In a previous article titled ‘Let Your Project Fund Itself – another avenue for the Juniors to consider’, I looked at the possibilities for Juniors to fund their project through the implementation of successive manageable steps. This seems to have struck a chord and indeed stage; fund your mine through starting small was the buzz topic at the just ended PDAC.
What seems to have missed the mark, however, is that this approach is not the exclusive preserve of the Juniors, anyone can play. What is more, private entrants do not have to lock into the growth cycle to make a highly successful project or business – the appropriate scale may be very small, period. Vast numbers of ore resources exist, especially here in central Africa, that are far too small to register on the scale, but which nevertheless contain perfectly viable amounts of gold. In fact, it’s not just restricted to gold, other minerals qualify too, like tantalite and tin for example. These deposits would probably not stand the cost of extensive exploration drilling, but should that be a prerequisite for operation? In most cases there is some pre-history or at least some prospect exploration has been done to establish that some resource is present. In this sector the speculative nature of the game is well understood and catered for; it is not about a massively long project life, but a viable one whilst it lasts. And the very nature of these deposits means that there are plenty more where the last one came from. Yes, it is a speculative play with an establishment risk, but so too is drilling speculative until or unless it intersects something.
The fact of the matter is that a large number of these deposits are being worked in this fashion right now, have been in the past and always will be, so the viability of the model is unquestionable. In Zimbabwe for example more than 400 small mines are operating as I write. We are not talking of artisanal activity here; this is formal mining, albeit on a small scale, like the typical Smallworker operations that dominated the early African mining explosion at the beginning of the last century. Just what proportion of a countries’ total mineral production comes from small scale is probably difficult to quantify, but I am willing to bet that it is far more than has been attributed. In Zimbabwe for example a figure of over 50% is mooted.
We at APT take this Smallworker sector very seriously and each one of our modules is available from 1.5tph through to 250tph as a stand-alone processing entity to fit every scale. The low capital is obviously of importance to this sector, but equally so is the truly comprehensive nature of the plants. Everything is supplied, ready to run, and with a very short lead time. The modular nature also lends a degree of flexibility and comfort in that the operation can be easily translocated or modified to a successive application in a very short time. Never before has it been so easy to get started and whether its process proving, a step along the way to a bigger play, or a serious small operation in its own right, APT plants tick off the processing box. Fund your mine yourself.
Fig 1: A small 12tph hard rock crushing and impact milling plant for the recovery of free gold