Projects - Suricate unlocks wealth

Projects - Suricate unlocks wealth

Privately-owned Mauritanian mining and exploration company Suricate Minerals is engaging with international financial and technical service partners to develop its quartz, barite, lithium, copper, and gold prospects located throughout the country.

According to Ahmed Hertani, executive director of Suricate, the company is still in the early stages of developing its prospects, but it has already undertaken considerable geophysical and geochemical testing at its various sites, with positive results verified by German materials testing and analysis company Dorfner Anzaplan.

Suricate plans to start mining at its high-purity quartz deposits in Tasiast, in north-western Mauritania, about 130km from the Port of Nouadhibou, before the end of 2018. The deposit contains about 99% silicon. The company foresees that the project will produce both quartz lumps and sands.

Location: Mauritania
Phase: Development
Resource: Quartz, barite, lithium, copper, and gold

“This high-purity quartz is well suited to the production of photovoltaic- and electronic-grade silica, as well as for quartz engineering slabs and silicone metals, and many other industrial applications, all of which are vitally important elements for environment-friendly renewable energy technologies,” Hertani explains.

These deposits have considerable pegmatite reserves, which contain ultra-high-purity quartz and rare earth minerals. Pegmatite is also the primary source of lithium, either as spodumene, lithiophilite, or lepidolite.

Suricate is optimistic about the prospects for the lithium sector, as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and all-electric vehicles currently use lithium-ion batteries. This is bolstered further by technology giant Tesla’s USD5-billion Gigafactory in Nevada in the US, which aims to meet the needs of lithium-ion battery packs for emerging energy-storage technology trends.

Hertani adds that the company has another permit in north-western Mauritania containing an alkaline intrusion with large mafic and ultramafic rocks, which are indicators of metals including copper, wolframite, molybdenum, tin, and gold.

“We are very excited about this discovery, as the medium- to long-term forecast for these diversified metals remains strong. As the project has substantial potential to be a low-cost producer, this ideally places the project to take advantage of rising demand, particularly from the Chinese market,” says Hertani.

Furthermore, the project contains a large hydrothermal deposit of pure barite. This is significant, as the resources of the largest producers of barite worldwide, namely China and India, are being depleted rapidly. The analysis of rock collected on surface indicates a barium sulphate content of 78.9%. This surface barite is enriched with silica, comparable in quality to the Bou Ouzzal deposit in neighbouring Morocco, which is the third-largest exporter of barite in the world, producing around a million tons a year.

Moreover, Hertani highlights that the company is continuing exploration on another deposit in the north of the country, which contains a felsic-alkaline intrusion. Geochemistry work on the deposit has uncovered a large gold anomaly. “It is certainly a good target for exploration for a high-grade gold deposit that, according to our initial studies, could be fairly large,” says Hertani.

“We want to capitalise fully on our in-depth knowledge and experience of the geology where our permits are located. With the technical and financial support of partners, we are confident of developing projects that will enhance the stature of Mauritania’s mining industry and provide high-value return on investment for investors,” Hertani concludes.

Suricate Minerals has already signed an agreement with a public company and is also in advanced discussion with several others.

Straddling the Arab Maghreb and western sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritania’s massive mineral resource wealth makes it an attractive prospect for resource investors. According to geological survey organisation USGS, Mauritania is an established producer of crude oil, copper, gold, and iron ore. As recently as 2013, Mauritania was reportedly the second-largest exporter and producer of iron ore in Africa after South Africa.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a country report for Mauritania in October 2017, outlining the challenges the country faced, such as low and volatile metals prices. Nonetheless, the IMF also noted that growth prospects had improved, along with planned public investment and structural reforms, as well as some, albeit short-lived, recovery in metals prices. International mining as well as oil and gas companies have established operations in the country, including the likes of BP, Total, First Quantum Minerals, Kinross Gold Corp, and Algold Resources.

Click below to read the March/April 2018 issue of African Mining


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