The Tuvatu Alkaline Gold Project in Fiji's Western Viti Levu is likely to be the country's next big gold gig, potentially rivalling the size of the neighbouring Vatukoula Gold Mine, the only active gold mine in the country.
Acting Director of Fiji's Mineral Resources Department Raymond Mohammed said Tuvatu's gold prospects are huge.
The project comprises a number of exploration tenements and a mining lease held by Canadian junior miner Lion One Metals, headed by international business mogul and mining magnate Walter Berukoff.
"At the moment, they have progressed from around one million ounces inferred resource, inferred resource meaning they have to do a lot more work in order to boost the geological confidence in the resource. So there's still a lot of exploratory work that's being done around the periphery of the mining lease in Tuvatu with the prospecting licenses. There's potential there, especially around the Navilawa Caldera, so yes, there's projections that Tuvatu could be the next Vatukoula," said Mohammed.
"The mine is currently in the mine development phase under the new mining lease. When a mining lease is issued, there are three stages. The first is the mine development phase, where they build infrastructure to prepare for production, then there's the mine production stage, where they mine and extract the salable material, then there's the mine closure and rehabilitation stage. So currently for Tuvatu, the first stage is underway, which is mine development," Mohammed added.
No timeline has been given by Lion One on when exactly it would advance to production stage, but given the progress made so far, it could be any time soon.
"During 2020 the company completed civil works for the surface infrastructure and the new portal site for the main decline to access the recently discovered deep extents of the Tuvatu gold deposit. As of December 2020 the company has selected a shortlist of contractors for managing the construction of the process plant and surface infrastructure, and a second group to manage mining operations and procurement of equipment," Lion One disclosed in a market announcement it made at the end of last year.
Assessments made by the company so far on resources it has on the ground underscore Tuvatu's huge prospects.
"On behalf of management and the Board of Directors I'd like to recognize and thank our resilient Lion One Fiji team for their incredible efforts and performance over the last year. We're in a strong financial position to accelerate deep drilling at our discovery below Tuvatu and pursue new discoveries at Banana Creek, and confirm our thesis that the Navilawa Caldera hosts large alkaline gold systems of a scale rarely owned by a junior gold company," said CEO and Chairman Walter Berukoff.
"Lion One believes the Navilawa Caldera hosts a very large 'alkaline gold system'. This variety of gold system is not prolific in number globally but are among the largest producers of gold in the world, with notable examples in the South Pacific including the Porgera and Lihir gold mines in Papua New Guinea, and Vatukoula in Fiji, 40km from Tuvatu," Berukoff added.
Upon securing the adjacent ground to Tuvatu in 2019, Lion One said it became the first company in modern times to consolidate and carry out systematic exploration over the entire 7km diameter Navilawa Caldera.
"The Project area now consists of four contiguous exploration licenses covering almost 200km². The 385 hectare Tuvatu mining lease is located near its epicentre and hosts the high grade, permitted for production, Tuvatu gold resource," it said.
MRD is expecting Fiji's gold production and exports to ramp up after April this year.