Post COVID-19 Lockdown – Back to the Field

MINEX Forum | July 3, 2020 | Views: 63 | Source:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a fundamental impact on business and our day-to-day lives, especially for SRK Exploration Services (SRK ES) whose work is so reliant on international travel and the deployment of exploration teams to the field for long periods.  Despite everything though, we are delighted that we have been able to mobilise a large team to commence a drilling programme in Norway.  It is an important step in getting back to business.

The Bjerkreim project has substantial exploration potential for ilmenite, apatite and vanadian-magnetite

Jon Russill (SRK ES, Cardiff) and Jeroen van Gool (SRK ES, Copenhagen) have been managing SRK ES’ work on the Bjerkreim project in southern Norway since 2018.  The project is owned by Norge Mining PLC and is focused on a large layered intrusion known for its potential to host deposits of ilmenite, apatite and vanadium-bearing magnetite. SRK ES’ previous campaigns and interpretation of new airborne geophysical data have validated historical interpretations successfully, but also added substantial extensions to zones of interest and found potential for other types of mineralisation to be present.

“We had a contract signed and a team with their bags packed in mid-March,” Jon says. “We then found ourselves with no option but to postpone as European borders closed one after another. Things deteriorated incredibly quickly until it became impossible for us to reach Norway. Instead of sitting idle though, we quickly came to an agreement with Norge Mining to carry out a new package of desk studies which has proved invaluable for business continuity and the project’s technical progress”.

Over time, there were signs that mobilisation might be possible and we achieved this in mid-May; our geologists travelled in from Denmark and the UK, all by land and sea as flights remain grounded.  We now have a 9 person team on site, plus two from Norge Mining, on the ground running two drilling rigs and a reconnaissance programme.  A third rig is imminent and a fourth is expected in August.

With inventiveness and teamwork, it has been possible to start an intense phase of exploration at the height of a pandemic.

“To have deployed a large, international team to the field and commenced an intense phase of exploration is a remarkable achievement in the height of a pandemic,” says Jon. “I am so impressed by the inventiveness and motivation shown by my colleagues to make this happen.  Returning to the field with no flights, adhering to Norway’s strict quarantine rules plus developing our own rigorous ‘COVID-19 protocols’ has been no small feat and we are proud to have accomplished this.  It was critically important for both SRK ES and our client to get back to the field and progress this project, but only in a safe manner that placed the health of our team and the community above all else.  We are also very grateful for the support and boundless enthusiasm of our client, Norge Mining PLC.

“It is also a fascinating project to be working on.  It has great exploration potential and is strategically important for Norway and Europe as a future source of critical raw materials for a more sustainable future.  This is important to me, and it feeds nicely into SRK ES’ ongoing EU-funded research into acceptable mineral exploration in Europe.”

We and Norge Mining have placed Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors at the forefront of our work in Norway.  The project is relatively early in the exploration cycle but is already well-advanced in this regard compared to many others.  Stakeholder engagement and management is underpinned by SRK’s newly developed management software, SRKEngage, the development of which was catalyzed by this project.

SRK ES’ team will be on the ground in Norway for most of the rest of 2020 and likely beyond, working towards the first Mineral Resource Estimate for Bjerkreim and developing other exciting exploration targets.

For more information on the project or SRKEngage contact Jon Russill below.

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