Mining & Resources

Chinalco Yunnan Copper Resources’ view on Mount Isa

Paul Williams

Paul Williams, Managing Director of Chinalco Yunnan Copper Resources

In the lead-up to the 9th Annual Exploring and Mining the Isa Conference, we had the chance to speak to Mr Paul Williams, Managing Director of Chinalco Yunnan Copper Resources about the developments of its projects in the Mount Isa region, and the company’s initiatives to engage with local stakeholders and the community.

Mr Paul Williams shares with us what makes Mount Isa an attractive exploration region, CYU’s North West Queensland projects, and how CYU sustains its projects in a challenging environment.

Chinalco Yunnan Copper Resources is actively exploring in the North West Queensland Mineral Province (NWQMP), centred on the Mount Isa-Cloncurry region. Could you share some insight into what makes this province an attractive region for explorers?

Paul: Since its listing on the ASX back in late 2007, CYU has had a focus on exploration in the Mount Isa-Cloncurry region. This region is well known around the world for its historic and current mining operations, as being an extensively mineralised province with substantial potential.

Some very large mining groups (including Glencore) have a strong presence in the region. Others such as MMG (Dugald River) CuDeco (Rocklands) and WH Soul Pattinson (CopperChem) are about to expand their operations significantly.

In addition, the region has well-established infrastructure and a willingness among key stakeholders (government, landowners, and indigenous communities) to work with the mining and exploration industry.

CYU also sees substantial potential for significant mineral discoveries that are deeper than what have been traditionally been targeted by the exploration companies and that are more likely to become underground mines.

You are currently exploring assets in North West Queensland. Can you give us more details about the potential of the projects and your achievements so far? What are the next stages to advance the projects further?

Paul: CYU either holds or is farming into an area of mining tenures that cover more than 1000km2 in the Mount Isa-Cloncurry region. The principal target of CYU’s exploration efforts are the deep crustal faults (Pilgrim and Cameron Faults) which specifically intersect other faults and splays, thereby providing bounding structures to “trap” the mineralised fluids.

CYU believes there is potential for a number of different target styles of deposit within its tenure package, including:

  • Multi-metal deposits associated with deep crustal fluid flow along major faults (deposits such as Kalman and CYU’s own Elaine prospect)
  • IOCG systems (Ernest Henry, Eloise and Little Eva)
  • Stratabound copper (Rocklands, Roseby)
  • Stratabound lead-zinc (Dugald River)
  • Copper in shear zones (Mt Colin and Barbara).

To date, CYU has established a JORC-inferred resource of 27.7million tonnes with a contained metal content of 147,000 tonnes copper and 75,000 ounces gold at its Elaine prospect. In addition, drilling programs during 2013 and earlier this year have established significantly mineralised systems at the Millennium and Jubilee/Blue Caesar prospects.

CYU’s exploration team proposes the following activities across its tenure package:

  • Another drilling program at Jubilee/Blue Caesar (which has just commenced) which is designed to test the strike length and depth of the existing known Cu/Au mineralisation in these prospects
  • A deep-penetrating electrical geophysical survey at Millenium to test the mineralised zones at depth and thereby create further certainty around future drilling targets
  • Further geochemical sampling and mapping at the Native Companion prospect, ahead of a drilling program later this year
  • Completing the 55km phase 1 soil geochemical program along the Pilgrim Fault, prior to commencement of subsequent phase 2 and 3 programs to be conducted within tighter intervals.

From your perspective, what role do you think new technology can play in discovering new deposits?

Paul: At the present time, CYU is focussing “on the basics” with its exploration efforts, as it conducts an extensive regional geochemical survey across its tenure package, before then focussing more specifically on target zones.

An associate of CYU’s largest shareholder based in Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province, has previously made available to CYU its deep-penetrating EH4 geophysics technology. This technology produces high-resolution 2D images of geological structures by detecting and mapping variations in subsurface conductivity/resistivity to depths of up to 1.2kms below the land surface. CYU is not aware of any similar technology being utilised in the region previously. In the right geological settings, there is potential for this technology to be utilised by CYU in the future.

