Metals: Gold, Silver
Location: Santa Cruz, Argentina
Status: Operating Mine/Expansion stage
Deposit Type: High grade epithermal
Very accessible, skilled labor, water, power, paved roads
Located in the mineral rich Deseado Massif in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina. Minera Don Nicolas (MDN) is an open pit gold mine with an associated 1,000 tpd carbon in leach (CIL) gold recovery plant, targeting to produce 45-55koz/yr gold doré. Current operations are focused on two mining areas, La Paloma and Martinetas, with material processed at a central plant facility. The project has significant exploration potential with a land package in excess of 333,400 ha.
Sulfuro pit looking south
Construction of the facility was completed in 2017 and has been ramping up to full capacity during 2018 and 2019. Current mining operations are conducted in two areas; the high grade La Paloma deposit and the Martinetas deposits, which are approximately 30km apart. Material is processed through a 1,000 tpd CIL plant located near the Cerro Oro (Martinetas) pit. The project currently supports 325 employees and contractors on a fly-in fly-out basis. Don Nicolas has strong regional backing having signed agreements with the two neighboring communities and has received strong support from the government of Santa Cruz.
Sulfuro pit looking south
The process plant is operated and maintained by our own team consisting of 106 employees.
Material mined is processed via a traditional crushing and grinding circuit followed by a carbon in leach circuit for gold recovery. The rated capacity of the plant is 1,000 tpd, however, higher rates of up to 1,200 tpd have been realized. Gold recovery is expected to average over 90%.
Power for the plant and other services is provided by five 1MVA gas fired generators of which 2 are on standby. A diesel back-up generator is also available to supply critical needs
CIL Plant overhead view
Geology & Exploration
The epithermal gold deposits are characterized as low sulphidation, epithermal vein mineralization hosted in a volcanic complex (Deseado Massif). The mineralization is hosted in sub vertical dipping quartz breccias and veins in the volcanic complex.
At La Paloma, the Sulfuro vein is a single vein structure consisting of breccia and vein. It has been traced along strike for over 12 km. Work continues to define the structure and the numerous parallel and sub-parallel targets nearby.
The Martinetas area includes several deposits most notably Cerro Oro which consists of a swarm of veins hosted in highly altered volcanic rocks and spatially related to nearby sinter and silica cap rocks. This represents the upper part of the epithermal vein system.
MDN controls concessions totaling 333,400 ha and exploration efforts to date have been focused on the Martinetas and La Paloma mining areas with only modest work performed on the remaining mineral concessions. Currently there are 12 high priority (brownfield) targets to follow up where limited drilling has occurred, as well as numerous other less developed (greenfield) targets. In addition, drilling to date has only been for open pittable targets (<100 metres depth) and not at depth. Most of the drill holes are between 50 to 100 metres and the deepest only around 250m. As such, there remains significant underground potential to expand the resources.