Santa Fe Gold acquired the Summit silver-gold project in May 2006. The project includes the Summit silver-gold property, which consists of 117 acres of patented mining claims and 740 acres of unpatented mining claims in Grant County, southwestern New Mexico; and the Banner mill, including mineral processing equipment consisting of a crushing and screening plant, a ball mill and a 400 ton-per-day flotation plant, and related property consisting of approximately 1,500 acres of wholly owned and leased patented and unpatented mining claims, located approximately 57 miles south of the Summit mine near Lordsburg, Hidalgo County, New Mexico. We own and operate the Summit project under the Lordsburg Mining Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary.
Construction of the Summit mine and related Banner mill was the focus of our activities in 2009 and 2008. In April 2007, we received results of a preliminary feasibility study carried out by an independent geological engineering firm that concluded that development of the Summit deposit would be economically viable. Capital cost was estimated as $13.4 million and the construction schedule was estimated to require a minimum of 12 months. In December 2007, we arranged financing of $13.5 million by way of a private placement of senior secured convertible debentures. We began construction activities during 2008, including development of the Summit mine and construction of the Banner mill. Underground mine development and stockpiling of ore is on-going. Construction of the Banner mill was completed in the second quarter of 2009, except for the tailings disposal impoundment, for which in October 2009 we received a conditional permit that allowed us to proceed with construction. Construction of the tailings disposal impoundment was completed at year-end 2009. We expect to commence processing operations in the first quarter of 2010. We expect the Summit project will achieve commercial production in 2010. As of June 30, 2009, we had $47.1 million in tax loss carry-forwards to shelter federal income tax otherwise payable.
The Summit mining and processing operation will involve underground mining of mineralized material from the Summit mine at a rate of 400 tons per day (120,000 tons per year) and trucking of the mined material 57 miles to the Banner mill site where metallurgical processing will take place. At the Banner site, processing will be accomplished through conventional crushing, grinding and selective flotation to yield a bulk sulfide concentrate containing the recoverable precious metals. We plan to market this concentrate to a smelter or to a third-party precious metals processing plant.
Location and Access
The Summit silver-gold mine is located in a rugged and isolated setting in Grant County, southwestern New Mexico, near the Arizona state line. The property lies within the Steeple Rock Mining District, which has recorded notable historic production of gold, silver, base metals and fluorspar from several mines, currently inoperative, including Carlisle, East Camp and Norman King. The property is accessible by paved and gravel road approximately 15 miles northeast from Arizona State Highway 75 N and the town of Duncan, Arizona. Electric power is not available on or near the property and is generated on-site in connection with the mining operation. Water for limited usage is available on and near the property.
The terrain of the property is rugged, with steep canyons and ridges. Elevations range from 4,500 feet to 6,200 feet above sea level. The Summit siliceous mineralized structure forms a prominent northwesterly trending ridge.
The Banner mill site lies 57 miles to the south of the Summit mine near the town of Lordsburg, Hidalgo County, New Mexico. Lordsburg is connected to Duncan, Arizona via US Highway 70. The Banner mill site is accessible from Lordsburg by a 4-mile paved road. Utilities on site include water and electric power. The Lordsburg area is well supported by transportation services including trucking and rail services, and by a wide range of fabrication, construction and other support services. The labor force required for the plant operation can be sourced locally.
Our holdings at the Summit silver-gold property in Grant County, New Mexico consist of 10 patented federal mining claims totaling approximately 117 acres and 62 unpatented federal mining claims totaling approximately 740 acres. Our holdings at and adjacent to the Banner mill site in Hidalgo County, New Mexico consist of 86 wholly-owned patented federal mining claims, 5 wholly-owned unpatented mining claims, 17 leased patented mining claims and 6 leased unpatented mining claims, aggregating approximately 1,500 acres. All wholly-owned claims are held in the name of Lordsburg Mining Company. The unpatented mining claims are located on public land and held pursuant to the General Mining Law of 1872. We fully own the mining rights and believe the claims are in good standing in accordance with the mining laws of the United States.
In order to maintain our claims in good standing, for our patented mining claims we must pay annual property taxes to Grant and Hidalgo Counties, and for our unpatented mining claims we must pay annual assessment fees to the Bureau of Land Management and record the payment of rental fees with Grant and Hidalgo Counties. We are current on property taxes related to our patented claims. Annual assessment and recording costs for our unpatented claims total approximately $10,500. We have paid the required fees for the 2010 assessment year (September 1, 2009 through August 31, 2010).
The Summit property is subject to underlying net smelter return royalties capped at $4,000,000 and to a net-proceeds interest on sales of unbeneficiated mineralized rock with an end price of $2,400,000. The Summit acquisition is subject to a property identification agreement between us and our President and Chief Executive Officer.
History of Mining and Exploration
The Summit silver-gold property lies within the Steeple Rock district, which is one of the historic mining areas in the southwest United States. The former mines produced gold, silver and base metals from underground mining of epithermal vein systems. Prospecting activity dates back to before 1860. The first recorded production was from the Carlisle property, which operated from 1880-1897. A number of other mines including the Norman King and Billali also opened up during the 1880’s but ceased operation by the turn of the century. Following this early production, the district was largely dormant until the 1930’s-mid 1940’s when several mines operated. Subsequently sporadic small-scale operations continued until the 1990’s on various deposits including the Summit, Center, Mount Royal and Carlisle deposits.
The US Bureau of Mines estimated that between 1880 and 1986 the Steeple Rock district produced at least 148,000 ounces of gold, 3.3 million ounces of silver, 1.2 million pounds of copper, and 5 million pounds of lead and 4 million pounds of zinc. In addition, there was unrecorded precious and base metal production as part of silica flux shipments. Some 6,500 tons of fluorspar also were produced.
