Orion Minerals Ltd. has been granted mining rights for its Vardocube extension at its flagship Prieska Copper-Zinc project in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. The Vardocube Ltd. mining right covers 27% of the ore included in the updated bankable feasibility study announced on May 26 and also covers highly prospective exploration upside in the near-mine area, the company said.

The Vardocube mining right supplements the Prieska copper zinc mine (formerly Repli) mining right granted last year, which covers 73% of the bankable mine plan.

The mining right follows the granting of the environmental authorization for the Vardocube resource received in March 2020.

The two mining rights, together with the water use license granted on August 6, gives the Prieska mine the key approvals required to operate. Other important statutory requirements such as the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) rezoning for mining purposes and approval of the project’s Electromagnetic Compatibility Plan by the South African Astronomy Management Authority (AMA), have also been secured.

The Prieska Project is now officially “shovel-ready” and one of the few advanced, fully permitted base metal projects worldwide.

In just five years since acquiring the Prieska Project, Orion has drilled out a world-class VMS Resource, completed a Bankable Feasibility Study and now completed all required permitting, the company said.

Orion Managing Director and CEO Errol Smart said, “Prieska is now positioned to play a major role in the post-COVID economic recovery of the Northern Cape region of South Africa with the development of a world-class base metals mining operation.”

He added, “The achievement of this major milestone is testament to the exceptional geological potential and attractive business operating environment that we have found and made our home in the Northern Cape.

The project has received A$36 million (US$26.1 million) in foreign direct investment and is now poised to bring in a further investment of more than A$432 million (US$312.8 million) over the next three years, Smart said.

The mine is projected to deliver more than A$3.2 billion (US$2.32 billion) of mineral exports over an initial 12-year life.

“This is a clear demonstration of the potential of junior mining and exploration and the significant financial benefits that it can mobilize, when working with a supportive host community, strong BEE partners and proactive local and provincial government,” Smart said.