|Soltera Mining Developing Historic Argentine Goldmine|
By James West
Some of the largest gold deposits in the world are currently under development in Argentina, a country whose past political problems have precluded the exploration over the bulk of its vast 2.8 million square kilometers.
Barrick (NYSE:ABX) is developing the $2.4 billion Pascua-Lama project, Pascua-Lama has proven and probable reserves of 17.0 million ounces of gold, and contains 689 million ounces of silver, and 565 million pounds of copper, within the gold reserves. It has an estimated mine life of 23 years. Located on the border of Argentina and Chile, this project will benefit from existing infrastructure, processing, staffing, and community development programs at Barrick’s Veladero mine, within ten kilometers.
Soltera Mining (OTCBB:SLTA, Frankfurt: SN7) is also developing a past producing mine with the potential to prove up a sizable deposit.
The El Torno project is located in the Andean Cordillera in the extreme northwest of Argentina near the international borders with Bolivia and Chile. The property consists of five mining rights covering a total area of 7,800 hectares. Soltera has an agreement with the titleholder that includes payments totaling US$350,000 to June 2010 and an obligation to spend US$1 million on exploration during the first two years of the agreement. Various additional payments can be made to extend the exploration period, and Soltera has an option to acquire additional mineral titles.
Historically, El Torno is a large gold-rich quartz vein up to 14 km long and 14 m wide that was worked by the Incas, Jesuits and Spanish and has more than 1,000 m of underground galleries. The vein extends north-south, is sub-vertical, and is accompanied in places by a stockwork system of small quartz and pyrite veins that can extend up to 300 m from the main vein.
The prospect was investigated by Puma Minerals in 1997 who carried out more than 2,100 m of drilling; then by Peñoles in 1999, who undertook trenching, grab sampling, geological surveying as well as a geophysical IP survey. Soltera believes results from these two former exploration programs justify further exploration of the prospect.
Soltera’s management believes a comprehensive exploration program employing modern technologies should result in the discovery of a substantial gold deposit.
During the last quarter of 2007, geochemical stream sediments were sampled to evaluate the presence of mineralization along and around the whole gold-quartz vein system, as well as in specific areas of the stockwork. Soltera is now awaiting the analytical results of these geochemical assays from a Canadian chemical laboratory, the results of which will be announced in February.
In November, the exploration team commenced structural geological mapping and is currently re-interpreting the geological structures associated with mineralization. Evidence to date suggests that the gold-quartz veining is different from previous interpretations and the mineralization could be more widespread than previously thought.
This activity will be followed in the first quarter of 2008 by trenching and geophysical surveys in order to define precise drilling targets for the second quarter of 2008.
The company currently has approx. US$800,000 in the bank. These funds are sufficient to fund exploration through to May 2008. Soltera has commitments from existing shareholders for additional funding for the Spring Drill Program.
Soltera is headed by Fabio Montanari, who joined the company as CEO in August last year.
Dr. Montanari brings to Soltera a distinguished international mining career spanning over twenty-five years. Included is senior experience spearheading advanced exploration and mining activities for a host of internationally recognized exploration and mining companies in North, Central and West Africa, South America, Europe, Canada and the United States. Dr. Montanari's responsibilities have encompassed various mining engineering, operations, pre-feasibility and general management positions, including business development roles at the corporate management level.
Dr. Montanari currently serves as a Director for RGM of Cagliari Italy, an advisory firm specializing in mining exploration, project assessment, and evaluation, and holds a doctorate degree in economic geology from the University of Ferrara, Italy. Additionally, he is the author of a textbook on economic geology, which has been adopted by several major Italian universities.
Other major mines in Argentina include:
• The Alumbrera Mine in Northwest Argentina, owned jointly by Northern Orion (AMEX:NTO), Xstrata PLC (LSE:XTA), and Goldcorp (NYSE:GG), is one of the world’s largest copper gold mines and also one of the world’s lowest cash cost copper producers, with contained copper reserves of 385,000 tonnes of copper and 1.8 million ounces of gold
• The Agua Rica Mine is also in Northwest Argentina, only 34 km from the Alumbrera mine, has drill defined metal inventory of 21.8 billion pounds of copper, 13.3 million ounces of gold and 1.7 billion pounds of molybdenum. Agua Rica is owned 100% by Northern Orion, who was recently the subject of a successful takeover bid by Yamana Gold (NYSE:YAU), who also swallowed Meridian Gold (NYSE:MDG) in the process.
• Marifil Mines (TSX.V:MFM) has a strong portfolio of 34 advanced and early stage exploration projects covering more than 395,000 hectares of prospective ground throughout Argentina. The key targets include both precious metals and base metal finds
near existing mines, as well as in areas that previously have been unexplored.
• Rio Tinto PLC (NYSE:RTP) operates a large potash operation in Argentina, and is also exploring several large areas for precious metals.