In the late 1970’s, Summit Minerals Inc. is reported to have shipped about 30,000 tons of mineralized material from the Summit property to ASARCO’s El Paso smelter as direct shipping silica flux grading 0.102 ounces per ton gold and 4.95 ounces per ton silver.
Exploration work estimated to have cost in excess of $8 million was carried out on the Summit silver-gold property from 1984-1992. This work included drilling totaling 104,700 feet on the Summit and adjacent structures, of which 78,000 feet was directed to the Summit structure. In 1984-85, Inspiration Mines Inc. reportedly spent about $1.5 million conducting underground development, shallow core drilling and sampling and mapping. In 1988-89, Novagold Resources Inc. reportedly expended approximately $2 million in surface and airborne geophysical surveys, underground mapping and sampling, and core drilling. Novagold’s drilling identified a significant block of mineralized material in the Summit vein. From 1989-1992, Biron Bay Resources Ltd., in joint venture with Novagold, conducted extensive exploration, drilled 88 core holes, and reportedly spent over $5 million extending and improving the level of confidence in the mineralized material at the Summit and in defining exploration potential in adjacent and outlying vein structures.
Geology and Mineralization
The Steeple Rock district contains numerous structurally controlled epithermal vein systems. The veins are controlled by conjugate fault systems that cut a thick pile of Tertiary volcanic rocks of intermediate composition. The deposits are localized along structurally controlled, hydrothermally altered zones cutting the volcanic host rocks. The dominant structures trend northwesterly and dip steeply. Secondary veins trend easterly and north-northwesterly. The veins can be traced for distances of up to several miles along strike and have widths that range up to 100 feet or more.
The epithermal veins have formed as open-space filling by a mixture of quartz, carbonate minerals and wallrock fragments and show evidence of multiple episodes of brecciation and re-cementation. Gold occurs as fine free grains or as electrum. Silver is found as argentite or in sulfosalts. Base metal sulfides including chalcopyrite, sphalerite and galena are common in certain deposits but rare in others. Gangue minerals usually consist of quartz, pyrite, calcite, barite and fluorite. Alteration of the volcanic country rocks adjacent to the veins commonly consists of sericitization, argillization and silicification.
The principal vein structure on the Summit silver-gold property is the Summit structure, which can be traced for 3,000 feet from southeast to northwest. The Billali structure forms a farther 2,000 foot continuation of the Summit structure in a northwesterly direction across an east-west fault. The Summit and Billali structures dip steeply to the northeast. These structures form segments of the East Camp Fault, which constitutes the main ore control in this part of the Steeple Rock district. The core drilling carried out from 1984-1992 tested both the Summit and Billali vein structures. Of the two, results from the Summit structure were the more promising with respect to vein continuity and economic potential.
The Summit mineralized vein occurs within a wide, structurally controlled zone of hydrothermally altered volcanic rocks. Silver and gold mineralization is epithermal in style and consists of silver sulfides and electrum or native gold along with lesser pyrite, sphalerite and chalcopyrite. Precious metals contents, which are relatively low at the surface, increase significantly with depth for several hundred feet, apparently a reflection of vertical mineral zoning within the deposit. Below 1,000-1,500 feet, the precious metals contents appear to decrease although little deeper drilling was carried out. The main block of mineralized material, which occurs along the footwall of the structure, has been shown by extensive drilling to trend northwesterly about 1,500 feet in strike length and to extend 1,000 feet down dip. The true width of mineralization across the footwall mineralized zone ranges from 6 feet to over 50 feet and averages 10-15 feet.
In July 2008, Chapman, Wood and Griswold, Inc. (“CWG”), an independent geological engineering firm, reviewed the reserve/resource classification of Summit mineralization and concluded that a portion of the mineralized material can be elevated to the category of Probable Reserve under the SEC’s Industry Guide 7. At a cutoff grade of 0.175 ounces of gold-equivalent per ton, CWG estimated the in-place, diluted Probable Reserve, for the main footwall zone, to be 531,509 tons grading 0.129 ounces of gold per ton and 8.62 ounces of silver per ton.
In October 2009, CWG prepared a report according to standards for Canadian National Instrument 43-101, which included as a Probable Reserve a significant portion of the minable mineralized material identified at Summit (see Preliminary Feasibility Study below). This report is expected to be made available in due course.
Conventional processing including crushing, grinding and milling of Summit mineralized material to produce a bulk sulfide flotation concentrate containing the recoverable precious metals has been evaluated and tested at bench scale. Based upon preliminary bench scale flotation tests, we believe that a precious metals recovery of approximately 80-86% with a concentration ratio of 70 to 1 is reasonably achievable. We believe that the concentrate could be treated to produce a dore product or alternatively, it could be marketed to a smelter or to a third-party precious metals processing operation for final extraction of gold and silver.
Mineral Processing Equipment
With the purchase of Lordsburg Mining in May 2006, we acquired an inactive 400 ton-per-day flotation plant, including ball mill and ancillary equipment. Subsequently, in June 2008, we purchased crushing, screening and conveying equipment. In order to utilize the flotation plant for mineral processing, we have transported it from its previous location near Winston, Sierra County, New Mexicio, and are in the process of refurbishing it as necessary and erecting it at the Banner mill site in Hidalgo County. In addition to the processing equipment already acquired, we plan to acquire and install other necessary equipment.
With the purchase of Lordsburg Mining in 2006, we acquired existing operating permits for the Summit property and the Banner mill site. The New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division issued these permits to Lordsburg Mining pursuant to the New Mexico Mining Act. When modified and revised as necessary, these and other permits for which we have applied or will apply could facilitate the commencement of mining at the Summit property and resumption of mineral processing operations at the Banner mill site.
