Big gold and silver find in Tonga

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 10:06 07/11/2012

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An international mining company says it has found two gold and silver rich systems in deep waters in Tonga’s exclusive economic zone.

In a statement to the London and Toronto stock exchanges, Nautilus Minerals said the latest two finds, in waters between Samoa and Tonga, continue a trend of finding “high precious metal grades” in the area.

The company, which also plans to prospect in New Zealand’s EEZ, sent a remote-operated vehicle down to around 1000 metres to sample rocks on hydrothermal systems known as Seafloor Massive Sulfide (SMS).

The samples were were rich in copper and zinc, and contained 28.6 grams per metric ton (g/t) of gold and 673 g/t silver. By comparison, prospectors on land in New Zealand’s Waihi area report results of around 38 g/t gold and 49 g/t silver.

Nautilus, which is working to get the world’s first under-sea mining operation underway in waters around Papua New Guinea, argue that despite the depth it will be able to easily mine SMS, which are towering rock systems also known as “black smokers”.

The latest discovery in the North Eastern Lau Basin, is in the area of the massive Tonga Trench and near the epicentres of two big earthquakes which generated the lethal Samoan tsunami in 2009. It is an area of extreme seismic activity.

Nautilus chief executive Mike Johnston said the finds highlight the potential of the firm’s Tongan prospects which have produced at least 17 SMS systems.

Nautilus’ major shareholders include Russian miner Metalloinvest (21 per cent), British miner Anglo American plc (11.1 per cent), and Oman based Mawarid Mining LLC (16.9 per cent).

The Tongan announcement saw Nautilus (NUS) lift over five per cent on the Toronto exchange to 83 Canadian cents (NZ$1.00) but it is still off its high of a year ago when it traded at C$2.90.

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