Minerals explorer Variscan Mines (ASX:VAR) is continuing to progress towards bringing the San Jose Mine within its Novales-Udias Project in northern Spain back into production.
Speaking to Mining.com.au, Variscan Mines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director Stewart Dickson says the company is following a ‘very logical’ plan, with phase three underground drilling continuing at the project.
Under this drilling program, which began on 21 June 2023, Variscan is completing up to 1,000m of underground drilling to explore multiple zinc targets within the mine, along with testing and expanding the known zinc-mineralised zones and zinc-rich lenses identified in early drilling programs and exploration work.
“We’re reinforcing the success we had in 2022 when we conducted both underground and surface drilling over our northern Novales-Udias Project. We reported some outstanding drilling results there, and really, this is now the next phase of development as we look to evaluate a restart of the San Jose Mine,” Dickson says.
“this is now the next phase of development as we look to evaluate a restart of the San Jose Mine”
“So, phase three drilling will take us through to the end of the year, all underground, and, importantly, it’s being done organically. We’ve bought our own small rig that affords us a lot of flexibility, efficiency, and cost savings and allows a very dynamic drill program to be undertaken.”
On 2 March 2023, Variscan reported ‘high-grade’ results from step-out drilling at San Jose, including SB-19B with 6m @ 16.02% Zn and 0.17% Pb and SB-18 with 22m @ 8.16% Zn.
As phase three drilling progresses at San Jose, the CEO and MD tells this news service that Variscan plans to publish a maiden Mineral Resource Estimate for the project, along with a Mine Restart Concept Study, in the second half of 2023.
Dickson says the study will explore the company’s advantages and necessary areas of focus to bring the mine back into production.
“We believe currently that we’ve got a number of inherent advantages.
But there are other things that we’ll need to do to bring that mine into a 21st-century compliant mine, so those are the 2 deliverables.”
The San Jose Mine covers an area of 68.3km-square and formerly produced mineralisation at a head grade of 9% zinc and 1% lead until production ceased in 1999. On 29 July 2019, Variscan entered an agreement to acquire Novales-Udias, along with the Guajaraz Project near Madrid.
Armed with a database consisting of 88,000m of historical drilling and multiple areas of zinc anomalism identified through recent and historical geochemical surveys, the company has defined the northwest-southeast Novales Trend over 9km, with a parallel mineralised trend over at least 3km of strike.
The company has also defined an exploration target of 16.5 million tonnes to 34 million tonnes at 6.3% to 9.1% zinc for Novales-Udias.
Dickson explains that Spain was an attractive jurisdiction to enter due to several factors including historical production in the region, limited oversight from the Spanish government, and a lack of fellow explorers operating in the region.
“the community are very supportive”
“We know that the social licence there is very strong to operate, and the community are very supportive. Mining is in their DNA, it’s in their blood, it’s in their family histories.”
He also mentions that the presence of a mining school, geology school, deepwater port, and international airport, along with rail and road infrastructure, provides access to ‘talented’ young people and multiple routes to market for the zinc material mined at the project.
Regarding expanding Variscan’s portfolio, Dickson tells Mining.com.au that the company is prepared to double down in Spain as it aims to become a mid-tier zinc producer.
“We’re always scanning, we’re always talking and looking for opportunities. We want to become a mid-tier zinc producer. So, if there are any acquisitions that can help us on that development journey, then yes, we will look at them.”
Variscan Mines is a Perth-based natural resources explorer focused on its portfolio of base metals projects in Spain, Chile, and Australia.
Along with Novales-Udias and Guajaraz in Spain, the company also holds the Rosario Copper Project in the Atacama region of Chile and a minority interest in several areas of eastern and central Australia.
On 31 March 2023, Variscan had $1.18 million cash at hand, according to its latest quarterly report published on 28 April 2023. Variscan Mines has a market capitalisation of $4.4 million.
Write to Harry Mulholland at Mining.com.au
Images: Variscan Mines Ltd