Permit No. GR001ME at the Summit mine allows operation of a “minimal impact mine”. As surface disturbance expands, it will be necessary to modify the permit and to post financial assurance for reclamation. Pursuant to the current permit, we have begun underground mining operations.
Permit No. H1001RE at the Banner mill site is for an “existing mining operation” and authorizes us to conduct mining and reclamation operations according to the conditions stipulated in the permit. All proposed mining disturbances are required to be addressed under a closeout plan and to be secured by financial assurance. We have applied for modification and revision of the permit to allow resumption of flotation milling, construction of a tailings impoundment and discharge of tailings. We also have applied or will apply for other necessary permits, including air quality permits for the Banner mill and Summit mine.
Preliminary Feasibility Study
In April 2007, we received results of an engineering study carried out by the independent geological engineering firm of Chapman, Wood and Griswold, Inc., of Albuquerque, New Mexico. CWG concluded that the Summit deposit would form the basis of an economically viable underground mining operation.
CWG used an estimation of minable mineralized material for their study of 758,000 tons grading 10.28 ounces of silver per ton and 0.143 ounces of gold per ton in the main footwall zone. This estimation was adopted from a previous estimation carried out by St. Cloud Mining Co., and represents in-place, diluted, minable mineralization with a minimum six-foot horizontal width, based on results of assays from core holes and samples of underground workings. All high assay values were cut to 45.0 ounces of silver and 0.45 ounces of gold per ton. The CWG report was prepared in accordance with different standards than those prescribed by rules of the SEC. The SEC only permits the disclosure of proven or probable reserves.
The Summit mining and processing operation would involve underground mining of mineralized material from the Summit property at a rate of 400 tons per day (120,000 tons per year) and trucking of the mined material 57 miles to the Banner mill site where metallurgical processing would take place. At the Banner site processing would be accomplished through conventional crushing, grinding and selective flotation to yield a high-grade bulk sulfide concentrate containing the recoverable precious metals. The concentrate would be marketed to one of the area’s copper smelters or to a third-party precious metals processing plant.
CWG prepared a mine design that employs rubber-tired equipment to gain access to the minable mineralization through two declines, one on each end of the deposit, which would be driven from existing headings to and along the mineralized structure to a connecting point in the central part of the deposit. Further development of the deposit would continue by extending a decline to the lower limits of mineralization. Sufficient longhole drilling and trial extraction methods would be done to further plan the operation.
At gold and silver prices of $500 and $10 respectively, CWG estimated Summit revenues over an initial seven-year mine life would total approximately $96 million, and pre-tax net income would total approximately $34 million. At higher gold and silver prices of $650 and $13 per ounce respectively, CWG estimated revenues would increase to approximately $130 million, pre-tax net income would exceed $70 million, and payback of capital would be achieved in 18 months after the commencement of production. The Company has $47.1 million in tax loss carry-forwards to shelter federal income tax otherwise payable. Direct operating costs, assuming that mine development and ore production would employ contract mining, were estimated as $76.65 per ton of ore milled. The total capital cost to bring the mine into production was estimated as $13.5 million, inclusive of mine development, mill construction, bonding requirements, and project management and working capital. CWG estimated the project could be developed and brought into production in a twelve-month time frame.
Potential Expansion of Proposed Initial Operation
Establishment of the proposed mining operation at Summit potentially would allow the Company to further expand the current base of mineralized material at the Summit deposit and to develop other properties in the Steeple Rock mining district. The Banner flotation mill at Lordsburg also might generate mining and processing opportunities from our ground holdings adjacent to the Banner mill site in the Virginia mining district and/or from surrounding mining districts, several of which historically have yielded substantial production of base and precious metals.
In December 2007 we arranged for the $13.5 million in capital necessary for project development. We began construction activities in 2008 and estimated a minimum of 12 months would be required for construction and execution of the major elements of the mining and processing plan described above.
At the Summit mine, a seven hundred foot long 12’ x 12’ decline ramp intersected the predicted ore body in February 2009. Since then, we have proceeded to drive two development headings in the ore zone structure, one an incline to the southeast that has intersected old workings and serves as a secondary escape and a source of additional ventilation, and the other a decline to the northwest that has reached additional ore bodies identified in previous drilling. Assays of the ore bodies show variable silver and gold values, with occasional very high grades encountered. Assay results when averaged are consistent with the reserve grades previously calculated for the Summit deposit (10.28 oz/ton silver and 0.143 oz/ton gold). Ore grade material is segregated at the mine and trucked to the Lordsburg mill site. Mining operations are proceeding on the basis of two 10-hour shifts five days a week.
At the Banner mill, construction was essentially completed in the second quarter of 2009, except for the tailings disposal impoundment. We experienced a delay in obtaining a permit necessary for construction of the tailings disposal impoundment, which must be constructed before processing operations can begin. In October 2009 we obtained the necessary permit that allowed us to construct the tailings disposal impoundment. Construction was completed at year-end 2009. In the first quarter of 2010 we expect to be in a position to commence processing operations and shake down of the mill. Ramp-up of mill throughput is planned to occur over a period of several months in conjunction with increased output from the Summit mine. We expect that the Summit project will achieve commercial production in 2010.
In August 2004, Santa Fe Gold acquired exclusive rights for exploration, development and mining of
gold and other minerals on 57,267 acres (approximately 90 square miles) of the Ortiz Mine Grant in
Santa Fe County, New Mexico. Previous drilling indicated approximately 2 million ounces of gold in
several deposits. In 2007, Santa Fe Gold voluntarily relinquished 14,970 acres of the leasehold
that it deemed to be without serious exploration potential, leaving 42,297 acres (approximately 66
square miles) as the current leasehold.
