PERU – Quebec City-based junior PLEXMAR RESOURCES is evaluating the economics of building a gold processing plant for hundreds of informal miners working near its exploration properties in northern Peru, said company president Guy Bedard.
Between 700 and 1,000 unskilled locals are mining approximately 100 t/d with grades of 67-500 g/t Au within 15 km of Plexmar’s projects in northern Peru’s Piura department some 50 km from the border with Ecuador, according to the company. The ore is currently sold to buyers at US$300-350/tonne and shipped to processing plants as far as 1,500 km away in southern Peru. The transport costs mean that lower grade ore is not worth mining.
"They don’t even touch anything lower than one ounce per ton," said Bedard.
Plexmar plans to dismantle the 100-t/d plant it owns in Trujillo in northwest Peru’s La Libertad department and transfer the usable equipment to a new site in Piura. The permitting process will begin once the site has been chosen. The company is also taking ore material from different workings to conduct preliminary leaching tests on the oxide material. The Trujillo plant was designed to process sulphide ores using flotation cells.
"The whole process could take anywhere from four months to a year," said Bedard, stressing that the project is in its early stages. The company estimates that some US$250,000 would be required to reassemble the Trujillo plant in Piura, but it has not yet worked out the potential cash flow from the operation.
Artisanal mining began 18 months ago in what Bedard describes as a virgin area with no history of gold mining. A regional drought led locals with no previous mining experience to look for other ways to earn a living. The artisanal miners working are not intrusive and Plexmar has taken advantage of their work by sampling the trenches they have dug, Bedard said.
Plexmar’s main interest is to forge a good business association with the artisan miners by providing a more profitable processing option, and to give training and employment to locals to help develop its nearby 4,000-ha Bolsa del Diablo prospect, acquired in mid-2004. Surface sampling has returned gold values ranging from 14 ppb to 119 g/t Au and preliminary observations indicate a large epithermal gold system. The company is applying for exploration permits.
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