One Of The Most Essential Substances In The World Is Making A Comeback
The Bongará Zinc Mine
By Don Hauka
Let's face it - there's nothing sexy about zinc. Bathers who sport the thick, white zinc oxide on their noses at the beach may be avoiding sunburn, but they're also usually being avoided by just about everybody else. To most consumers, zinc is something taken in vitamins or supplements to boost the immune system or regulate digestion. But, getting excited about those unglamorous qualities is hard.
But "boring" zinc is also quietly one of the most essential substances in the world. As the fourth most-used metal, it is needed for just about everything: infrastructure, galvanizing steel, and making everything from solar cells to nuclear reactors. Agriculture depends on it, and so do disruptive technologies like the latest zinc batteries. The bottom line is that the need for zinc is ubiquitous.
This often overlooked and under-appreciated metal may not be taken for granted much longer. Even as demand is increasing, supply is shrinking, and consequently, zinc prices are on the rise. The race to find a reliable, cost-effective supply of near-surface zinc is underway, as suppliers with depleted stockpiles scramble to meet rising global demands.
"That's our main advantage here – the richness of these deposits at or near the surface is what gives us an edge." - Bill Williams, Senior Advisor, Zinc One Resources Inc.
All eyes on the zinc-rich "Eyebrow of the Jungle" in Peru
The "Eyebrow of the Jungle" in north-central Peru is poised to become the focus of that race. That's where Vancouver-based Zinc One Resources Inc. (TSXV: Z) has its flagship Bongará Zinc Mine and Charlotte-Bongará Zinc Projects. The company focuses on the acquisition, exploration, and development of prospective and advanced zinc projects in mining-friendly jurisdictions like Peru. The company – which has a market cap of $8.57M – acquired the Bongará Mine and Charlotte-Bongará Projects in June 2017 when it purchased Forrester Metals Inc.
Drilling at Bongará
Interim CEO, Gunther Roehlig, says Zinc One is on a fast-track to start production.
"One of our main advantages is we're on the fast-track to permitting. We could have these projects permitted within 18 to 24 months," says Roehlig. "We can mine 500 tonnes per day and produce 30,000 tonnes per year of zinc net."
The Bongará Zinc Mine Project was in production from 2007 to 2008 but shut down in the wake of the global financial crisis and accompanying crash of zinc prices. Before its closure, past production included over 20 per cent zinc grades and recoveries over 90 per cent from surface and near-surface non-sulfide mineralization.
Bongará Mine and Charlotte-Bongará Projects enjoy local support
Bill Williams, Senior Advisor at Zinc One, says the Peruvian government and local communities are excited at the prospect of the mine reopening.
"They saw what it was like when the mine was operating – jobs were created, and there was a lot of economic activity in the region. They also saw the slowdown that came with the mine closure. So, they are quite keen to see Zinc One come in and try to revive the project."
The signing of a community agreement validated the company's strong local support in July 2017.
Charlotte-Bongará and other drilling results "just incredible"
While the prospect of reviving the Bongará Mine is good news for Peru and the company, what has Zinc One even more excited are the test results from last season's ambitious drilling program at Charlotte-Bongará. Over 8,000m of drilling including results of 38.7 per cent Zn across 49.5m, 46.8 per cent Zn across 19.8m, and 37.0 per cent Zn across 39.6m, all of which were encountered within seven meters of the surface.
In February 2019, Zinc One announced the first NI 43-101-compliant Mineral Resource estimate for the Bongará Zinc Mine. The estimate consists of an Indicated Mineral Resource of 812,000 tonnes averaging 18.9 per cent Zn containing 339 million lbs of Zn at 10 per cent Zn cut-off and an Inferred Mineral Resource of 1.3 million tonnes averaging 16.8 per cent Zn containing 496 million lbs of Zn at 10 per cent Zn cut-off.
Zinc One Presentation 43-101 page
Combined, drilling results for the Bongará Zinc Mine Project and Charlotte-Bongará Zinc Project show a substantial high-grade, zinc-oxide resource along an eight km-long trend.
Mining process has small environmental footprint
The company plans to use open-pit mining and process the ore using Waelz Kiln technology, which has a minimal environmental footprint and requires very little water. It will produce a zinc-oxide concentrate with up to 70 per cent zinc and can then be shipped 540km westward to the coast. Good existing local infrastructure is another plus for the project.
"Because of the previous mine, there's an improved gravel road that goes to the site, about 20km from a paved, two-lane east-west highway that goes across Northern Peru," says Williams.
"We're about 540km from the port facility on the coast where we would export the concentrate."
If all goes according to plan, the operation will start production in 2021 – an incredibly fast-track in the zinc space.
Fast-track permitting, rich, accessible deposits give Zinc One an edge
Williams has extensive on-the-ground experience in Peru and South America. An economic geologist, he's a former chief executive officer, director and president of Orvana Minerals Corp. He's also been a consultant to the mining industry and holds a PhD in Economic Geology from the University of Arizona.
Williams speaks from experience when he says Zinc One's Bongará Mine and Charlotte-Bongará Projects have several critical factors in their favour that give Zinc One a head-start in becoming a major supplier as global demand for zinc continues to grow.
"We have several things that are very advantageous for us. First is the fast-track to the mine permit. We have incredibly high-grade deposits at or near the surface, and we don't have any significant use of water to mine or process," says Williams.
"That's our main advantage here - the richness of these deposits at or near the surface is what gives us an edge."