In 2018, ASX-listed Tanga Resources decided to shift its focus from gold exploration in Tanzania to precious and base metals in a new African jurisdiction – Namibia. Tanga initially acquired the Joumbira Zinc Project and followed it up with the Hagenhof Copper-Cobalt Project in August 2018. Chief executive Matthew Bowles explains that part of the reason for the move into Namibia was in response to the recent changes to the Tanzanian mining code. “From our perspective, this had a fairly significant impact on investor sentiment into the country, and when you are a junior explorer it impacts you even more so,” he says. Most recently, Tanga has expanded its relationship with Namibia’s state-run Epangelo Mining, further cementing the company’s position in this attractive jurisdiction.
When searching for a new host country, Tanga saw in Namibia significant exploration potential, an established mining industry with a long history of metal production, excellent infrastructure in place and a friendly attitude towards exploration and development.
All of these attributes are factored into the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies, which consistently ranks the Southwest African country highly in terms of being an attractive destination for mining and investment.
For instance, in its latest report Fraser ranked Namibia as the fourth highest African jurisdiction for mining and investment and the 61st highest in the world – which is no mean feat for a sparsely populated country of 2.6 million.
“For us, it was about moving to a stable jurisdiction, with significant geological upside, that was open for business from a mining and exploration point of view. A number of major mining companies are already operating in country, including B2Gold, Rio Tinto and Vendanta.
“On top of that, there is excellent infrastructure in Namibia, which is probably some of the best in Africa, and that has really helped us to decide where we want to be.”
Tanga has been in Namibia for almost 12 months and has spent much of this time on the ground reviewing several regions and projects all within the highly prospective Damara Orogenic Belt – a highly mineralised geological formation running through Namibia.
Epangelo Mining JV
The company began its ascent into Namibia by partnering with the government for the exploration and development of the Joumbira Project, via an earn-in agreement with Epangelo. The project offers potential for a large high grade zinc-lead-silver orebody over a vastly underexplored licence covering 210 km².
Tanga’s relationship with Epangelo has further blossomed since the initial alliance was formed at Joumbira. In February 2019, the company signed another earn-in agreement with Epangelo to further increase its ground position in Namibia to over 1,700 km².
“Our strategy has always been to expand our presence and build a new footprint in Namibia and our relationship with Epangelo has supported us in doing this,” reveals Bowles.
“We get on really well with the Epangelo team. They like that we are exploring in–country and we share with them our technical ideas, and they will provide some of their input and thoughts on our exploration.
“It’s a very good relationship on both sides and we are looking forward to making a discovery in the future that will be of benefit to all stakeholders.”
Returning to Joumbira, the project was first drilled in the 1970s with some fairly advanced and interesting results emerging from the campaigns, according to Bowles. “We will look to repeat some of those results as we advance the project.”
Tanga conducted a small diamond drill campaign in May last year which confirmed the existence of high grade zinc, lead and silver mineralisation zones within a much larger lower grade mineralised zone.
Most notably, zinc mineralisation of up to 15% was intersected, within a broader +40 metres zone of moderate grade in the final three holes of the campaign, and mineralisation remains open in all directions, which provides significant resource potential.
The Hagenhof Project
Despite the initial exploration results of the Joumbira project, Tanga has since refocused its near-term priorities on the Hagenhof Copper Project after the outright acquisition of 100% interest in the 197 km² licence in August last year.
Once again, the company is utilising geological reports on the licence from the 1970s to guide its initial exploration targeting at the project. Historical drilling undertaken by Phelps Dodge in 1972 returned results of 18 metres @ 0.9% copper from 93 metres, including 12 metres @ 1.08% copper from 96 metres, including 3 metres @ 2.37% copper from 96 metres and 24 metres @ 0.88% copper from 74 metres.
This historical data has confirmed copper and cobalt mineralisation at Hagenhof, but Bowles reveals that the area has never been assayed for gold.
“That is quite exciting for us and when we undertake the drilling at Hagenhof, we are going to be assaying for a multi-commodity analysis, so we hope there might be gold in the system as well.”
Tanga will conduct a 1,200 metres RC drilling programme before the end of H1 2019, with the ultimate goal to confirm some of the historical results and test the potential scale at Hagenhof.
“The main gossan at Hagenhof outcrops for over 400 metres and from the historical drilling we know the mineralisation plunges to the Southwest, so this drill programme is initially to confirm those historical results and also to test the depth and plunge of that mineralisation,” says the chief executive.
Tanga recently announced the appointment of vastly experienced Namibian geologist Wynand Slabbert as the company’s exploration and country manager, a move which Bowles thinks is critical for Tanga’s ongoing growth strategy in Namibia.
“When you have overseas projects, you want to build a team that is based in-country. Wynand’s appointment is vital for Tanga, as we look to build our presence in Namibia from a management position.
“Wynand is an exceptional geologist with 10-15 years of experience working as a senior geologist for AngloGold Ashanti in Africa, at Navachab Gold Mine in Namibia and Siguri Gold Mine in Guinea.
“We are now looking to expand and build our team around him and have already got two other Namibian exploration geologists working with Wynand. It’s important for us to use the local resources.”
The situation in Tanzania
The Tanga management team is also closely monitoring developments in the Tanzanian mining industry in relation to the Hanang Gold Project – the company’s original exploration project before it expanded into Namibia.
Located in a highly prospective region of the Archaean Greenstone Belt, Tanga owns 400 km² of prospecting licences for the project, which possesses over 50 km of potential strike along a major mineralised corridor, with multiple high priority targets.
However, Tanzania’s mining sector has fallen into a state of inertia over the last two years, after a material change to the Mining Code, while a dispute continues on between the government and Acacia Mining, in relation to the latter allegedly under-declaring export revenues.
Tanzania has since increased its royalties on mineral exports including gold and uranium, and project participation interest, which has served to negatively impact investor sentiment into the mining sector.
Nonetheless, resolution negotiations between the government and Acacia’s parent company Barrick Gold are progressing and Tanga is adopting a ‘watch and wait’ approach so that it can see with greater clarity when deciding how to operate in the future.
“A lot of the circumstances arose because of the issues between the Tanzanian government and Acacia Mining. We are waiting to see how they are resolved before we look to revisit and crank up exploration again in-country,” explains Bowles.
Building a footprint in Namibia
Since pivoting away from Tanzania, Tanga has applied a strategic approach to building its presence in Namibia on the back of several geological assessments and an evolving relationship with the state mining investment company Epangelo.
“Having Epangelo as a JV partner is a complementary move for us and a great endorsement of our company when you consider that we already have two farm-in agreements with them. I believe we have built the foundations of a very strong precious and base metals company in Namibia.”
Despite adopting a new multi-commodity focus through the Namibian projects, Bowles is hopeful that the company can still demonstrate its trademark expertise in the field of gold exploration.
“While we are primarily chasing copper at Hagenhof, there are some gold signatures there too. We’ve got some pretty exciting copper targets at Hagenhof, but we are certainly not overlooking the gold potential in the region as well,” concludes Bowles.