In December 2005, we received the results of an independent scoping study for the open pit mining of approximately 1 million ounces of gold from the Carache and Lucas gold deposits. The study assessed various processing options for development and provided estimations of capital and operating costs for each option. It also included an economic analysis complete with sensitivities on gold price, capital and operating costs. The report concluded that the financial results indicate a favorable gold project employing high pressure grinding rolls with gravity recovery and contract mining. The financial model showed production would total 925,036 ounces of gold over 10 years at an average estimated operating cost of $230 per ounce of gold recovered. The capital cost, assuming contract mining, was estimated as $38.2 million. The report also stated that considerable upside exists in estimations of mineralized material in both contained ounces and grade.
Based on these promising results, we believe the Ortiz gold project has excellent potential for
development. Our objective is to begin mining operations as soon as practicable. The next steps are
to complete additional work to optimize mining and processing options and to begin environmental
assessment, an important step in obtaining operating permits.
The geology of the unusually large area under Santa Fe Gold’s control is highly prospective for several styles of gold deposits and offers superb exploration potential for discovery of additional major deposits.
Location and Access
The Ortiz Mine Grant is located 30 miles by road northeast of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The villages of Golden, Madrid and Cerrillos, with a combined population of less than 1,000 people, lie in and adjacent to the Grant. Paved New Mexico Highway 14 traverses the western portion of the Grant. The main line of the Santa Fe Railway crosses the northeast corner of the Grant. A network of unimproved ranch roads provides access to the various land holdings. High-voltage electric power lines cross the southern part of the Grant.
Terrain in the Grant is hilly to mountainous, with elevations ranging from 6,000 feet in the valleys to nearly 9,000 feet in the Ortiz Mountains. Annual participation averages 12 inches. Vegetation is sparse but varied as is typical of the high deserts of the Southwest.
The Grant is largely undeveloped and population is sparse. The land is utilized mainly for cattle grazing. Other activities include limited subdivision development in the northern part of the Grant, and mine reclamation work at the former Gold Field Ortiz (Cunningham Hill) mine site.
History of Mining and Exploration
Prospecting and mining of gold and silver in the Ortiz area dates to the arrival of the first European (Spanish) settlers in 1598. Significant gold production from Ortiz placer deposits dates to 1821. By 1832, several veins and low-grade gold deposits had been discovered. In 1833, the Ortiz Land Grant, an area about 10.7 miles square centered on the Ortiz gold vein, was registered and possession given by the First Alcade of the City of Santa Fe. By the early 1840’s, mining at the small underground Ortiz Mine had ceased. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, sporadic attempts at commercial mining of lode and placer gold deposits were unsuccessful due to lack of water and/or low grades. Total pre-1980 mine production has been estimated as about 100,000 ounces of gold.
The entire Grant was validated by the United States in 1860 under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The owners received fee simple title to the surface and minerals and the area became known as the Ortiz Mine Grant. Subsequently the Grant changed hands and the surface was sold subject to reservation of the mineral estate. In 1959 the mineral-interest owners and associates formed Ortiz Mines, Inc. for the purpose of promoting and marketing the mineral estate.
In 1973, Consolidated Gold Fields leased the eastern portion of the Grant from Ortiz Mines, Inc. and developed and mined the Cunningham Hill deposit (Ortiz Mine). In the period 1980-1986, Gold Fields produced approximately 250,000 ounces of gold from an open-pit, heap-leach operation.
From 1972 through the early 1990’s, several companies operating under lease with Ortiz Mines, Inc. carried out exploration and pre-development activities in the western portion of the Grant. These companies included Conoco, Inc., LAC Minerals (USA), Inc. and the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture. Expenditures by these groups are estimated to have exceeded $40 million. Drilling resulted in the identification of several deposits estimated to contain in the aggregate approximately 2 million ounces of gold.
The LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture carried out the majority of the work in the western portion of the Grant, from 1989-1992. The Joint Venture focused on two deposits in the southwestern part of the Grant, namely the Carache Canyon (“Carache”) and Lucas Canyon (“Lucas”) deposits. These two deposits were the subject of 386,000 feet of core and reverse-circulation drilling, metallurgical testing and pre-feasibility studies carried out by the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture and by consulting firms and contractors engaged by the Joint Venture.
Independent Mining Consultants, Inc. (“IMC”), an independent geological engineering firm, was engaged by the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture to audit estimations of gold resources at the Carache and Lucas deposits and to prepare conceptual open pit mine plans based on a gold price of $385 per ounce. In 1992, IMC estimated the Carache gold deposit, within the boundaries of a conceptual open pit, to contain mineralized material of 11.8 million tons grading 0.060 ounces of gold per ton, for 706,700 ounces of contained gold. IMC estimated the Lucas gold-copper deposit, within the boundaries of a conceptual open pit, to contain mineralized material of 7.6 million tons grading 0.043 ounces of gold per ton and 0.22% copper, for 325,600 ounces of contained gold and 33,440,000 pounds of contained copper.
A 1990 pre-feasibility study produced by the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture concluded that at gold prices of $325 per ounce or higher, economics would be positive for open-pit, heap-leach mining of the approximately 1.0 million ounces of gold contained in the Carache and Lucas conceptual pits. The study also concluded that the project had upside potential to increase both the quantity and grade of contained gold mineralization.
In 1989, the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture started a decline adit into the Carache deposit for the purpose of bulk sampling and to provide drilling access for shallow and deep exploration targets. However, after advancing 1719 feet the decline was halted due to a temporary water inflow coupled with regulatory and permitting issues. In the face of a declining gold price, mining development of the Carache or Lucas deposits did not proceed, and the project ultimately was cancelled and the lease returned to Ortiz Mines, Inc. Subsequently, no additional exploration was carried out and the property remained dormant until Santa Fe Gold leased it in August 2004.
