© Reuters Southern Gold to expand South Korean exploration to encompass critical minerals
Southern Gold Ltd (ASX:SAU) plans to expand its exploration efforts in South Korea in 2023 to include critical minerals such as lithium and rare earth elements (REE) while maintaining its primary focus on metals precious.
A comprehensive independent report commissioned by the company will be used to move the company forward on the path to critical metals.
The RSC prospecting study carried out by the RSC consulting group has identified specific areas of positive exploration potential, several of which are in close proximity to known small-scale historical mines and occurrences.
Southern Gold MD and CEO, Robert Smillie, said, “Having lived in South Korea for the past 12 months and traveled extensively across the country, it is evident that there are significant opportunities to expand our gold-silver exploration portfolio to include other metals such as copper, lithium and REE.
“Several of our new projects in the east of the country already contain good copper grades, as recently reported by our Goseong and Geoje Island projects.
“South Korea has historic small-scale lithium mines and known REE occurrences, however, there has been little to no modern exploration for these ‘critical minerals’.
“The RSC prospecting study commissioned by SAU has really highlighted the opportunity for the company to explore lithium and REE deposits here in South Korea, and where best to focus our initial efforts.”
Southern Gold is working with RSC to refine priorities over the winter months to refine areas of interest identified in exploration targets through additional verification and data compilation work.
Upon completion of this work, Southern Gold will commence a regional reconnaissance exploration program in the March quarter of 2023 including stream sediment sampling, rock chip sampling, geological mapping and soil sampling, to validate in the field the mineralization of lithium and REE.
Detailed exploration work at the scale of the project could begin in the middle of the year.
The company has also entered into discussions with government research agencies to explore joint research opportunities and with companies for potential future joint venture opportunities.
Need for critical minerals
South Korea is the world’s fifth-largest consumer of mineral resources and depends on imports for 99.6% of the minerals it needs to support its growing high-tech manufacturing industries, including its electric vehicle, semiconductor and , permanent magnets and batteries.
These minerals include critical minerals such as lithium, REE, cobalt, tungsten, and others. According to the International Energy Agency, demand for these minerals is expected to increase 50 times globally as the world shifts from fossil fuels to clean energy technologies to combat the impact of climate change.
Cooperation is the key
To address this supply challenge, the South Korean government has designed a National Critical Minerals Strategy to ensure security of supply of these minerals and reduce mineral dependence on China.
This strategy includes the development of strategic cooperation agreements with several critical mineral producing countries, including Australia and Canada, to provide an alternative, safe and sustainable supply of critical minerals.
Additionally, Korean companies have pledged to invest more than half a billion dollars in various Australian mining projects through multi-year mining agreements and memorandums of understanding.
“The South Korean government is keen to develop new domestic supplies of critical minerals to diversify supplies, and the SAU team and I are in talks with mandated government agencies with the aim of working together in the search for critical minerals. in South Korea,” Smillie said. said.
Under this strategy, the government, through the agencies KOMIR (Korea Mine Rehabilitation and Mineral Resources Corporation) and KIGAM (Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources), seeks to develop national critical mineral deposits.
This support includes subsidizing the costs of redevelopment of the Sangdong Tungsten mine, owned by global tungsten miner Almonty Industries, one of the largest historic tungsten mines in the world before it closed in the 1990s due to declining metal prices.
Other key government initiatives include national research programs led by KIGAM to promote the exploration and development of critical minerals such as lithium and REE in areas where historic small-scale mines and known occurrences exist.
Focus on precious metals
Southern Gold’s precious metals exploration program remains focused and will resume drilling beginning in the March quarter of 2023, following South Korea’s recent post-COVID-19 opening.
“Going forward, our epithermal gold-silver program will continue to be our primary focus as we transition to drill testing a number of priority projects in 2023, and we intend to leverage our first-mover advantage and our in-country ability to explore these. critical metals to create additional value for our shareholders and support government efforts,” added the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.
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