How three geologists discovered copper, diamond and gold deposits

Well-respected economic geologist and newsletter writer Brent Cook held an awesome panel at the Sprott Vancouver Natural Resources Symposium last week, which was the best conference we’ve been to so far this year.

Cook’s panel guests were Tim Coughlin, President of Tigris, who previously discovered the Amulsar gold deposit in Armenia for Lydian, and is now focused in Turkey. Eira Thomas, co-discoverer of the Diavik diamond mine, and current president of Yukon gold developer, Kaminak Gold was next to be introduced by Mr. Cook. “To her credit, she’s the only woman I know who found the diamonds she wears.”

Finally, Miles Thompson was introduced. Thompson and Cook go way back. Thompson had worked for Goldfields, and put together the property package that eventually resulted in the discovery of the Timok deposit in Serbia.

Cook explained his goal for the panel was to give listeners a better sense of the discovery process, what works and what doesn’t. He started by asking the three guests to explain what went into their particular discoveries.

Miles Thompson likes to hunt for deposits in already well endowed districts.

“It’s not rocket science, basically its about real estate. I’ve worked for many years in Brazil and I’ve owned over the years 3 portfolios of properties in the Caradas (SP) district. There’s a whole bunch of mines there, spectacular geology, and I’ve made money on each of the three portfolios. It was the same approach with Timok. I went there originally in 2004 for Goldfrields, looking at buying some stuff and privatization. To be in a belt, that well endowed, these are the largest copper mines in Europe, and nobody had done any exploration in 20 years, because of the collapse of Former Yugoslavia. You had the ability to buy ground which you would get nowhere near if you were in the Andes or a well known copper belt. Over the last ten years we picked up whatever properties we could. We had to kind of be persistent. We originally picked up ground that’s turned out to be not worth very much. Bit by bit we’ve added to the portfolio and now we have at least a couple of discoveries and it’s really a question of just process, and being in good real estate. You have to be in a well endowed district.”

Speed, science and years of perseverance drove Ms. Eira Thomas’s Diavik diamond discovery.

“Continuing from Miles’s comment about endowment, it is so important to have the right endowment. What we don’t always recognize as geologists is where the best endowment is. I would say it’s very key to underpin any of your strategy with good science. Maybe that sounds obvious but [people] lose sight of the important foundation of tackling these projects with good science. So in the case of the diamond discoveries in Northern Canada, this is kind of classic. This is an area where the potential for diamonds was really never recognized, even though from first basic principles it was a good place to explore for diamonds. It was two geologists, Chuck Fipke and (SP), who became educated on what could represent good endowment for diamonds and decided that Northern Canada had been overlooked and represented a great potential endowment. It was their initiative, their perseverance, because this wasn’t an easy exercise. This is a part of the world that’s remote and expensive to operate in, and diamonds are a particularly challenging commodity because they take a long time to explore for and ultimately develop into producing mines. They went about this exercise and it was a ten year commitment to prove up their thesis that this was an area that could be prospective for diamonds. We were very fortunate to be riding on their coat tails, in the sense that they were the first movers, once the discovery was made our company, which was a little junior called Aber Resources at the time, was able to move fast, because we’d worked in that part of the world, mostly exploring for other commodities, so we quickly went out and sought expertise in this area. We went out to experts, we found a doctorate in diamond geology in South Africa and sought his advice on where we should be acquiring land in this area. So we to could get down to the business of exploring for diamonds. We kind of came into it secondary, but at the end of the day, we ended up with some fantastic ground and ultimately that resulted after about another five years of persistent exploration in the discovery of Diavik, which was developed as Canada’s second diamond mine, and is considered, even to this day, the world’s richest.”

Tim Coughlin’s concept started with a country becoming friendly for mining, along a known metal belt. He then flew there and got in his car and the rest was history.

“The secret is to make sure you keep your eyes open out of the car window. The bottom line story is we found Amulsar in Armenia, it’s now about 4.2-3 million ounces, getting bigger, driving down the road going somewhere else. The fact of the matter is, we had a strategy and we had conviction about that strategy, and quite a bit of science as well. Our strategy was a first mover strategy. We were selecting as a opposed to geological regions, we were selecting countries to start with. We were looking in 2003, we started to put our eyes on America, and made the discovery at Amulsar in 2005. In 2003 they released a new mining law that we thought was workable. We knew broadly that there was a belt that went from turkey through armenia and into Iron… We knew that little country in the middle there hosted potential to have gold products. But then what we did is something I’ve done quite routinely in my career when we go to new countries is what’s called a time space analysis. And that’s a very basic desktop study, essentially running through the available literature, and plodding what is the consensus behind the age between different types of rocks, and the age of different types of defamation events, and then where they overlap. Next to that, we put a histogram of metal endowment (either gold or copper tonnage, versus the age). Very simply in one simple graphic format which takes about two weeks to do, we can see the major episodes of gold are copper in placement are, which rocks they’re related to, which rocks are older than them, and that very quickly hones you into an area. If may not find you a deposit, but it does give you that scientific conviction to look harder. That’s what took us initially to Armenia, then ultimately the discovery was made driving down the road going somewhere else.”

Watch part one of the panel here:

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