Geology and Mineralization
The 90 square-mile Ortiz Mine Grant is underlain by mid-Tertiary monzonite and latite porphyry stocks, plugs, dikes and sills that have intruded Paleozoic to early-Tertiary sedimentary rocks. The intrusive rocks are part of the Ortiz Porphyry Belt, which comprises from north to south, the Cerrillos Hills, the Ortiz Mountains, the San Pedro Mountains, and South Mountain. Structurally, the Grant straddles the Tijeras-Canoncito fault system, a northeast trending zone of fault-bounded horsts and grabens. This fault zone is a segment of a deep-seated crustal break that has been active intermittently since Precambrian time and has provided a zone of weakness for the emplacement of granitic magmas and associated mineralization. Late-stage volcanism resulted in the formation of breccia pipes and zones of intense fracturing that provided access for hydrothermal fluids carrying gold, silver, tungsten, molybdenum and base metals.
The Ortiz Porphyry Belt exhibits a number of styles of mineralization that occur in a variety of geologic settings:
- Gold-tungsten mineralization in a breccia pipe at Cunningham Hill adjacent to a volcanic vent, the Ortiz diatreme.
- Gold mineralization associated with a collapse breccia at Carache Canyon.
- Copper and gold disseminated in stockworks and fractures in monzonite at the Cunningham Gulch (gold) and Cerrillos (copper-gold) deposits (bulk tonnage low-grade “porphyry”-type deposits).
- Copper – gold skarns in calcareous rocks at Lucas Canyon and San Pedro.
- Lead – zinc – silver veins at the Cash Entry and other old mines north of Cerrillos.
- Lead – zinc – silver pipe-like mantos in limestone at the Carnahan mine, San Pedro area.
- Molybdenite in stockworks and fractures in the San Lazarus monzonite stock, San Pedro area.
- Placer gold deposits on Cunningham Mesa, on the northern pediment of the San Pedro Mountains, and in most of the arroyos draining the Ortiz and San Pedro Mountains.
At the Carache gold deposit, relatively coarse-grained free gold is contained in open space fractures
developed in four gently dipping andesite porphyry sills and a sandstone unit around the collapsed margins
of a breccia pipe. At the Lucas gold-copper deposit, mineralization occurs in garnet skarn developed in a
limestone unit, the outcropping portion of which forms a dip slope at the surface.
We believe that the Ortiz Mine Grant holds significant potential for additional discoveries, and several partially tested prospects have been identified, three of which have been shown by drilling to contain respectively 60,000, 60,000 and 105,000 ounces of gold. About half the Ortiz Mine Grant is covered by Quaternary gravels derived from the outwash of adjacent mountains. Exploration targets may also exist beneath the gravel cover.
Scoping Study of the Carache and Lucas Gold Deposits
In October 2005, we commissioned Mineral Advisory Group, LLC (“MAG”) of Tucson, Arizona, an independent geological engineering firm, to carry out an engineering review and scoping study of the Carache and Lucas gold deposits, utilizing as a technical base the information generated by the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture in 1989-1991. MAG’s study, which was completed in December 2005, assessed various processing options for development and provided estimations of capital and operating costs for each option. It also included an economic analysis complete with sensitivities on gold price, capital and operating costs.
The processing options MAG analyzed included heap leaching, ball milling/gravity concentration, and high pressure grinding rolls/gravity concentration (“HPGR option”). The optimum processing route was identified as the HPGR option. The HPGR option was estimated to be able to achieve a gold recovery of 90% employing simple gravity concentration while minimizing capital and operating costs. As compared to heap leaching (the processing route previously advanced by the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture), the HPGR option also potentially would have advantages with respect to environmental disturbance and permitting in that the area of surface disturbance would be smaller, chemicals would not be required in processing and there would be less water usage.
Based on pre-1990 drilling estimations by the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture, mineralized material from the two deposits totals 29.1 million tons averaging 0.035 ounces of gold per ton at a cut-off grade of 0.01 ounces per ton, containing 1,027,818 ounces of gold, within the boundaries of two conceptual pits previously designed by the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture using a gold price of $385 per ounce. MAG’s scoping study assumed this material would be mined at the rate of 3 million tons per year. The average stripping ratio (waste-to-mineralized material) was calculated as 2.6: 1.
MAG’s financial model estimated production would total 925,036 ounces of gold over 10 years at an average estimated operating cost of $230 per ounce of gold recovered. The capital cost, assuming contract mining, was estimated as $38.2 million.
At a gold price of $450 per ounce, MAG’s financial model estimated net operating pre-tax cash flow (after deductions for refining charges, royalty payments and depreciation) as $139.5 million over the mine’s ten-year life, and estimated the IRR as 33.8%. At a gold price of $500 per ounce, net operating pre-tax cash flow increases to $180.9 million, and at a gold price of $625 per ounce, it increases to $284 million. Sensitivity analyses showed that a variation in gold price is the dominant factor affecting the financial indicators, IRR and NPV.
MAG’s report concluded, “The financial conclusions drawn from this study indicate a very favorable project employing High Pressure Grinding Rolls with gravity recovery and contract mining.” The report also stated that upside exists in estimations of mineralized material in both contained ounces of gold and grade, as had been concluded previously by the LAC-Pegasus Joint Venture.
Permitting. Mining and processing operations at the Ortiz gold property would require permits from the state and federal governments and also would be subject to county regulations. We have not applied for or obtained such permits, which would require the completion of additional technical environmental and other work.
Work Program. We plan to conduct additional technical and mining studies to finalize an optimized mine design and development plan for the Carache and Lucas deposits, and to begin environmental assessment necessary to initiate the permitting process.
We also plan to continue evaluation of the large 90 square mile area under lease for its exploration potential for new discoveries of gold and copper deposits. In this regard, we possess a large quantity of geological, geochemical, geophysical and drilling information.
