Project of the Week: Tara Resources - Brskovo Mine

7th March 2022

 

 

Figure 1: Montenegro

 

This week, we head to Montenegro (´Black Mountain“) in the southern part of the Adriatic on the Balkan Peninsula. The mountains of the country include some of the most rugged terrains and are not only among the "hot-spots" of European biodiversity but accomodate a variety of mineral resources such as bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, chromium and dolomite.

Figure 2: Main mineral resources of Montenegro

We highlight the ´Brskovo Mine DOO´ project of Swiss based Tara Resources. It is part of a 100% owned mining claim in the northeast of the country. It has excellent prospects as a planned €150 Mio complex consisting of two open-pit mines (zinc, lead, copper and silver), a processing plant, an integrated waste management facility in the valley beneath the pits as well a  new tailings pond. An access road and a high voltage power substation is alreay close to the site. The Mojkovac municipality there is well linked by rail and road between the capital Podgorica and Belgrade in neighboring Serbia.

Figure 3: Idealised graphic of the planned processing plant

The project is aiming for an annual concentrate capacity of approx. 45,000 tonnes of zinc, 13,000 tonnes of lead, 3,000 tonnes of copper and about one million ounces silver. With its attractive ore grades and a low strip ratio, the infrastructure in place as well as the general low operating costs in the region, Brskovo will probably be generally one of the lowest cost polymetallic mines in Europe. Tara Resources itself would evolve into one of the country’s largest exporters, paying concession fees and corporate taxes of estimated €10 Mio per year, of which €3 Mio shall be allocated to the municipality. So far, the company states that it has invested more than €15 Mio in drilling, technical and environmental studies. This on top of the exploration expenditures made by the previous license holder Balamara Resources Ltd which was awarded the project via international tender in 2011.

Figure 4. Idealised image of one of the planned two open pits (Tara Resources)

 

Figure 5. Drilling samples by Tara Resources

Historically, mining operations in the area were first recorded in the 13th century, with small-scale operations and silver coin minting, set up by Saxon settlers, making the region a commercial centre of importance.

Figure 6. Silver coin "Grossi de Brescova"  from Brskova, Republic of Ragusa (13th century)

Mining exploration in Brskovo resumed in 1950, with operations restarting in 1976 and continuing until 1991. However, the tailings facility leaked next to the settlements until environmental rehabilitation with United Nation´s support in 2010. In 2012, a 25-year mining concession was issued to Balamara Resources Ltd. The Australians conducted significant drilling to justify a greenfield mine with a €50 Mio capex, scheduled for a 2014 start. Balamara Resources licence encompassed four additional satellites being Igriste, Visnjica and Zuta Pria and Razvrsje.

Figure 3: Idealised graphic of the plannedFigure 7. Map of the four main deposits (2012) processing plant

In late 2011, the company completed two drill holes in Brskovo for metallurgical samples which unexpectedly returned high-grade silver, together with further high grade zinc and lead present. The picture for the most significant intersection was even rosier, being 5.5 m (181.5 to 187 m) at 507.7 g silver, 4.01% zinc, 2.38% lead and in addition 0.28% copper. Further drilling in 2012 showed the extent of the silver hosting structure and a 3000 m drilling programme at Visnjica and Zuta Pria started in the following year, resulting in an initial total JORC resource of 9.2 mt. This programme also targeted an extension of the mineralisation adding both tonnes and grade to the JORC resource along with a reclassification of some of the inferred resource to an indicated category.

Figure 8. Figure 5. Idealized model of the Brskovo geological cross-section (2012)

 

Figure 9. Brskovo drilling by Balamara Resources (2012) and by Tara Resources (2020)

As the next event in the long history of Brskovo, UK-Centurion Resources joined Balmara Resources with a 10% ´strategic partnership´ stake in the project in early 2013, adding proceeds to be spent on the exploration activities. Nevertheless, Balamara Resources Ltd divested the whole project to a key shareholder for the injection of only  € 1 Mio to assist short-term capital requirements.

Finally in 2018, Tara Resources stepped in by buying the concession rights in 2018 and advanced the project with significant additional drilling, technical and environmental studies. A PFS to JORC standards confirmed the potential last year. Proven ore reserves are at least 27 million tons, three times higher than initially thought, allowing for a minimum of 10 years operation. Tara Resources has not clarified in the publicly available information if Igrite or any other part of former project is already partly or fully included in the numbers, which gives allegedly considerable room for mine growth via expansion drilling.

Figure 10: Zuta Pria deposit (2012)

The company is currently in the phase of drafting a capital mining project and environmental impact assessment. Due to the hilly terrain of the region, the mining area shall be largely hidden from the town of Mojkovac, a planned tourism facilities with ski slopes and the national parks in the area. This is in sharp in contrast to the closed legacy mining operations as erything will be done in the project area.

Tara requested from the government an extension of the exploitation project to an area called “Tvrdo potok”, directly adjacent to a national park.

Various controversies and speculations about the opening of the Brskovo mine have started in Mojkovac, once an industrial center. Many citizens are against the opening of the new tailings pond between two national parks and close to the ecologically sensitive area of the Tara river. In fact, the new mine could even improve the situation as currently water is flowing through exposed areas of the former mining operations, leading to contaminated water being discharged into rivers that flow into the Tara River. Tara Resources intends to capture and treat any contaminated water in place, effectively resolving some of the legacy – meeting IFC guidelines, national and EU standards.

Figure 11: Town of Mojkovac (2020)

Another factor in favor of Tara Resources is the fact that factories employing thousands of workers in the area were demolished since Montenegro´s independence. The local creation of 400 direct jobs in the long run is a very strong argument in this relatively poor part of a country with a social and political environment which is expected to remain more mining-friendly that that of its big neighbor Serbia. Relations between the two culturally similar countries were shaped in the recent past by a historically grounded “culture” conflict and Montenegro´s NATO membership. This should not be an issue for the mine to progress further.

 

 

References:

References:

mina., Kompanija Tara Resources namjerava da pokrene novi rudnik u Mojkovcu, https://mina.news/mina-business/kompanija-tara-resources-namjerava-da-pokrene-novi-rudnik-u-mojkovcu/

mina., Podržavaju arheološka istraživanja, https://mina.news/crnagora/podrzavaju-arheoloska-istrazivanja/

in4s., Kompanija, Прича о руднику „Брсково“ дочекана на “нож” у Мојковцу: Да ли ће грађани добити економски просперитет или нову еколошку бомбу?, https://www.in4s.net/prica-o-rudniku-brskovo-docekana-na-noz-u-mojkovcu-da-li-ce-gradjani-dobiti-ekonomski-prosperitet-ili-novu-ekolosku-bombu/

USGS, 2012 Minerals Yearbook, The Mineral Industry of Montenegro, https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/prd-wret/assets/palladium/production/mineral-pubs/country/2012/myb3-2012-mj.pdf

Balamara Resources Limited, Annual Report 20212, https://balamara.com.au/wp-content/uploads/11_Annual-Report-30-June-2012-1.pdf

Fusion Capital, https://www.fusioncapital.ch/portfolio/

Tara Resources, Brskovo Mine Booklet Extended Version, https://tararesources.com/brskovo-mine/

 

 

Herbert Burgstaller

View posts by Herbert Burgstaller
Herbert Burgstaller is a longtime Austrian energy sector & mining company enthusiast. Based in Vienna with a strong professional finance background and longtime interest in various regions of the world. In addition to his work in the financial sector, Herbert is involved in an ´Energy Transition“ advisory boutique where he can also use his passion in the field of battery and other materials.