Greenfields Exploration Executive Director Lindsay Dick confirmed to S&P Global Market Intelligence on July 7 that the joint venture with Australian miner IGO Ltd. is ongoing, though the licenses have been reduced to focus on the most prospective areas.
Unlisted Greenfields Exploration Ltd. has identified a “shopping list of high-quality acquisitions” in Greenland. Further copper exploration applications could give the company about 28% of all areas under license. Greenland is still very much unknown as a mineral province while attracting a growing list of large miners. The company abandoned its initial plans to list on the ASX in 2018 after forming a joint venture with Australian midtier miner IGO Ltd. on its Frontier copper-nickel-tungsten project, which has geological features similar to PJSC Norilsk Nickel Co.’s Talnakh project in Russia. IGO cites Frontier as one of the “belt-scale greenfield opportunities” in its discovery portfolio.
While Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen dismissed U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to buy Greenland in 2019, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey collected airborne and land-based data along with Greenland’s own authorities that year, while several juniors continue to develop potentially lucrative assets.
Anglo American PLC was granted five-year exploration and prospecting licenses in western Greenland targeting nickel, copper and platinum group metals in mid-2019. Bluejay Mining PLC raised £11.5 million in November 2019 from Denmark and Greenland government investment funds and other investors for its Dundas ilmenite project. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market.
Major Chinese rare earths company Shenghe Resources Holding Co. Ltd. is a substantial holder in ASX-listed Greenland Minerals Ltd., which believes it can put its huge Kvanefjeld rare earths deposit into production for US$505 million. Meanwhile, ASX peer Ironbark Zinc Ltd. has been revamping its decade-old mine plan for Citronen, one of the world’s largest undeveloped zinc deposits. Shenghe CEO and Chairman Hu Zesong told the Greenland Conference in December 2019 that his company assessed over 60 projects globally before deciding on Kvanefjeld, and is now eyeing European construction, processing and materials fabrication partners for the development.
Noting that many of Greenland’s discoveries are world-class despite limited exploration, Dick said multiple locations within the country host “well-preserved ancient rocks” which are analogous to many of the world’s great copper systems.
Targeting large-scale copper deposits, Greenfields Exploration announced July 7 that a special exploration license for the Arctic Rift copper, or ARC, project, is in the public consultation phase after initial approvals. Dick said it has “all of the necessary attributes to be an analogue” of the Michigan Upper Peninsula copper belt, where copper occurs as native lumps, as well as being hosted in basalt and sediments.
Historical exploration results from the license area include 0.39% copper and 14.2 g/t silver across 16 meters at the Discovery prospect, which included a peak assay of 12.5% copper and 385 g/t silver in a zone up to 3 meters thick with a minimum grade of 0.62% copper and 27 g/t silver. The Discovery mineralization has been mapped along 2 kilometers of strike and remains open in all directions.
The ARC project is 130 kilometers south of Citronen, which may have formed through the same processes based on geochemistry and structural analysis. Ironbark said that Citronen sits in a continental-scale sedimentary basin which extends about 2,500 kilometers west through northern Greenland and into Canada’s Arctic Islands.
Copper pipeline woes
In targeting copper, Dick cited Market Intelligence’s recent analysis suggesting the rate of discovery has been trending down for some time, and conditions have been worsening. Dick surmised from the analysis that it has been a “dismal decade for discovery … furthermore, while some new major discoveries have been found at late-stage projects and existing mining camps, the probability of finding new major discoveries at such projects is lower than at riskier, early-stage prospects.”
“Ironically, the addition of the new ARC project reinforces that our company is the only one, aside from small departments in global miners, in the world tackling this challenge head on,” executive director said.
Most grassroots copper exploration is occurring in more mature mining jurisdictions like Chile, Australia and the U.S. where geology is better understood and infrastructure is generally superior, according to Market Intelligence’s principal metals and mining research analyst Kevin Murphy. Murphy said in an interview that significant new discoveries, while “hard to find,” are “not impossible by any means,” as shown by Rio Tinto with its West Australian Winu discovery in February 2019.
While underexplored places like Argentina and Ecuador have an even higher risk-reward potential, Greenland is “more immature when it comes to exploration, so much so that there are only about a dozen projects with reported resources,” Murphy said.
The uncertain nature of the prospectivity of Greenland creates high risk, according to Murphy. “There could be practically nothing or another Kamoa-Kakula waiting to be found,” he said.
The Kamoa deposit in the Democratic Republic of Congo was discovered in 2008 by Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., which also discovered the Kakula deposit in 2014.