"Our experience and success in PNG has been noted on the international stage, and PNG is rapidly being seen as a significant and welcoming gold region". Speaking in September at the official opening of the Morobe Mining joint venture's Hidden Valley gold mine, Graham Briggs, chief executive of Harmony Gold Mining Co. was full of praise for the support given to the project by the PNG government and the country's Mineral Resources Authority (MRA).

"The experience that we have gained here will stand us in good stead as we continue to seek growth, both within the Morobe Mining joint venture and elsewhere in PNG on Harmony's exploration portfolio," he added.

Briggs also acknowledged the backing given to the project by people within the Hidden Valley district. "While the development of the project has not been without its challenges," he said, "the government and communities of PNG and Morobe Province have provided enormous support, and have worked closely with the company to ensure that the development of Hidden Valley has long-term positive and sustainable consequences in the region".


Brought on stream in June of last year, Hidden Valley brings to seven the number of mines operating in PNG, with several major projects likely to add to that total in the foreseeable future. After some delays earlier this year, the Ramu nickel-cobalt project now seems set to start production in the first quarter of 2011, with plant commissioning already well under way.

Having cost some US$1.4 billion to develop, Ramu represents a significant diversification for PNG in terms of the country's historical focus on copper and gold, with production scheduled to ramp up to the design rate of 31,150 t/y of nickel and 3,300 t/y of cobalt throughout next year.

Nonetheless, copper and gold remain the major targets for most of the nearly 80 companies that have active exploration licences in PNG, with projects ranging in size from grassroots prospecting to the late-stage evaluation of bulk-tonnage porphyry- and epithermal-hosted resources.

As well as its interest in Ramu with China Metallurgical Group Corp. (MCC), Highlands Pacific is in partnership with Xstrata and OMRD at Frieda River, where last year's exploration resulted in a significant increase in resources. These now stand at over 1,000 Mt grading 0.53% copper, 0.29 g/t gold and 0.8g/t silver in the Horse-Ivaal-Trukai porphyry, with a prefeasibility study on what Xstrata has described as "potentially a very significant copper-gold producer in the Asia-Pacific region" due for completion shortly.

Nor is it just newcomers that are evaluating known resources. With open-pit mining currently scheduled to end in 2013, Ok Tedi Mining is now assessing the feasibility of extending the life of the operation in the Western Highlands to 2020. If this proves viable, a combination of open-pit and underground mining will produce around 90 Mt of additional ore, adding 700,000 t of copper and 2.3 Moz of gold to the operation's life-time output. An additional benefit, the company says, would be the production of substantial tonnages of limestone that can be used as dump-capping material during mine-site remediation after closure.

Ok Tedi Mining is also beginning exploration elsewhere in PNG, having signed two farm-in agreements with Frontier Resources. The first covers Frontier's Bulago gold prospect in the Western Highlands, while under the second, Ok Tedi can earn up to 80% in Frontier's three copper prospects on New Britain Island. Overall, Ok Tedi has a US$2.5 million initial exploration commitment in the first year of the agreement.


On the corporate front, this year's most significant event was undoubtedly the merger between PNG-based Lihir Gold and Australia's largest gold producer, Newcrest Mining. Already part of the Morobe Mining partnership with Harmony, since September Newcrest has assumed day-to-day management of Lihir's namesake operation, where the company expects to produce between 800,000 and 870,000 oz this year. The plant expansion to over 1 Moz/y is on schedule for completion next year, while a US$10 million exploration programme, in progress throughout 2010, is expected to result in an increase in the operation's resources, the company says.

With its increased presence in PNG, Newcrest listed its shares on the Port Moresby stock exchange in August, becoming the largest company listed on the exchange, and shortly after began a farm-in arrangement to earn a near-61% stake in the Manus Island joint venture from Triple Plate Junction and its partners. Newcrest is committing $A6 million over five years to evaluate epithermal gold and porphyry copper prospects there.


With its Kainantu mine currently on care-and-maintenance, Barrick Gold Corp. has been focusing its exploration effort on Porgera, with drilling last year on the Project X and AHD areas underground. The company has continued drilling this year with the aim of defining resources at these and several other targets, as well as continuing with its Porgera Deeps programme, seeking high-grade gold mineralisation beneath the existing underground mine workings.

In the Tabar Islands, Allied Gold has been carrying out a prefeasibility study on sulphide-hosted gold resources beneath its Simberi open-pit mine, where a processing-capacity expansion to 3.5 Mt/y of ore is scheduled for the end of 2011. The company aims to take its sulphide resource to full feasibility study the following year, based on a 4.6 Moz resource estimate. It is also continuing exploration for both copper and gold on the Tabar and Tatau Islands, where it is drilling on six epithermal gold prospects.

On Woodlark Island, Woodlark Mining has begun a feasibility study on its gold project there, having completed a scoping study. The resource is now estimated at over 1.6 Moz of gold, with an IPO for Woodlark's parent company, Kula Gold, reportedly in the offing to raise additional development funding.


Beneath the Bismarck Sea, Nautilus Minerals began its 2010 exploration campaign in October, targeting better knowledge of the resource and geotechnical aspects of its Solwara 1 mine-development site, as well as scout drilling at its other deep-sea prospects. Following last year's programme, the company has now identified 18 seabed massive sulphide systems within the Bismarck Sea area, having discovered five new zones during its 2009 work.

Nautilus has been re-engineering its proposed mining system for this unique resource while its application for a mining licence remains under consideration.

At Amazon Bay, MIL Resources has now received an engineering and metallurgical study on its vanadium-rich beach-sands resource, based on a prospective output of 2.5 Mt/y of titano-magnetite concentrate. In August, MIL increased its ownership of Titan Metals, the licence-holder at Amazon Bay, from 50% to 100%, thereby gaining access to the other prospects within Titan's exploration portfolio. These include the Poi copper-gold prospect, where recent rock and soil geochemistry has indicated what the company describes as "a major exploration target".

On the Morobe coast, OM Materials Holdings is targeting chromite resources in beach sands at Sachsen and Hessen Bays. Resource Mining Corp. recently expanded the drilling programme at its Wowo Gap nickel laterite project, while the current focus of Papuan Precious Metals' work is its Doriri Creek platinum-group metals prospect. This, the company believes, is an unusual occurrence of hydrothermal mineralisation within mafic and ultramafic host rocks.


There has been keen interest in new data sets covering radiometrics, aeromagnetics and geochemistry produced within the Geomap project since their publication by the MRA earlier this year. A number of international majors have since bought these data, which have attracted the attention of several junior explorers as well.

Companies across the board are continuing to make progress on their projects, ranging in size from Morobe Mining's Wafi-Golpu (copper-gold) and Marengo Mining's Yandera (copper-gold-molybdenum) to a host of smaller opportunities. The MRA continues to receive a stream of applications for new exploration licences, with new licences being granted as the number of tenements being evaluated increases year-on-year.

PNG has a history of mining that goes back to the late 1800s, often centred on goldfields that are being re-evaluated today. One thing is clear, however: much of PNG's mineral wealth remains to be discovered and with the present improvements in the regulatory climate they are more attractive than ever.

Magnus Ericsson is Senior Partner and Co-Founder of Swedish-based Raw Materials Group, pioneers in mining data compilation and analysis and experienced mineral economists and policy analysts - www.rmg.se .


0 komentar