Although gold and copper have formed the foundation for PNG’s mining industry in the past, the country’s mineral endowment is far more extensive. The prospect of diversification has led a number of companies to begin evaluating a range of other mineral resources, including chromite, nickel, platinum-group metals and industrial minerals.
At Wowo Gap in eastern PNG, Resource Mining Corp. (through Niugini Nickel) is continuing to evaluate laterite nickel-cobalt resources, having recently completed a revised resource estimate for the project. Following the completion of a scoping study in 2008, the company is now carrying out further metallurgical testwork to determine the most appropriate treatment process for the mineralization, with a feasibility study scheduled for completion by the end of this year.
Chromite has been the target for OM Holdings, with the company having completed a limited drilling program on its Salamua prospect in Morobe province. Sample analysis was scheduled for the first half of this year, with future work being determined by the results of this phase.
Papuan Precious Metals has a number of active projects, targeting platinum, palladium, nickel, chromite, gold and copper at its Doriri Creek, Urua Creek, Dimidi Creek, Upper Ada’u River, Goroa Creek and New Hanover prospects in Oro province.
MIL Resources, working on Titan Mines’ iron sand prospects at Amazon Bay, recently reported the presence of vanadium in heavy-mineral concentrates from sampling there. The company is also prospecting for gold and copper at its nearby Poi license area.
Meanwhile, Xstrata is continuing evaluation work at the Frieda River copper-gold joint-venture project with Highlands Pacific and OMRD. With a pre-feasibility study already under way, a $36-million infill drilling program on the Horse-Ivaal-Trukai section of the project has shown porphyry mineralization extending to more than 600 m in depth.
Industrial minerals such as limestone are also of increasing interest, with a number of Chinese and Japanese companies evaluating the potential for cement production.