Over the last three years, SolGold (LSE: SOLG) has earned an 85% stake in the Cascabel copper-gold-silver deposit in northern Ecuador, and the Brisbane-based company says it is on track to complete its first resource estimate on the early stage project over the next 12 to 18 months.
The property in the Andean western cordillera — 120 km north of the capital city of Quito, and 20 km from Ecuador’s border with Colombia — is jointly owned with Cornerstone Capital Resources. SolGold is the operator and Cornerstone owns a 15% stake.
Cascabel is upstream from an extensive alluvial gold district called Playa de Oro, 50 km west. Other projects in the vicinity include the Junin porphyry copper-molybdenum deposit 50 km southwest, and the La Colosa porphyry gold deposit in Colombia.
Several other mineral prospects are hosted in the same geological belt, including the Chical copper-silver epithermal prospect, 12 km northwest of Cascabel, and the Rio Amarillo gold-silver-copper epithermal prospect, 12 km south.
Cascabel is situated near the northern end of a Miocene intrusive belt that trends north–south through Ecuador, and the deposit sits at elevations ranging from 750 metres to 2,100 metres above sea level.
Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment granted a four-year environmental license for advanced exploration in August 2013, and drilling began in September. Earlier this month, SolGold said it is mobilizing a second drill rig to the property.
Drill results are encouraging. Hole 1 returned 100 metres grading 0.7% copper and 1.01 grams gold per tonne, and hole 5 cut 552 metres grading 1.1% copper and 1.08 grams gold per tonne, and remains open at depth.
Hole 9 assayed 1,271 metres of 0.6% copper and 0.77 gram gold; and hole 10 returned an open-ended intersection of 220 metres averaging 0.6% copper and 0.59 gram gold. Hole 10 ended at 980 metres due to drilling difficulties, 150 metres short of the proposed high-grade zone previously found in holes 5 and 9.
On May 19, SolGold reported that its current hole 11 has found strong visual copper mineralization from 996 metres, “and variably continues to the current hole depth at 1,128 metres.”
“The drill results are deep and appear to have been drilled straight down the throat of the orebody,” analysts at London-based Investec Securities commented in a brief note. “The ‘directors’ hole’ is alive and well.”
Geologists discovered the outcrop in May 2012 during reconnaissance mapping. It was one of three areas on the 50 sq. km property where porphyry stockworks were found.
A subsequent 20 sq. km grid soil survey yielded widespread geochemical anomalies on the property, and identified an extensive geochemical footprint and coincident copper-gold-moly soil anomaly in Alpala Creek.
In October 2012, a Heli-magnetic survey identified a 3 by 2.2 km, structurally dissected magnetic high/low complex that coincided with the largest of three regional soil moly anomalies.
In the first half of 2013, SolGold completed channel and trench sampling over an area 430 metres north–south by 200 metres east–west to map surface grade distribution and identify the extent of stockwork veins.
The Cascabel property is underlain by Upper Cretaceous sedimentary rocks that are overlain by Oligocene to Miocene andesitic flows and breccias. These units are intruded by Miocene-age granodiorite and diorite batholiths and stocks.
Major regional tectonic structures in the area strike northeast. One such structure, the Apuela regional fault, transects the southeast part of the Cascabel property.