Ivanhoe Electric JV kicks off Saudi exploration campaign

Crew working at the Al Amar belt, Saudi Arabia. Credit: Ivanhoe Electric

Ivanhoe Electric (NYSE American, TSX: IE) has kicked off one of the biggest mineral expeditions ever in Saudi Arabia alongside its 50/50 joint venture partner, the state-owned mining company Ma’aden, on parts of the vast underexplored land made available by the kingdom.

The joint venture was formally established in July 2023, funded with an initial working capital of $66 million from Ma’aden’s $127.1 million investment into Ivanhoe’s common stock, for a 9.9% equity interest in the Canadian copper miner.

Following the investment, the JV was granted exclusive access to approximately 48,500 kmof land on the Arabian Shield. Ivanhoe is the operator during the exploration phase. Ma’aden will assume operatorship if an economically viable deposit is found.

“It has been a little over a year since we initiated discussions with Ma’aden, resulting in Ma’aden’s significant investment in Ivanhoe Electric and the establishment of our Saudi Arabian exploration joint venture in July. Only a few months later, our joint venture commenced the most ambitious metallic minerals exploration program the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has ever seen,” Ivanhoe Electric executive chairman Robert Friedland said in a statement.

The focus of exploration will be on three areas: the Al Amar belt (initially around Ma’aden’s existing Al Amar mine), and the Wadi Bidah and Bir Umq belts. Together, these belts cover over 4,000 km2 of land, comprising a total of 57 exploration licences.

Al Amar is considered highly prospective for volcanic massive sulphide (VMS) and epithermal deposit types, with historical drilling intersecting mineralization close to Ma’aden’s operating Al Amar gold and copper mine, which is not part of the JV.

The exploration licence immediately targeted for initial exploration activities is known as Umm Ash Shalahib, which largely surrounds the Al Amar mine. The target area covers 65 km2, the same size as Ivanhoe’s Tintic project in Utah, with a number of precious and base metal occurrences reported by Ma’aden. Historical drilling returned an intercept of 10 metres at 1.13% copper and 12.9% zinc.

Wadi Bidah is located between 220 and 270 km southeast of Jeddah and about 50 km north of Ma’aden’s Al Hijar gold mine, also not included in JV. This area has relatively limited data with its more challenging topography and local communities impacting both airborne and groundwork. The Bir Umq belt is also largely unmapped and unexplored. These two belts will become the focus of exploration activities in mid-2024.

To aide the exploration efforts on areas such as Wadi Bidah, Ivanhoe said it will deploy its proprietary Typhoon technology, which has the capabilities to survey for the presence of sulphide minerals potentially containing copper, nickel, gold and silver.

The initial Typhoon survey is to be conducted by the JV will be over the entirety of the Umm Ash Shalahib area and the Al Amar mining licence. The intention is to produce first data inversions by the end of 2023.