Southern Gold SK

Southern Gold assessing critical minerals potential in addition to epithermal gold in South Korea

Southern Gold (ASX:SAU) is eyeing critical minerals targets in addition to epithermal gold systems in the highly ‘modern yet underexplored’ mining destination of South Korea.

Speaking to Mining.com.au on the sidelines of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney today (2 November), the MD says in a sense Southern Gold is an island onto itself in South Korea.

South Korea is great mining exploration destination that has probably been off the exploration radar when comes to mining in Asia. It’s a modern mining jurisdiction and it’s a great place to work but it’s extremely underexplored by modern day standards.

We are the only company actively exploring in South Korea and in many ways we have the whole country to ourselves.”

“We are the only company actively exploring in South Korea and in many ways we have the whole country to ourselves”

According to Smillie, while Southern Gold’s main focus is on epithermal gold systems from the cretaceous age, it is also moving to target lithium and rare earth elements (REE) as well.

We don’t have any defined resources at this stage, as we’re an early stage exploration company, but we’ve got a lot of ground around some historical mining districts in South Korea, so it’s mixture of brownfields and greenfields plays.

“We are working to explore these targets in parallel, so we have a  full portfolio of projects and I guess, the one that comes off the best is the one we’ll focus on down the line.”

Smillie told Mining.com.au that to a large extent, Southern Gold is carrying on from work that was started by Ivanhoe (TSE:IVN) back in the early 1990s.

Southern Gold drilling

In many ways we’re really continuing that work of exploration that Ivanhoe commenced. They got dragged off to go to Mongolia in around 2000 to develop Hugo Dummett deposit at OT (the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project), and so we’re in a sense picking up where they left off in 2000.”

The company has been busy to resume and advance the work once started by Ivanhoe.

Southern Gold previously commissioned an independent and comprehensive desk-top prospectivity study assessing the exploration opportunities for lithium and REE in South Korea with the view to complementing its existing in-country precious metals exploration program.

The study was completed in September by international geology consulting group RSC Mining and Mineral Exploration, JORC-compliant experts in the field of critical minerals targeting and exploration, who adopted the internationally recognised “minerals system analysis” approach.

Smillie says the RSC study was ‘highly successful’ in identifying areas that have positive potential to host Li and REE deposits with the most promising areas identified and ranked based on several key factors. These include proximity to known deposits or occurrences, permissive host rocks, and anomalous values of pathfinder elements from regional stream sediment data, grab samples, and airborne radiometrics.

A lot of people probably are unaware just how prospective and underexplored South Korea is as a mining district.”

A lot of people probably are unaware just how prospective and underexplored South Korea is as a mining district”

In the company’s recently released quarterly report for the period ending 30 September 2022, Southern Gold notes that it has been a busy period for the company.

During the quarter, generative exploration was completed in Haenam Basin with exploration now moving to focussed exploration on higher-ranked projects. Generative exploration also continued in Jinan Basin with promising projects delineated around several historic copper-gold-silver mines.

Also, 25 new licence applications lodged in Gyeongsang Basin over historic Goseong copper-gold-silver district and extensions, covering an area over 70km-square. Southern Gold reports that significant rock chip samples from historic mines returned grades up to 8.15g/t Au, 265g/t Ag and up to 3.32% Cu, and samples from areas peripheral to the known district returned grades up to 0.82 g/t Au, 198g/t Ag and 3.32% Cu, indicating the potential for a sizable mineralised system.

Smillie told Mining.com.au that plans are underway to advance Goseong to drill testing in February 2023 and these plans include an airborne drone magnetic survey, soil sampling, detailed mapping and rock chip sampling of historic working and outcrops.

Plans are also underway to progress epithermal gold-silver projects Deokon and Dokcheon to drilling in Q4 FY23 after drilling is completed at Goseong. A comprehensive independent report commissioned by SAU will progress the Company to widen exploration within South Korea to include specifically identified critical metals.

The MD adds: “We have a number of projects that we are looking at. We’re looking to start drilling again in February. The Dokcheon project is a historical gold project and we are looking to get back into that next year with some drilling.

Overall, all options are on the table. Primarily at the moment we see ourselves as an explorer. If we come across something that we may be able to develop, there might be some companies in South Korea that might like to pick it up, there’s some small-scale mining operations there that we could potentially sell that to.

At the same time, we’re open to joint venture opportunities too if we discover bigger deposits to develop. Primarily exploration is where we are investing and that’s our main focus but  we’re certainly keeping the idea of development on the table as well.

Epithermal gold deposits are among the richest gold deposits in the world, with some ‘bonanza-grade’ ore shoots containing more than 1,000g/t gold-equivalent or a kilogram of gold for everyone tonne of rock mined. The tonnage of ore in epithermal veins is typically smaller than other types of low-grade gold deposits.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: Southern Gold Ltd
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Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Editor-in-Chief Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Orlando has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.