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Project Geologist Geoff Day speaks to Etruscan's expanding exploration portfolio and the difference developing and sharing local knowledge has made.
As the first bars of gold are poured at Etruscan's Youga deposit in Burkina Faso, project geologist Geoff Day reflects on the company's progress in bringing Youga from an exploration project to a producing gold mine - and how they plan to replicate that success.
One thing is for sure. Etruscan's strength in developing and sharing exploration knowledge is an advantage that will continue to play heavily in their developing projects.
From a starting point in Niger 13 years ago, Etruscan is now one of the largest mineral rights holders in Western Africa. With a property portfolio that spans thousands of square kilometres, the new gold producer manages a growing assemblage of exploration programs in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Niger, and South Africa.
Panoramic view of the Etruscan's Youga Plant
"Our focus, from the start, has been on developing exploration teams in the countries within which we operate," said Mr. Day. "Key to this is finding local personnel with experience and knowledge of the country, its administrative policies and local geology. There's a lot of value in having people on our team who might have walked over the prospective ground we are exploring."
Based in Etruscan's head office in Nova Scotia, Mr. Day manages the company's data hub, a growing corporate map database that stores and provides not only information but knowledge embedded in plan maps, two dimensional exploration maps, drilling plan maps and drill sections for advanced analysis.
Drilling activity from the feasibility drilling program for Youga
While some explorers are content to move from project to project using the tools at hand, Etruscan has taken care to establish simple corporate guidelines, and a common exploration platform to support its project development. This has ensured it can easily capture and share the rich experience and knowledge being developed.
Etruscan adopted Geosoft as their corporate exploration management platform in 1995, and this is the standard that is maintained to date. "We've found it easy to use Geosoft as our corporate standard because we're able to bring in information from any of the main GIS and resource systems used in exploration," said Mr. Day.
"Geosoft is able to bring in MapInfo files, ArcGIS files, AutoCAD DXF files and a very wide range of remotely sensed data products. It can also bring in files from Surpac and other resource packages. It's very flexible in that respect."
Inherently when you are collecting historical data and obtaining data products from local government agencies you will encounter many different formats. Having software that can import the disparate data formats used in the industry has definitely aided in rapid compilation of information and target generation, according to Mr. Day.
As important, it has also made data sharing between the field and managers faster, easier and more productive.
"It's taken for granted that when someone makes a map at the project site and sends it to one of the local managers or Canada, they're going be able to open it at the other end and see exactly what the geologist sees in the field," said Mr. Day. "They quickly understand what is being presented, as opposed to struggling to recreate a map or section using a different platform."
Youga deposit drill plan, with a soil geochemistry target underlay, created in Geosoft Target.
Etruscan has been exploring for gold and diamonds in Africa for more than 13 years. Now the junior has just made the significant leap from explorer to producer first as a JV partner at the Samira gold mine in Niger and now by opening its Youga gold mine in Burkina Faso in March 2008.
Etruscan used Geosoft Target as the principle exploration platform at its Youga gold mine both during the feasibility stage and currently while developing additional resources outside the mine site, to monitor the progress of drilling programs. Now Youga is an 88,000 ounce-per-year producer with an expected mine life of six and a half years.
Mr. Day said Target's most useful features include being able to make clean and informative colour contour images from 2-D geochemical and geophysical data and, by using the map and section modules, visualize deposits during drilling campaigns.
Those features will become increasingly useful as the company continues to expand on African soil. Having just poured its first gold at Youga, Etruscan is working towards mining its Agbaou gold deposit in Côte d'Ivoire, where resources add up to more than one million ounces of gold. A feasibility study is currently underway in preparation for production in 2010.
Gold bars produced at Etruscan's Youga Mine in March, 2008
The company, with JV partner Resolute Mining Limited, is also starting a deep drilling program at the Finkolo gold project in Mali, where resources have increased by 53% to close to 750,000 ounces. And at the Blue Gum diamond project in South Africa, a potential alluvial diamond producer, a prefeasibility study is currently underway.
As Etruscan continues to grow, with the aim of starting a second gold mine in Côte d'Ivoire in 2010, it needs the capability to adapt to the company's larger and increasingly complex datasets.
"As the company builds it's portfolio of exploration projects and the scope of our corporate database increases, we will be migrating towards the integration of ArcGIS," says Mr. Day. "With Target for ArcGIS, we can continue to use Geosoft for drilling data management, 2D interpolation and color contour image visualization in this integrated environment."