Ortac Resources (LON:OTC) has made big strides at its gold and other projects in Slovakia and Eritrea over the past six months. Vassilios Carellas, chief executive, outlined the next steps for the explorer to Proactive Investors
What is the significance for the company of receiving approval to start trial mining at the Šturec gold deposit?
The recommencement of mining at Šturec is an important milestone in the development of the project. Restarting mining after more than 20 years has been as you can probably appreciate, quite an arduous process.
Whether one is permitted to mine 1 tonne or 1 million tonnes, the process is a similar one. So in light of this, it is an achievement for the team and also provides comfort that the authorities are supportive of the manner in which the company is going about its business in the country. This milestone also ensures that the obligations of the company’s mining licence are fulfilled.
What will happen now at Šturec and can you outline for investors the scope of the trial mining operation. When will it start and how long it will last?
The company now has the permits in place to obtain more than enough material for further bulk scale test work that will be required to complete a DFS on the deposit.
The trial mining permit is valid for the next three years and mining has already commenced. We are confident that the sustainable development of Šturec can exceed the highest applicable standards and has the potential of achieving successful outcomes for Ortac and the Kremnicko region. We believe that this project will act as a beacon for the development of natural resources projects elsewhere
What stages must the firm now go through until the potential start of more substantial investments at Šturec? What further regulatory and administrative hurdles are there, and what is the latest on the historic opposition to mining from local groups?
The company is of the firm belief that any investments in the natural resources at Šturec needs to be part of a longer term sustainable development of the Kremnicko region. In this light we see the evolution of the Šturecland concept from a vision into a reality that mobilises value from the development of Šturec.
The first major step to work on is with the local community by way of an ESIA and a dialogue process to collectively develop win-win projects that incorporate the precious metals, energy and tourism potential of the region.
As this step is worked through we will be in a position to submit an agreed project to an EIA. In reality, therefore, except for the ESIA process and the EIA process, all the steps we have recently been through for the Trial Underground Mining will have to be gone through. This means that all round engagement will be central stage for all concerned.
As to groups opposed to mining - our position is that we have areas of agreement and disagreement. We believe, however, that in order to make decisions, it is important that a fair and transparent dialogue process is held and we think we are on the right track in that regards with many local parties.
Of course, we are realistic. There will always be some views that will never coincide. We will work to encourage dialogue to develop informed consensual decisions.
Can you remind investors about the Šturecland concept? What is it and what can we expect next?
Šturecland is an interim name for an environmentally and economically sustainable development, funded through the extraction of gold and silver in Šturec.
The concept is based on a strong local desire to maintain the beauty and heritage of the Kremnicko region, while at the same time continuing to support the development of a stronger and more vibrant local economy.
The aim is for Šturecland, or a viable alternative, to transform the precious metals beneath the soil through a useful responsible investment to bring benefits to all parties. We believe that this is made possible by marrying the precious metal and geothermal resources to the biodiversity and cultural heritage that already exists.
There has been positive news from Yacob Dewar copper/ gold prospect in Eritrea. Can you bring us up to date on this project and your aims? What news flow investors can expect for the rest of the year?
The investment in Andiamo Exploration Limited is on the back of the gold and copper discoveries made by them over the last couple of years.
We feel that the Haykota licence has delivered some exciting discoveries to date and feel confident that further discoveries will be made. The aim at this stage is to work with Andiamo to convert the discoveries into deposits with the view of getting them into production.
Along with potentially a discovery or two being made, we anticipate further trench and drill results being released, culminating in a maiden resource statement for their flagship Yacob Dewar discovery.
Finally, there are a number of junior exploration and development companies out there. What do you think sets you apart from your peer group?
I believe it’s the approach of balancing technical, financial, environmental and public realities that we have adopted to developing natural resources that sets us apart.
I don’t know of any other company out there that is tackling these projects in the manner we are: we are designing a precious metals, geothermal and tourism project in partnership with local stakeholders.
Potentially, we are developing a blueprint as to how natural resources are to be developed in future. The company remains strategically focused, diversified and is in good shape to build long terms shareholder value.