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Ecuador and Quatro Metales: The Perfect Mining Match

Ecuador's mineral wealth meets Quatro Metales' expertise

Quatro Metales
Ecuador and Quatro Metales: The Perfect Mining Match

Quatro Metales is a British/Latin American exploration and exploitation mining company that owns 100% of its project assets in Ecuador. It can point to a stellar recent history of successfully taking projects into production in the country, such as the Fyfield Minera copper and gold mine.

Unique mining region

The company's current portfolio includes what will be its fourth and largest underground rock mining project to date, the Paccha Vista Minera, where first processing of pre-production is imminent.

This copper-gold project is located in the Zaruma-Portovelo region of Ecuador's southernmost coastal province, El Oro, a veritable mineral mecca with unique geological credentials.

As Quatro Metales' senior operations director, Stuart Hume explained, the region has "vast deposits centred on a number of porphyry copper deposits, while the mesothermal and epithermal vein and spur systems that stem from the porphyries contain an abundance of gold, silver and copper and a number of rare earth minerals".

Secondary milling plant

Underexplored but solid foundations in place

One of Quatro Metales' greatest advantages is that it is operating in a country where mining's force for good credentials and capacity to transform lives has only recently begun to be acknowledged at sufficient scale to count in the corridors of power. Consequently, only 8% of Ecuador has been geologically explored to date.

One would be forgiven for thinking this indicated an absence of critical infrastructure necessary to support a thriving mining sector, but the truth is that a highly developed logistical infrastructure is already in place. This is thanks to the expansive development of an established and well-backed petrochemicals industry, which, along with agriculture, has long constituted the backbone of the country's economy. Current president Daniel Noboa, however, recognises the importance of diversifying Ecuador's economy, considering the international move away from fossil fuels, and consequently is 100% pro-mining.

The processing zone of Portovelo is easily accessible from the Paccha Vista mine-site via well-maintained asphalt roads, as are both the port city of Machala just 60 miles to the west, and Ecuador's second city, Guayaquil, 150 miles to the north. While rich in minerals, Ecuador is a compact country and transport distances are not the cost headache they can be in other jurisdictions.

 

Early mover advantage

Quatro Metales is in good company in having identified a sleeping giant of a jurisdiction before the crowd. Lundin Mining, for example, owns the Fruta del Norte gold mine in southeast Ecuador, one of the highest-grade operating gold mines in the world, while junior miner, Lumina Gold is currently advancing the largest primary gold deposit in Ecuador just a relative stone's throw from the Quatro Metales series of projects.

Yet, while foreign mining companies may only just be discovering Ecuador, artisanal mining has been going on for centuries, such that there is a culture predisposed to the industry. This translates to a highly skilled mining team base, as well as ready access to mining equipment and engineering materials. And regarding security of tenure, Quatro Metales can point to its concessions having been negotiated to run well into the 2040s, with Paccha Vista set to be at the very least an 18-year project.

Central Flotation and Leeching

Eyes on Paccha Vista

The Quatro Metales Paccha Vista project is marked by development of the mesothermal vein systems that strike upwards from the Pinas and Buza faults. Here, an average of 6.8g/t at the surface level of 1200-1900m, with bonanza type grades to 16.8g/t, has been demonstrated.

Ongoing exploration has led to the service tunnel being extended to intercept the previously drilled dense replacement orebody structure ‘Pacchia Blanca' at an intrusion of 1.4km and a depth of approximately 648m. Gold mineralisation tests show double the grade of the average previously intercepted veins at 28.8g/t, while in total, the deposit is estimated to be at least 100,000t oz through the concession, coming out at an average of 8.26g/t in primary testing.

On the back of this discovery, full development is set for early 2025 and will focus on expanded production of gold/silver bullion and copper concentrate from what Hume describes as a "relatively untapped deposit".

The vision

By way of a longer-term strategy, commercial director Paul Dunmore explained that Quatro Metales is looking to bring to bear greater economies of scale. This will result in the company bringing into production a number of micro-producing mines that would feed into a central plant for bulk processing with a view to reducing costs, destructive footprint and onerous bureaucracy.

Such an approach also aligns with the company's commitment to contribute to the development of a greener, healthier and more socially responsible industry in Ecuador. To this end, Quatro Metales employs up to 95% of its staff from the local region, has launched an English language programme in the region's schools, and helps to combat deforestation resulting from illegal mining by planting native trees in reserved areas as part of ongoing conservation efforts.

Haides Hydro Alluvial geo-testing team

On the horizon

As to forthcoming milestones, having been developed into a multi-level underground mine, Paccha Vista's service tunnel will afford access to nine of the 10 high yielding gold, silver and rare earth mineral bearing veins in the zone to allow for pre-production in late 2024. The tenth vein, ‘Pacchia Blanca', meanwhile,  can confidently be described as one of the highest concentrated gold and copper veins in the region following comprehensive testing, and should be reached by 2025.

In addition, Quatro Metales can point to the potential opening of two further copper-gold mining concessions in the Paccha region of El Oro and Catamayo further to the south. Hume indicated that continued high gold prices could lead to these operations becoming primary gold mines with a high-grade copper byproduct.

In other news, the Haides Hydro Placer project is being prepared for funding as the company's first junior level alluvial gold mining project. It consists of 38sq.km of riverbed, where it is estimated that a small to moderate initial capex would produce around 10,000t oz per year from four separate bioethanol and gas-powered vibration rigs to green standards over a five-to-seven-year project life – making the project one of the first commercial, fully carbon neutral gold production projects in the world.

Underexplored it may be, but Ecuador has an embarrassment of mineral riches, well-developed infrastructure, and a now pro-mining government. With its proven pedigree, extensive portfolio of projects and a nourishing gold market, Quatro Metales constitutes a compelling investment proposition when compared with similar operations in more developed jurisdictions. All told, it affords the company a secure and solid foundation as its progresses down the pathway to going public. 

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Quatro Metales

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