Commodities, Company Profiles, Exploration/Development, Gold

West Africa presents golden chance

Mako Gold’s increased share of the Napié gold project in West Africa could create some exciting prospects for the greenfield site.

Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa is home to part of the Birimian greenstone belts, which stretch across 11 countries from Senegal to Niger. 

The underexplored prospective belts host more than 70 one-million-once gold deposits. 

The belts are similar to the width of Western Australia, but have the potential for an abundance of open pit deposits to be discovered in the future. 

Mako Gold has been exploring West African tenements in the Birimian belts since the company was founded in 2018. 

Much of the junior explorer’s DNA was derived from Orbis Gold, which made three gold discoveries in West Africa.

Members of Orbis Gold’s management team formed Mako and have since consolidated their expertise to focus on projects located in Côte d’Ivoire in the Birimian greenstone belts. 

In July, Mako acquired a further 39 per cent interest in the Napié gold project in Côte d’Ivoire from joint venture partner Perseus Mining, bringing its total ownership to 90 per cent with the remaining 10 per cent owned by an Ivorian Consortium.

Mako started its maiden drilling program at Napié, which is located along the Birimian greenstone belt, in 2018. 

Mako Gold’s Tchaga prospect.

The project’s Tchaga prospect has recorded a multitude of wide, high-grade assays including  13 metres at 20.82 grams per tonne of gold from 32 metres, 32 metres at 7.10 grams per tonne,  and 14 metres at 5.46 grams per tonne of gold from surface. 

With a 90 per cent interest in the project, the next phase of Mako’s journey in progressing Napié has arrived. 

Mako managing director Peter Ledwidge says the larger slice of Napié represents a significant step forward for the company, with backing from reputable North American and European investors.

“Out of our recent $10 million equity raising to acquire Perseus’ interest in Napié, we received cornerstone support from Dundee Goodman and DELPHI,” Ledwidge tells Australian Resources & Investment.

“Between the two of them, they covered $6.3 million of the $10 million raise.”

Ledwidge says 40 out of the 70 gold deposits in the Birimian Greenstone belts have more the 3 million ounces.

“There has been more than 400 million ounces of gold discovered there, according to our internal database,” he says.

Mako, which is based in Brisbane, is confident that Côte d’Ivoire represents a huge potential as a jurisdiction for greenfield exploration.

“What’s even more important is that most of those deposits are open pit,” Ledwidge says. 

“It’s pretty challenging to find open pit deposits like that in Western Australia these days – I’m not saying they’re not there, but West Africa is so underexplored in comparison.

“If you look at Côte d’Ivoire, there’s a few companies that have been here for a number of years, but out of all the West African countries it has only seen some serious exploration in the last 10 years or so.”

“For example, our Korhogo project has had zero exploration, so it’s pretty exciting, and within 30 kilometres of Barrick’s 5-million-ounce Tongon mine, which is almost out of reserves; it’s exciting to be working on totally virgin ground like that.”

For Ledwidge, greenfield exploration is much more attractive than the brownfield projects that are now commonly seen across Australia. 

“Working with greenfield projects is what we’re good at, as shown in Burkina Faso when we were with Orbis and made three greenfield discoveries,” he says. 

“I prefer to get a totally greenfield project that ticks all the boxes as far as the potential to host a significant deposit rather than some of the leftovers of an old mining operation.”

Ledwidge and his wife, Ann Ledwidge, who is also Mako’s general manager of exploration, have more than 30 years’ experience as geologists, which has bolstered Mako’s knowledge of the Côte d’Ivoire prospects. 

Mako is due to release its JORC maiden resource estimate for the Napié project before the end of this year, and Ledwidge expects its ongoing drill assays to help contribute to a promising result. 

“We’re potentially talking about open pit that could be pretty high margin,” Ledwidge says. “We think the stripping ratio would be quite reasonable as well.”

So far, the junior explorer has completed 45,000 metres of drilling at Napié’s Tchaga prospect.

While he understands it works for some companies, Ledwidge says Mako doesn’t believe in grid pattern drilling.

“A lot of companies like to do that in their early phase, doing air core drilling,” Ledwidge says. 

“We don’t favour it much because it chews through the money and then after that you have to do RC or diamond drilling.

Mako Gold’s Napié permit.

“Perseus has done all the soils on the permit and our structural analysis has led us to change our drilling direction from west to east to a more preferrable north-west to south-east; by doing that we’re intersecting the high-grade zones.

“Our share price right now is at about 9 cents per share (at the time of writing) and our market cap is in the order of $30 million,” Ledwidge says.

“The share price at Orbis was 8 cents when we acquired our first permits in West Africa, which increased to 72 cents within a few years. 

“For Mako, I hope that the share price will be significantly higher and so will the market cap in another two to three years. 

“We are just about to come out with a maiden resource and I hope that once that happens we’ll get a re-rating .”

There is further potential on the horizon for Mako’s Korhogo project, also located in Côte d’Ivoire, which has received two permits within the last 12 months

“Like our namesake the Mako shark, which is the fastest shark in the ocean, we’ve already completed the airborne drilling, an airborne magnetometer and radiometrics survey, and soil sampling,” Ledwidge says. 

“As soon as we get results from infill soil samples, we’ll conduct a maiden drilling program, which we hope to begin in the next three to four months.” 

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