Chinalco-yunnan-copper-resourcesConsidering current market conditions, what are the main challenges to successfully developing a new project? And how is Chinalco sustaining its projects?

Paul: The key issues confronting CYU in the pursuit of its exploration activities are largely twofold:

  • Attracting sufficient investor support to raise the capital needed for future exploration activities;
  • Establishing a Mount Isa based exploration team.

CYU has just completed a rights issue to existing shareholders and successfully raised about $5.7m. This is a significant achievement in the current market conditions, where exploration companies are continuing to find it difficult to access funds. Of course, CYU is unique (and very fortunate) to have the ongoing support of its largest shareholder (the Chinalco Group) in this regard.

In the case of a local Mount Isa workforce, CYU has transitioned from a “fly in, fly out” exploration team to one that comprises locally resident employees only. CYU sees this as a critical component of its future activities in the region, as it not only ensures a consistent “hands-on” presence in the region, but ensures that CYU makes a contribution to the local community.

In light of your upcoming project in the region, what are some of the initiatives in place to engage with local stakeholders, communities and businesses?

Paul: CYU has a well-established engagement with its key stakeholders – whether that be the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, local businesses that service our activities, owners of land where we are exploring, or the Kalkadoon People and other indigenous groups.

A significant amount of CYU time and effort is dedicated to ensuring that we have good relations with our stakeholders, as that will enable CYU (if it discovers a commercial mining deposit) to proceed through the relevant approvals phases not only in a timely fashion, but with proper regard for the rights and interests of those parties who will affected by the proposed mine.

As a special contribution to the local indigenous community in Cloncurry, CYU is in the second year of a sponsorship of the Young Indigenous Art & Literacy Program that is promoted by the Children’s Charity Network, for schools in the Cloncurry Region.

Set out below is some feedback from last year’s program:

Report by award-winning author and ambassador for the Children’s Charity Network literacy program, Majory Gardner, who conducted workshops at the Cloncurry Primary Schools and the High School as an example. 

I very much enjoyed my time in Cloncurry, working with students at both primary and high schools to enhance their literacy skills and to help them to discover a love of books and reading. They responded very well to the instructive lessons we gave. 

English is a second language for some of these children. I shared the stories from my books with them and told them about how each had come to be written, and they shared their own stories of their pets and other animals from their community with me. Once started, they became enthusiastic learners and were excited by the idea of writing their own books especially with a dreamtime theme. We wrote poems and drew pictures, and also wrote and performed a musical rap – complete with enthusiastic sound effects! – based on our common topic. 

I also worked on language activities, focusing on rhythm and rhyme, with lots of movement and role play. Teachers commented on how engaged the students were, and I noticed how they carried the activities out to the playground with them at the end of the sessions. 

This was a wonderful opportunity to forge links with schools in this area, and it would be wonderful to be able to continue developing them.

Report by presenter and award-winning children’s book author Marc McBride 

During my visit to the High Schools and the Primary schools in Cloncurry, I conducted a mix of ‘meet the author’ presentations and ‘hands-on’ creative writing and illustration workshops to students ranging from year 3 through to year 12. My intentions were to increase engagement with reading, to motivate an appreciation and enjoyment of writing and art, and to encourage creativity in general, and creative writing in particular. 

The Chinalco Yunnan sponsorship has enabled us to promote literacy to these remote schools. It was warmly received by teachers and all participants. Writers and illustrators who can empower students with the knowledge to express story in written form and visual literacy are always valued in remote schools. 

All teachers were welcoming and receptive and were pleased to follow up with work commenced in the workshops. The young Aboriginal children were extremely interested and followed the tutoring they received with great enthusiasm. Some are very gifted and I have no doubt that this may the beginnings of something special for many of these children. I will follow their development with interest.

You will be speaking at the 9th Annual Exploring and Mining the Isa Conference, what discussions would you like to have with your industry peers at the conference?

Paul: I will be keen to get an assessment from other industry participants about how they see activities in the region and whether these are consistent with our own.

Join Paul at the Exploring and Mining the Isa Conference in October at Mount Isa Civic Centre. For more information about the conference agenda and to register, please visit the conference website.

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