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Noronex launches maiden drilling in Kalahari Desert

Updated: Apr 16

A Noronex drill rig at its Fiesta copper prospect. Credit: File

Noronex is out of the starting gates and running after launching its maiden 4000m reverse-circulation (RC) drilling program to test its high-priority Fiesta and Blowhole targets within the Kalahari Copper Belt (KCB) in Namibia.

The program at the company’s Humpback project has kicked off less than a month after management signed the drilling contract to explore its sediment-hosted copper targets at the world-renowned – but underexplored – desert site. It says it has already plunged its first two drillholes through 70m of Kalahari top cover at Fiesta, successfully intercepting the prospective mineralised contact.

Noronex says the rig has already started on its third drillhole at Fiesta, with more slated to follow before it moves to the Blowhole prospect, 130km to the north-east and near the international border with Botswana. The company is fully funded for the drill program following a recent placement and underwritten entitlement issue.

Fiesta is one of several prospects that the company has identified in its extensive tenement ground that covers two contiguous project areas – Damara Duplex and Humpback. It is along strike from the Blowhole prospect, where historical drilling defined a steeply-dipping 3.5km-long sheet of mineralisation corresponding to the prospective “NPF-D’Kar” contact horizon on the northern limb of an overturned antiformal structure.

The Damara and Humpback projects combine for a strike of more than 150km of the mineralised sheared contact between the Ngwana Pan Formation and the overlying Lower D’Kar Formation (the NPF-D’Kar contact). It has long been recognised as a key contact zone that hosts copper and silver mineralisation throughout the world-renowned KCB in Namibia and extends into Botswana at least as far as Maun.

Management says previous anomalous drill intercepts at Fiesta, which include 8m at 2.5 per cent copper and 9m at 1.8 per cent copper with 82 grams per tonne silver, exhibit typical hallmarks of other deposits defined in Botswana, more than 400km to the east. They include Cupric Canyon’s Zone 5 project that contains 167 million tonnes at 2 per cent copper.

It is great to be back in Namibia with the rig turning following up historical known copper mineralisation at the Fiesta Project. Using Reverse Circulation (RC) drilling we are effectively getting through the expected Kalahari cover of 70m and intersecting the target horizon. We are now onto our third drill hole at the Fiesta Project with several more holes to come before the rig moves to the highly prospective Blowhole prospect where targets are defined on a sheared fold closure on a domal target. We look forward to putting the maiden drill holes into Blowhole. Noronex chief geologist Bruce Hooper

The company’s flurry of activity follows hard on the heels of its disclosure late last month that it had made two new full permit applications near Blowhole, adjacent to the international border with Botswana. It will add an additional 1650 square kilometres to its KCB footprint, bringing the company’s exploration portfolio area in Namibia to about 8700sq km and securing its early place in the stable of explorers in the increasingly-busy Kalahari copper camp.

The Blowhole prospect lies about 10km north of Noronex’s new applications and less than 10km west of the Botswana border. Aeromagnetic surveys confirm Blowhole’s direct strike continuity with the same sheared antiformal D’Kar-NPF contact that hosts mineralisation at Cobre’s Ngami and Thul prospects, less than 100km to the north-east in Botswana, where Cobre has reported several encouraging intersections, including 10.7m at 1.3 per cent copper under shallow cover.

The KCB is regarded as a future hotspot for major copper discoveries. Despite solid recent activity, the belt remains significantly underexplored – but it is showing signs of being able to rival the copper-cobalt belts of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Several junior explorers have launched drilling programs in the past two years in the hunt for tier-one and two copper discoveries. But the majors are slowly catching up, with Rio Tinto amassing large exploration acreage in the region.

The KCB is almost twice the size of the Central African Copper Belt (CACB) and extends for about 1000km between Botswana and Namibia, with almost 60 per cent located in the former country. There are limited rock exposures within the KCB, as almost the entire belt is buried under between 10m and 100m of Kalahari desert sediments.While the KCB mineralisation style is similar to the CACB, it remains grossly underexplored due to the surface cover that obscures the prospective mineralised rocks and limits easy access. Consequently, the KCB produces only a fraction of the annual copper supply from Zambia and the DRC.

In 2019, combined copper production from Namibia and Botswana was 14,000 tonnes, equivalent to just 0.07 per cent of the world’s total.

The CACB is a 450km-long geological feature that extends between the southern DRC and northern Zambia. Its rocks are generally well exposed and can be mapped across its series of outcrops.

It was mined for centuries by locals for both copper and silver and has revealed spectacular grades in its copper deposits, averaging between 1 and 4 per cent, compared to the world’s O.4 per cent average. Moreover, its copper is associated with high grades of cobalt and silver.

The CACB produces 2.2 million tonnes of copper per year, equating to 11 per cent of the world’s supply and it is also the biggest global cobalt producer.

Namibia and Botswana are among Africa’s top mining jurisdictions, but are only now starting to offer up a new and potentially vast copper mining camp potential.

The Unites States Geological Society said in 2020 that, “The Kalahari Copper Belt is regarded as one of the world’s most prospective areas for yet-to-be-discovered sediment-hosted copper deposits”.

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