understanding and interpretation of the geological structures and to define the gold distribution with a view to modeling a shallow open pit resource potential. Deep drilling is also planned across to cover the 600-metre strike length and to a depth of 300 to 500 meters.
“The grades we are seeing are very significant for us. Assuming these grades and widths continue at depth, we are going to be able to add gold ounces quickly to our resource model. We are excited about what 2013 holds for us and look forward to announcing more drill results later this year,” said Marc Cernovitch, Tembo’s Vice-president of Business Development.
Cernovitch also noted that: “We have been very successful at raising capital as there is a lot of interest in seeing this project drilled deep and quickly. Last year we raised over C$22 million in what was a very tough year for junior exploration companies to raise money.”
49North Resources President and Chief Executive Officer, Tom MacNeill, who is also of a well-respected resource sector fund manager and intimately familiar with the Tembo Gold story, and agrees with Cernovitch’s assessment. “I don’t think Tembo will have much trouble raising capital. When you look at their project, it’s really only ever had shallow drilling. We’ve always been of the opinion that you have to drill deep, because that is where the growth story and potential is. They need to drill more and continue obtaining the excellent results, and then it’s going to get the attention of a lot of market players. It could very well be the next Bulyanhulu.”
MacNeill also believes that the timing is right for Tembo Gold. “Look at the competitive devaluation that the world is facing. The U.S. has a trillion dollar deficit that it’s about to refinance through debt, so it will have a trillion dollar deficit next year too. Japan has said it’s going to devalue its currency. The only way a country gets out of massive encumbrances is to devalue its currency so that it can pay down debt with cheaper dollars. When you have the whole world trying to race to the bottom, that means commodity prices are going to go up dramatically, especially gold.”
Simply put; its tremendous management experience and extensive knowledge of local geology, impressive drill results, active artisanal mining and a neighbor of the magnitude of African Barrick’s Bulyanhulu Mine, mean that the risk/reward profile for Tembo Gold is highly advantageous.
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