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Exploration and innovation at SolGold

Following a busy week at the Mines and Money conference in London, SolGold has taken time to reflect on the key themes and how it has combined innovation with exploration to achieve outstanding results and shareholder value.

From its mascot Solly (the dinosaur on the front of company presentations) to drilling nearly 2,000m with a man-portable rig, SolGold has always sought to do things a little differently. It believes this innovative approach, which is often criticised by those wanting to follow the norm, is starting to pay dividends now.

Starting with the company’s willingness to take on Ecuador back in 2012, it now has first-mover advantage and the largest tenement holding in one of the world’s hottest mining jurisdictions.

In addition to being recognised among its Latin American peers at the Mines and Money awards in Toronto, Ecuador was triumphant on the international stage at the London awards, fighting off competition from Armenia, Colombia, Ontario and Queensland to win Most Innovative Country or Region. 

SolGold’s innovation in its exploration strategy has resulted in 10 of the best 40 porphyry copper-gold intersections in history at the Cascabel project and exciting initial results from La Hueca project in southern Ecuador were also recognised.

Pushing the limits

Working with an Ecuadorian drilling contractor, HP Hubbard Perforaciones, SolGold has pushed the limits of using a man-portable drilling rig, reaching depths of 1,970m. To save 3 weeks and US$350,000 per hole, the company also introduced deviated drilling. Unlike with traditional core drilling, deviated drilling creates multiple branch holes from a mother hole, enabling much more geological information from the one hole and obviates the need to move the drill rig and then waste more time drilling through the same overburden.

The innovative approach extends to SolGold’s development plans for Cascabel. While most would head straight for an open-pit mine, SolGold is planning a block cave.

In essence, block caving involves carefully undermining an ore body at its base, allowing it to crumble and collapse under its own weight. The ore is then removed via specially designed chutes and brought to the surface for processing.

While block caving entails longer mine preparation and therefore higher up-front expenses, ongoing operating costs are lower because fewer explosives have to be used and less labour is required. As a result, block caving is more environmentally friendly and on first estimates SolGold believes it can halve the capex of a 40 million tonne a year mine using block caving.

As a result of the company’s desire to do things differently, both SolGold and its CEO were recognised on an international stage and for the second time in as many months by winning the Exploration Award and CEO of the Year – Exploration in London at the Mines and Money Annual Awards dinner.

  • Written by Investor Torque (www.investortorque.com)