Tietto Minerals successfully floated on the ASX in January 2018, raising $6 million through the issue of 30 million shares in its IPO. After seven years under private operation the decision to go public was made in September 2017 by the board of directors – whom collectively boast over a century of experience in mineral exploration. Tietto’s story began in 2010 with two projects in Liberia before expanding into Côte d’Ivoire two years later, following the conclusion of the Ivorian crisis. Since then, progress in Côte d’Ivoire has taken place at a fast pace, spearheaded by the rapid development of Tietto’s flagship Abujar gold project, where the company’s current JORC resource originates from.
The first exploration licence of the Abujar project was applied for by Tietto with its joint venture partner in March 2014, and by September of the same year the company received a license for the middle tenement – which hosts the JORC Resource and numerous drilling targets.
“Due to previous large-scale artisanal workings around a few kilometres strike, it was very clear to us where the mineralisation was taking place at Abujar,” says Tietto’s managing director Caigen Wang. “At least a portion of the mineralisation is shown at the surface by previous artisanal workings.”
Therefore, it has been somewhat fortuitous for Tietto that the prior work of small-scale artisanal miners across the tenement has exposed mineralisation at surface, particularly as Wang proposes that the average time taken to identify mineralisation at a grassroots exploration project is usually around two years.
“In the case of Abujar, we save at least two years in identifying mineralisation before starting resource definition drilling, as the artisanal workings clearly show part of the mineralisation from surface and heading downwards. That’s one of the main reasons why we are progressing the Abujar project so rapidly.”
JORC Inferred Resource
The maiden JORC Inferred Resource estimation of 10.4 Mt @ 2.1 g/t Au for 703,600 oz was delivered in December 2016 from 13,000 metres of drilling within a small portion of known artisanal working areas in the middle tenement.
Since this announcement, the company has continued drilling several new targets within the tenement with the aim of further building the resource. Over the last four years, all drilling activity has been conducted by major West African contractor Geodrill, with the most recent campaign completed in Q1 2018.
The Q1 campaign focused on digging deeper holes in the current JORC Resource area and delivered some very positive and encouraging results according to Wang. Tietto managed to hit high grade gold intercepts at an extended depth of 200-250 metres over a strike length of 1,000 metres – an exciting result indeed.
The next step for Tietto is to target a new resource area to the South of the main resource: “Our recent drilling beyond the strike of the existing JORC resource towards the South gave us very good intersections and multiple drilling targets for further resource definition.
“But the few holes we drilled at a shallow depth of 50 metres gave us very good intersections. The areas named Pischon South and Golikro will form our next major increase in resources.”
For these upcoming drill programmes, Tietto has elected Ausdrill as its drilling partner of choice. Ausdrill has been operating in West Africa for many years, but only recently expanded their business into Côte d’Ivoire. Tietto will become their first drilling service client in the nation, when they undertake the next round of drilling for over 50,000 metres.
Overall, the short-term target for Tietto at Abujar hinges on further expanding the resource, which could potentially be doubled or even tripled up to around 2 million oz before the company commences a pre-feasibility study.
Operating in Côte d’Ivoire
With high grade mineralisation being identified with every additional drill programme, the potential for Abujar to provide a high-quality gold mine is there for all to see, but how viable is Côte d’Ivoire as a mining jurisdiction?
The mining industry was only meaningfully opened up to foreign investors in 2014, when a new mining code was introduced. The new code stipulated a range of legislative measures including an attractive five-year corporate tax free exemption for mining companies, followed by a 25% corporate tax rate and a 3% government royalty rate.
“Cote d’Ivoire was already a relatively developed country in Africa, [before the new mining code] particularly in West Africa. The country has very good infrastructure thanks to its very developed agricultural industry.”
The gold mining sector is also well established, with five mines currently producing and operated by a number of international companies including Endeavour Mining and Randgold Resources. These mines produced approximately 800,000 oz of gold last year. “So, we do have numerous good examples of modern mining operations producing gold in Cote d’Ivoire,” Wang adds.
Furthermore, the Ivorian Government, particularly the Ministry of Mines, has been working hard to manage the sensitive issue of small scale and illegal mining within the country’s mineral belts.
In response to conflict-driven mining practises, the government has not been afraid to use military force in order to dispel and close down illegal operations, however the government is also acutely aware of the fact the artisanal mining provides the only means of income for many vulnerable citizens.
Supporting local people
“In order to provide support to local people who operate in small scale artisanal mining, the government has set up special zones which are only for small scale mining licenses. So, for the major licence areas, no small scale mining activity should take place.
“Likewise, within the designated areas for small scale mining activities, no company is allowed to apply for major exploration licenses,” explains Tietto’s managing director.
Tietto itself is also supporting local people through its company employment policy. “The first thing we did was try to maximise the local employment of our geologists and technicians working on the ground. Whether they are full time or casual, they are all Ivorian.
“Ivorian geologists have good expertise due to their training and work experience with a number of major international mining companies that operate in Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali,” he continues.
“We have a local specialised technical team of personnel available in the country which is our first choice for our employment.”
The Liberian projects
With the rapid pace of development taking place in Cote d’Ivoire, it is easy to forget that Tietto’s original projects are in neighbouring Liberia. Field activities at the Dube South and Cestos projects were resumed in March 2018 after an extended hiatus.
The geological foundations of the projects are sound, with significant gold mineralisation identified over a long distance of strike from the company’s preliminary work at both projects. However, Tietto has its work set out in Liberia, with both projects located in a remote part of the country.
Wang admits that infrastructural development in the region is minimal, therefore significant improvements will need to be made to support the potential gold mining operations.
“Nonetheless, the progress has been quite significant this year and we are going to announce our results in September/October. Our aim for the Liberian projects is to define a minimum of three drilling targets for each project before the next dry season which is November this year.
“At that time, we will arrange a test drill campaign for both Liberian projects with multiple drilling targets on each project. Overall, we are confident that we should have good success on each of the two projects.”
As a West Africa-focused junior explorer, Wang reveals that Tietto does harbour motives to expand its mineral exploration into other parts of the region, but for now the MD is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“As a mining engineer myself, I believe that the company’s primary purpose is to build a producing mine. That’s our current aim and we are quite confident that with the advanced status of our Abujar project and the related upside there, as well as the two Liberian projects, we will be able to build a mine or mines in West Africa in a few years’ time.”