Santa Fe Gold acquired the Black Canyon mica project in 1999 and spent $15 million in establishing mining
and processing facilities at the mine site north of Phoenix, Arizona, and at a separate processing plant
in Glendale, Arizona. In November 2002, due to under-capitalization and economic constraints, operations
at the Black Canyon mica mine were suspended. Limited production, marketing and sales continued through
2005 using inventoried mica. In November 2006, we sold all of our ownership interests in our Glendale,
Arizona location, but retained ownership of the mica processing equipment, which we placed in storage.
While it operated on a test basis in 2002, the project achieved limited production and commercial sales. The operation was successful in achieving two important objectives. First, it demonstrated the facilities were capable of producing the planned range of products. Second, it validated the high quality and market acceptability of the two main product lines, namely high-end wet-ground mica, targeted for high value applications in the plastics and cosmetic industries; and feldspathic sand, targeted for the growing Phoenix construction and recreational markets.
In 2003-2005, Santa Fe Gold sold, from inventory, limited quantities of its engineered mica-filled plastic pellets and mica powders to a number of companies, including Dupont Canada and Revlon. The commercial orders to Dupont followed a program of testing and product development conducted jointly with Dupont. Dupont used Santa Fe Gold’s plastic pellets in its own formulations to produce plastic end products that it supplied to the automotive industry. Santa Fe Gold also supplied its high quality mica powder to the cosmetic industry through distributors, with Revlon as one of the important customers.
In 2003, we sold our entire inventory of feldspathic sand to customers in the Phoenix area. The economics
of a potential mining operation at Black Canyon are attractive. Santa Fe Gold is seeking a joint venture
partner to contribute new funding in the amount of $6.0 million to install the mica processing equipment
at a new location, to upgrade and expand the mining facilities in order to reach planned capacity and to
provide working capital. These expansions are required in order to achieve the higher throughput necessary
for sustained economic operation.
Location and Access
The Black Canyon mine is located about 30 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona, 3.5 miles west-southwest of Black Canyon City. It can be reached via U.S. Interstate 17, which connects Phoenix with Flagstaff, and by a connecting dirt road for the last eight miles. The Glendale processing plant was located in an industrial area on the west side of Phoenix, Arizona, 47 miles to the south of the mine site.
Our property holdings at and around the Black Canyon mine consist of 67 Federal unpatented mining claims in Yavapai County, Arizona, and 9 Federal unpatented mill site claims in Maricopa County, Arizona, which in total cover approximately 1,385 acres.
The claims are located on public land and held pursuant to the General Mining Law of 1872. We fully own the mining rights and believe the claims to be in good standing in accordance with the mining laws of the United States.
Mining and Processing Facilities
The Black Canyon project formerly consisted of two integrated operating facilities. The mine site west-southwest of Black Canyon City contains the ore reserves. The crusher, the concentrator and the feldspathic sand plant are located at the mine site. These facilities depend on diesel generators for power. Our plans call for mining to be carried out by conventional open pit methods. The ore would be trucked from the pit and delivered to a nearby stockpile located adjacent to the crusher and concentrator. Mica flakes would be separated from the pegmatite host rock in a process that involves multi-stage crushing and screening to -3/16” size. Mica would be concentrated from the crushed material utilizing air classifiers. The resulting concentrate, containing 95% mica, would be trucked to the processing plant for further processing.
In the mica concentrating process at the mine site, the majority of the crushed host rock, which otherwise would be discarded as waste, would be converted into feldspathic sand for sale into the local Phoenix market. Processing of the feldspathic sand would involve screening and magnetic separation to yield sand fractions of various sizes. The sand products would be either bagged for shipment or trucked in bulk to customers.
During 2002-2004, we processed mica concentrate at the 5-acre Glendale plant and office site on the west side of Phoenix. The processing was designed to achieve the desired product sizes and meet the quality requirements of the market place. The plant was housed in an 18,000 square foot steel framed building, where equipment was installed for wet grinding, dewatering, drying, and air classification and bagging. The final products were placed into 50-pound bags or into 1000-pound supersacks ready for shipment to customers.
In 1999, we obtained approval for the Black Canyon Plan of Operations from the Bureau of Land Management and the State of Arizona. An Environmental Assessment, Clean Water Act Permit and Air Quality Procedures were all approved. An Aquifer Protection Permit was not required because processing operations at the mine site did not propose the use of water.
Geology and Mineralization
The mica deposits occur as pegmatite dikes cutting Precambrian schist and granite. These dikes are steeply dipping tabular bodies, continuous along strike and with depth. The main pegmatite dikes are hosted by the schist and have a northeasterly trend parallel to the structural grain of the schist. Because the light colored pegmatite dikes are more resistant to weathering than is the enclosing schist, the dikes stand out at the surface as elongated light colored ridges relatively easy to discern and to map geologically.
In the area of the drilled ore reserves, a concentration of pegmatite occurs as a dike swarm and as massive irregular bodies of pegmatite. An associated major structure, the Central Pit fault, appears to have created a zone of dilation that provided open space for intrusion of the pegmatite. Drilling has identified seven individual dikes that range from approximately 4 feet to over 20 feet in thickness. At the surface, massive pegmatite crops out over a width exceeding 50 feet.
The minerals of potential economic value are all found associated with the pegmatite dikes, and consist of muscovite mica, feldspar and silica. Muscovite mica, the principal commodity, constitutes a major accessory mineral of the pegmatite dikes and is ubiquitous in the pegmatite. Based on visual estimates of drill core, the content of muscovite in the pegmatite ranges from 5% to 35%. The muscovite is light to whitish green in color and occurs as discrete, coarse-grained inclusions as well as fine-grained disseminations in the pegmatite. Feldspar and silica, by-products of the proposed mining operation, make up most of the remaining component minerals of the pegmatite on about a 1:1 ratio.
