Nigeria might not be considered a mining investment/development hotspot, but for exploration company Moydow Holdings, the country’s vastly unexplored geology makes it a lucrative proposition. GERARD PETER finds out more from executive chairperson BRIAN KIERNAN and geology consultant, KIERAN HARRINGTON.
While privately owned Moydow Holdings might be considered relatively new entrant into the mining sector, the company is built on a rich history of success in West Africa. Kiernan previously headed up Moydow Mines International, a TSX-listed company responsible for two major discoveries in Ghana.
The first is the Wassa mine which is still in production today and the second discovery is the Subika gold deposit which is part of Newmont’s Ohafa mine. In 2002, the company sold its interest in Ohafa to Newmont and retained a royalty on the project. In 2010, the company was sold in its entirety to TSX-listed Franco Nevada.
Kiernan has 28 years’ mining experience in West Africa and since 2010, had been looking for projects in the region as he firmly believes in the region’s resource potential. In 2017, he reviewed a number of gold projects owned by local engineering firm PW Nigeria asked him to evaluate a number gold projects in Nigeria, which clearly demonstrated potential.
In 2019 Moydow and PW signed a Joinit Venture on two of the projects, both in Niger State – now referred to as Paimasa-Mint and Dagma. The company has also signed a deal with AIM-listed Panthera Resources which brings projects in Burkina Faso and Mali into the Moydow portfolio. That deal made Panthera a 45% shareholder in Moydow.
Niger State is one of the main gold producing states in Nigeria, with all production coming from artisanal or small scale mechanised mines. The projects lie at the southern end of the Kushaka Schist Belt. Both the Paimasa-Mint and Dagma areas have themselves been the target of very extensive artisanal gold mining activity in recent years. Interestingly, the projects share the same geology as that of Thor Explorations’ Segilola mine.
“The attraction for this area and these projects lies in basement rocks, similar to the Birimian of the West African craton that extend all the way from Senegal to Ghana and has produced in excess of 100 Moz of gold over the past few decades, whereas in Nigeria, there has been almost no formal gold exploration. And when we went and had a closer look at the rocks, we found they were not very different from what one finds further to the west,” explains Harrington.
While progress on the projects has been hampered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrington explains that the company has managed to make some inroads with first-pass drilling programmes taking place at both projects. The drilling has confirmed the presence of significant ore grade mineralisation. At Dagma, the highest intersection was 3 m at 8.6 g/t while the best intersection at Paimasa-Mint was 6 m at 3.2g/t.
Harrington explains that in both cases the grades were less than the company had expected from surface bukk sampling which had returned grades of 22g/t and 28g/t respectively. He states that because there is a lot of course gold found in these deposits, it presents challenges for sampling and assaying of relatively small drill samples. “As such, we’ve have conducted bottle roll tests on drill samples from each of those areas to determine in the possibility of increasing the grade. Thus far, initial results from the tests on the larger samples have been promising and have shown a very considerable increase in grade versus fire assays. Following the bottle roll tests analysis, the company plans to do further drilling on both projects around October this year,” he adds.
Plenty of reasons to explore Nigeria
While Nigeria’s mining sector is still in its infancy, Kiernan believes that there are a number of factors that attracted Moydow to the country. “Firstly, the geology doesn’t change and is similar to the rest of West Africa. It’s just a matter of finding the most lucrative resources. Secondly, the government has put in place a roadmap to develop the mining sector and this includes an incentive scheme for mining companies.”
Kiernan adds that having a first mover advantage also means that the company has an opportunity to go into areas where very little exploration has been done and can use modern methods to bear fruit in these areas.
Furthermore, Harrington points out that working with an established partner like PW Nigeria has also ensured that operations run smoothly. PW Nigeria has been operating in Nigeria since 1973 and was part of a group that became one of the largest mining contractors in West Africa. While he admits that there is a shortage of experienced metal mine workers in the country, there is not really a shortage of mining skills.
This stems from the fact that the country has a large quarrying sector. “It’s not that Nigeria has been completely free of any mining projects. It’s just that it has not had any large scale hard rock metal projects over the past few decades. So there is a reasonably large pool of resources that one can tap into from the quarrying sector, particularly the cement industry.”
Securing investment to take these projects up the value chain may be a challenge for Moydow, but there is a game changer on the horizon that will significantly change the potential for raising cash for projects in Nigeria. “Thor Explorations’ first gold pour at Segilola mine will open the floodgates, more mining companies will start to look at Nigeria and more investors will consider the country a viable option. This will make it easier to raise finance for projects in the country,” states Kiernan.
Most importantly, Kiernan believes strongly in the potential of both Paimasa-Mint and Dagma. “When I closely evaluated these projects, I was completely ‘blown away’ by their prospectivity. There were really obvious mineralised horizons, lots of quartz and lots of local artisanal miners working the properties. They are probably the best Greenfields exploration projects that I have ever seen,” he concludes.