The history of Indiana Resources can be traced back to 1984 when it was listed under a company called Goldstream Mining NL. Since then, the firm has looked at various opportunities in the nickel mining space and owned a producing iron project at one stage before entering Mali’s well-established gold sector following recent developments in Tanzania, where it owns a nickel project. The Indiana licences and the current team on the ground have been exploring in Mali since 2013, but it was only last year that these licences, located in Kenieba Province, were brought into Indiana through the acquisition of Mukuyu Resources and a joint venture with Cradle Arc – giving Indiana a total of four licences in close proximity within this highly mineralised Birimian Greenstone belt.
“After the recent developments in Tanzania we were looking for a project elsewhere and there was a willing vendor in Peter Anderton with Mukuyu Resources. He was the man who vended the first two Mali assets into Indiana,” says chief executive Chris van Wijk.
Anderton did an all-share deal with Indiana, giving the company ownership of Koussikoto Ouest and Kenieko Nord, in which it holds 75% and 95% interests respectively. The remaining interests are held by local partners. In return, Anderton sits on the Indiana share registry with about 13% ownership.
Indiana’s board and management team is led by a triumvirate of highly experienced mining professionals, with non-executive chair Bronwyn Barnes and non-executive director Bruce McFadzean working alongside van Wijk.
“Bronwyn and Bruce are well known in the Australian resources space. Bruce is the managing director of Sheffield Resources, a very large mineral sands play in Western Australia. Bronwyn has been involved in the small cap end of the market for many years and sits on the board of a couple successful juniors including Mod Resources.
“But more importantly, she has worked in Guinea and various other countries in West Africa, has a private venture in Burkina Faso and speaks excellent French,” he adds. Van Wijk is also conversant in French and has worked in several other countries in West Africa prior to leading Indiana in Mali.
Under the guidance of van Wijk, Barnes and McFadzean, Indiana has focused on consolidating its land position in Western Mali following the acquisition of Koussikoto Ouest and Kenieko Nord.
Soon enough, the company bolstered its land package through a JV deal with Cradle Arc in August 2018, which provided two further licences in the shape of Kossanto West and Koussikoto, located a short distance North of Indiana’s initial licences.
When studying a map of the area, it becomes clear that Indiana’s four licences are located smack bang in the centre of three large regional gold camps. To the North you will find the Sadiola and Yatela deposits, to the Southeast are Loulo and Fekola and toward the Southwest is the Sabodala mine in Senegal, owned by Teranga Gold.
With this in mind, Indiana’s board concluded that the central area intersecting these major gold camps was highly prospective and had not received the amount of exploration attention that it deserved.
“We saw an opportunity there because most of those leases weren’t held by majors, allowing us to go in and do some consolidation. We want to put together a decent sized land package that would be interesting to a larger firm. We believe we can do that quicker and cheaper than the majors can.”
This brings sharply into focus Indiana’s strategy with regards to its status as a gold explorer and not a mine developer. “The company has no illusions about wanting to go into production,” van Wijk explains.
“We believe that the best value is in putting together a land package, working it up to point where we have a decent resource and then moving that on for someone else to put into production.”
The land of giants
Mali’s is Africa’s third largest gold producer and expects output to increase by almost 21% to 600 tonnes in 2018, thanks to new facilities coming online such as B2Gold’s Fekola and Hummingbird Resources’ Yanfolila mines.
These facilities join an illustrious list of gold mines operated by giants of the industry including Randgold Resources, Anglogold Ashanti, Resolute Mining and IAMGOLD. As such, Mali’s geological pedigree is in no doubt considering the calibre of multinationals invested in the sector.
However, Mali’s standing as a reliable investment destination has been called into doubt in certain quarters after security issues came to the fore in 2017, including a terror attack near the capital Bamako and escalating conflict in the less fertile (hence poorer) North of the country.
Nonetheless, the commitment of the mining community to Mali has been unwavering since these incidents and van Wijk believes Mali is in fact a much safer jurisdiction compared to some of its West African counterparts.
“The corruption that West Africa is well known for is never encountered at the high level of government that we have to deal with,” he says. “From that point of view, it’s much easier than operating in Guinea, Liberia or any other countries I’ve experienced in the region.
“All of Africa is a complex overlay between tribal interests, clan interests and religion and Mali is no different. The one redeeming feature of Mali is that religion is uniformly Muslim, so that kind of complexity dies away.”
On a government level, Indiana has established strong communication lines with the Malian Ministry of Mines, as evidenced by a meeting van Wijk held with the current Minister of Mines Lelenta Hawa Baba Bah at the end of 2017.
“The doors are wide open for us and they [the Mali Government] are keen for any form of investment. Mali is complex, but we believe it is a better jurisdiction to operate in than the majority of West African countries and it will remain our main focus for the time being.”
Progressing the licences
Returning to the licences in Kenieba Province, Indiana’s scope of work in 2018 centred on geophysics using Induced Polarisation (IP) methods at Koussikoto, which was followed by around 4,000 metres of drilling.
The drilling programme returned some excellent hits including 18 metres at 3.35 g/t Au and 5 metres at 4.86 g/t Au. Follow-up drilling and further ground consolidation is planned this year.
“Now, the plan is to do geophysics on the Northern licences that comprise our Cradle Arc JV and the Western part of our Koussikoto licence. Then we will aim to do more air core drilling surrounding the strike from where we have had promising hits, to see if we can define any targets with the geophysics and geochemistry.”
Indiana has been running a primarily self-sufficient model in Mali so far, preferring to undertake a wide range of tasks in-house including the construction of a mining camp, and has also brought its own staff for the camp, along with its own vehicles and drivers.
However, Indiana’s drilling partner thus far has been Amco Drilling and it has used a local geophysics company called Sagax to do the IP work and subsequent interpretation of the results. Beyond these contractors, Indiana is self-sufficient almost end-to-end.
Patience in Tanzania
Indiana is also maintaining its position in the Ntaka Hill nickel project in Southern Tanzania, despite the recent controversy and upheaval that has gripped the mining sector. The company maintains that the project resembles a significant and exciting opportunity, but changes to the Tanzanian mining act have led to its Retention licence being cancelled.
In a recent meeting, the Tanzanian government explained to Indiana their intention to eventually return the tenure, provided they accept the new ownership structure which dictates that the state must hold a 16% stake in the project.
Meanwhile, the government is still embroiled in a two-year long tax dispute with Barrick Gold’s Acacia Mining, therefore until this major conflict is resolved Indiana feels that the picture surrounding Ntaka Hill will not get any clearer.
“We are confident that we will get our tenure back at some point and the ultimate plan for the Ntaka Hill licence is to partner it. Once again, we are not looking to build mines, we are looking to get those assets to a point where they are sale or JV ready,” says van Wijk.
This brings us back to Indiana’s long-term goal of building enticing land packages in prospective mineral belts that would eventually attract the interest of the majors.
In the short term, the company plans to continue consolidating its Mali licences and is quietly hopeful that a consensus will be reached in Tanzania’s mining sector.