In 1998 and 1999, based on geologic mapping, we drilled 41 inclined core holes and collected 59 samples of pegmatite exposed on the surface, at two central locations. The drill holes and surface samples were spaced approximately 50 feet apart. The holes ranged from 200 to 600 feet in length, and drilling totaled 13,070 feet. The drilling covered only a small portion of the zones of outcropping mica-bearing rocks mapped on our mining claims.
Mintec Inc., an independent geological engineering firm, analyzed our drilling and sampling results, designed the mining plan and calculated ore reserves. In-place mining reserves for the pit design were calculated as 2,399,500 tons of proven ore grading 7.54% mica and 1,527,200 tons of probable ore grading 7.37% mica, for total reserves of 3,926,680 tons of ore grading 7.48% mica, at a cutoff grade of 2.47% mica. Approximately 60% of the mica contained in these reserves is expected to be recoverable after losses due to mining and beneficiation.
Ourmineral reserves contain high quality muscovite or “white mica”. Mica is a mineral characterized by crystals that can be easily split into thin elastic sheets and is valued for its unique combination of chemical, physical, electrical, thermal and mechanical properties. Muscovite exhibits perfect cleavage, flexibility and elasticity, infusibility, low thermal and electrical conductivity, high dielectric strength, light weight, good insulating characteristics, and is stable when exposed to moisture, light and high temperatures. Because of these properties, muscovite has found widespread application in plastics, automotive coatings, cosmetics, paints, catalysis and composite formulations. The project is planned to produce 10,000 tons (20 million pounds) annually of premium wet-ground mica, the sale of which would require penetrating existing markets and establishing our own markets in plastics, cosmetics and ultra-micronized applications.
Our feldspathic sand was produced as a by-product of mica concentration and was screened and sized for sale into the Phoenix construction and recreational markets. Products included golf course bunker sand and sand used in stucco, mortar and other specialized construction applications. The project is planned to produce 180,000 tons of feldspathic sand products annually.
Sand producers in California and Nevada supply sand to the Phoenix manufactured sand market. Because the material has to be trucked long distances in order to reach Phoenix, trucking costs are significant and constitute a substantial proportion of the final selling price. The location of our Black Canyon mine only 30 miles from Phoenix may provide a transportation cost advantage over competitors who import sand into Arizona.
The potential economics of a mining operation at Black Canyon are attractive. We plan to seek a joint venture partner to contribute $6.0 million in new funding necessary to advance the project to full production. The new funding would be used to install the mica processing equipment at a new location and to upgrade and expand the mining and processing facilities in order to reach planned capacity and to provide working capital. These expansions are required in order to achieve the higher throughput necessary for sustained economic operation. If funding were to become available, we estimate positive cash flow could be achieved in approximately twelve months.
In 2002, Santa Fe Gold leased the Planet property for its potential to produce micaceous iron oxide
(“MIO”). The Planet property consists of thirty-one patented mining claims totaling 523 acres located
in western Arizona.
MIO is an uncommon flake-like form of crystalline hematite (Fe2O3) valued for the anti-corrosive properties it contributes to coatings formulated to protect structural steelwork. MIO is an increasingly recognized eco-friendly base pigment used in coating systems on many of the world’s largest bridges, oil rigs, production platforms, transmission towers, pipelines, industrial plants and superstructures.
Results of work to date indicate the Planet property contains an exceptional MIO deposit, one of the largest deposits of its kind in the world and unique to North America. It contains both high grade and large tonnage. The deposit appears to have the characteristics necessary to produce MIO from open pit mining at a relatively low production cost as compared to commercial operations currently in production. Metallurgical work suggests that a high quality MIO product can be successfully produced. For these reasons, we believe the project appears to exhibit significant potential for eventual production. As is characteristic of industrial mineral operations, marketing would play a critical role in the success of any new MIO operation and is identified as an important factor for successful development.
As the work to date has yielded encouraging results, we plan to continue pre-feasibility assessment of the Planet project
Location and Access
The Planet property is located in the northwest corner of La Paz County, west central Arizona. It lies just south of the Bill Williams River twelve miles above its junction with the Colorado River. The property is reached by road, either via the Swansea gravel road, twenty-eight miles north from the town of Bouse; or via the Osborne Well paved and gravel road, twenty-five miles east from the town of Parker.
The topography of the property is rugged, with hills 100 to 500 feet high cut by numerous steep-sided canyons. Average elevation is 800 feet. The desert climate is typical of western Arizona, hot and dry in summer but mild in winter. Vegetation is sparse and confined mainly to the bottoms of the larger drainages.
The project is well served by existing infrastructure for both construction and operation. All-weather roads connect the Planet property to the town of Parker, situated on the Colorado River with a population of about 4,000. Highways connect Parker to two east-west interstate trucking routes, I-10 and I-40, respectively 35 miles to the south and 60 miles to the north. Parker also is served by the Arizona & California Railroad, which is part of the national rail system.
Electric power, water and other infrastructure are readily available at industrial sites in Parker. Fabrication and construction services, and a wide range of commercial and support services also are available in Parker and other nearby communities. The labor force required for a plant operation could be sourced locally.
History of Mining and Exploration
The Planet deposit was worked for its copper value from 1863 until l884, and then intermittently through the early 1900’s. Several shafts were sunk and 8,000 feet of underground workings were developed. High-grade copper ore was extracted and shipped to Swansea, Wales, and to San Francisco. The last mining activity took place between 1915 and 1918 when all remaining high-grade ore was mined and shipped. In total, the property produced approximately 50,000 tons of ore grading 10% copper.
Between 1942 and 1944, the U. S. Bureau of Mines investigated the quantity and quality of mineralized material containing iron oxide at the Planet deposit. This work was conducted as part of the wartime evaluation of potential domestic sources of strategic minerals, including sources of iron ore for the steel industry. The Bureau carried out geologic mapping and sampling, and conducted drilling programs utilizing both churn and diamond drilling methods. The information that resulted from this work was compiled and recorded. We believe that the information is reliable and of good quality. In 1945, it was used by the Bureau to calculate the tonnage and grade of mineralized material containing iron oxide at the Planet deposit.
Work completed since acquisition of the project includes recovery and surveying of the U. S. Bureau of Mines drill holes from 1942-1944; aerial photography and production of orthophotographs and topographic base maps; compilation of a comprehensive digital database and construction of a computerized block model incorporating all geological, geochemical and assay data; estimations of tonnage and grades of mineralized material containing iron oxide; design of conceptual open pits; preliminary metallurgical testing of MIO material; studies of MIO markets; and conduct of scoping studies to assess the project’s potential for production.
Geology and Mineralization
At the Planet deposit, MIO deposits associated with a mid-Tertiary, flat-lying, regional detachment fault are found in the Triassic Buckskin Formation. Rocks in the upper plate above the fault are composed of schist, limestone, hydrothermal carbonate and quartzite. Lower-plate rocks are gneisses. The upper and lower plates are separated by fault breccias up to 60 feet thick. The main mineralized bodies at the Planet deposit are found in the lower part of the upper plate, adjacent to and above the detachment fault. They occur as tabular replacements of hydrothermal carbonate, limestone and schist. The overall trend of the mineralized bodies is north fifty-five degrees east, and the plunge is eight to nine degrees to the southwest. Individual bodies dip ten to twenty degrees to the northwest.
The mineralized bodies form discontinuous lenses, irregular bodies and veins that individually are as much as 700 feet long, 250 feet wide, and 50 feet thick. Mineralized material consists dominantly of specularite and massive hematite with some limonite, malachite, azurite, chrysocolla, and a little pyrite, chalcopyrite, bornite, gold, and silver. Associated minerals include quartz and calcite. The mineralized material is very hard at the surface and to a depth of ten feet, but underground it is soft and powdery.
The U. S. Bureau of Mines and Santa Fe Gold each estimated the quantities and grades of mineralized material containing iron oxide at the Planet deposit. In 1945, the Bureau of Mines estimated the deposit contained 1.4 million tons averaging 60 percent iron (85.8% Fe2O3). The Bureau based this estimation on work it had carried out during 1942-1944, including drilling of twelve churn holes aggregating 3,742 feet, and ten diamond holes totaling 569 feet; and mapping, surveying, and sampling of surface outcrops and underground workings.
Our new, more detailed estimations employed computerized analytical methods and construction of a block model. We estimated that a total of 1.4 million tons of mineralized material grading 44.4% iron would be contained in three conceptually designed open pits. In carrying out our study, we compiled a comprehensive digital database incorporating relevant information from all sources. The database relied heavily on the information available from the Bureau of Mines, including geologic and assay data from drill holes, and results of surface and underground channel sampling. The database contained new survey information that tied the locations of drill holes and underground workings to accurate topographic maps generated from aerial photographs.
Conceptual Mining and Processing Plan
As presently conceived, the Planet mining and processing operation would involve low cost open-pit mining of MIO ore, primary crushing of the ore at the mine site, and trucking of the crushed ore approximately twenty-five miles to a processing plant to be located at an industrial site near Parker. At the plant site, metallurgical processing would be straightforward, and based on results from preliminarily metallurgical testing, would include grinding, classification, selective flotation or other method of separating the MIO, filtration and drying to yield recovery of MIO and red iron oxide, a secondary product. A stockpile of ore sufficient for plant operation would be maintained at the plant site. Because only small tonnages of ore would be needed during the early years of operation, mining and related activities would be carried out most efficiently on a periodic, campaign basis utilizing outside contractors. The project is well situated with respect to development infrastructure and transportation networks. MIO mineralized material is non-toxic and we see no significant environmental issues that would hinder development.
Micaceous Iron Oxide
MIO is an uncommon flake-like form of crystalline hematite (Fe2O3) valued for the anti-corrosive properties it contributes to coatings formulated to protect structural steelwork. MIO improves UV stability, adhesion, surface tolerance and abrasion resistance, and significantly increases coating life. It also has the advantage of being non-toxic to the environment. In Europe and Asia, MIO is the most important barrier pigment used to protect structural steelwork from corrosion. For many years it has been employed with outstanding success on bridges, oilrigs, transmission towers, pipelines, storage tanks, industrial plants and structural steelwork of all descriptions. The Eiffel Tower and Sydney Harbor Bridge are two examples.
Based on limited available market data, world production of MIO is estimated as around 20,000-30,000 tons (40-60 million lbs) annually, of which Europe and Asia consume over eighty percent. Prices are quoted in the range $0.40-$.60 per pound for quality material. Commercial deposits of high quality MIO are geologically rare. One supplier from underground mines in Austria has dominated the world market for many years; however, production from that source has been declining. Elsewhere around the world, production comes from only a handful of suppliers, operating on a small scale and, we believe, at high production costs.
The United States uses only a relatively small amount of MIO pigment as compared to other regions of the world. Lack of a domestic source of MIO has forced U. S. paint manufacturers to depend on imports and has restricted market expansion for MIO. The Planet project, if developed, would establish a domestic source of MIO pigment.
Historically, domestic paint manufactures have used zinc, rather than MIO, in anti-corrosion coatings of structural steelwork. However, underlying economic and environmental factors could result in a shift in usage to MIO. The recent dramatic increases in zinc prices, we believe, could create a competitive price advantage for MIO. In addition, MIO is non-toxic to the environment, another advantage that can be expected to grow in future importance.