Exploration-only focus keeps the Kavango team on target

At Kavango, we believe the scope and scale of our exploration portfolio is a testament not only to our ambition, but also to our focus.

Indeed, we have a very large position over the Kalahari Suture Zone in the southwest of Botswana, where we’re exploring for copper, nickel, and platinum group metals.

But alongside this, our exposure to the African nation also extends to the exciting Ditau Camp project, where we’re looking for rare earths and base metals, and a number of licences in the Kalahari Copper Belt, where the target is–naturally–copper.

So, what can we glean from the nature of this expansive land package?

Two things, we believe.

First, our geographical focus is clearly on Botswana.

And secondly, our focus is geared heavily towards exploration.

You see, Kavango is a company that knows how to play to its strengths, and the strengths in question here are the combined exploration expertise of our founders and the crack team of geologists we are employing to advance several of our projects simultaneously.

Since our inception, our vision has always been for discovery rather than production.

And the reasons are simple.

Exploration is in the blood of our operatives, as we’ve established. 

So, there’s that. But there’s also a far more economically-minded and pragmatic reason too.

In percentage terms, the real upside in mining lies in the discovery phase.

The famous Lassonde Curve, which models the life cycles and valuations of projects from early-stage exploration right through to production shows two big value uplifts – the first on discovery, the second at the point of production.

And ultimately, a great amount of value can be made at the first of these stages.

Of course, the discoveries have to be meaningful. But Kavango has never been about small fry.

 

The Lifecycle of a Mineral Discovery

Credit: Visual Capitalist

 

We are not a company that focuses entirely on finding a few hundred thousand ounces of gold here and there.

Not at all.

Our goal is serious and focussed exploration.

For example, if the hypotheses that underly our exploration effort at the KSZ can be proven, then Kavango may end up discovering one of the biggest nickel and/or PGM projects in decades.

Likewise, with the copper potential in the north and with the rare earths at Ditau– we are targeting big discoveries, and giving ourselves a chance to capture the value uplift on offer on that first upward stage of the Lassonde Curve.

Nothing is off the table, of course. But the idea of an exploration junior starting to focus on that second part of the Lassonde Curve by developing tier-one producing projects that stand up on the global stage is an extremely ambitious one.

At the present moment, in any case, Kavango is focussed on the more immediate term.

If we can add plenty of value at the early stage, then we can then decide whether to let bigger players shoulder the development and execution risk. And while that’s going on, we can continue to focus on the other assets in our exploration portfolio.

Will we exit our major projects completely, once a development scenario becomes realistic? That’s an open question, and one that can only be answered when the time comes.

However, there’s no doubt that when development does happen, it’s very unlikely to be Kavango that takes the lead.

Why would we? There are plenty of other companies that excel at that sort of work.

But in our case, all the experience we have built up identifying and investigating targets in Botswana make us one of the best-placed exploration companies in the country to make further discoveries.

It’s a no brainer to keep going with the exploration.

And in this context, our ongoing activities assume something of the aspect of a virtuous circle, as more and more knowledge is accumulated inside the company, and increasing amounts of data are generated.

Exploration isn’t easy, of course, and not every hole will be a winner.

But you only have to look at the companies that have dreamed big and then subsequently delivered to understand how much of a value uplift is on the table.

Two companies that have succeeded in this in recent years are Greatland Gold and SolGold. Although both still have exposure to the flagship assets that they discovered, they are no longer the operator or even the major shareholder.

Rather, they are letting other companies do the heavy lifting for them and this allows them plenty of room for manoeuvre to continue with exploration on other projects.

Another example from earlier times is Kiwara, a pure-play copper explorer in Zambia which hit a couple of very good intercepts and was then bought outright by First Quantum in a deal which delivered shareholders millions of dollars and a spectacular percentage return.

Which way will Kavango go?

Well, one thing at a time. First things first, the big drill hits are required.

But if they come in, then our options really start to open up, and our exploration portfolio will really start to hum.  

Rare Earths – Why the market for these long-overlooked elements is suddenly heating up

The ironic thing about rare earths is they’re not actually that rare.

Not, at least, in terms of their abundance in the earth’s crust in general.

However, the key dynamic in the rare earths market right now isn’t how much there is overall, but instead where these 15 elements are based.

And the salient fact is, China currently dominate the rare earths market in a way that’s virtually unique.

Rough estimates suggest that the nation controls between 55% and 70% of the world’s rare earth supply in terms of production, and that is has an even tighter grip on processing capability.

So, if you’re in the market for rare earths right now, then China has got to be a huge factor.

However, this of course presents a significant problem to Western governments, for many of whom establishing and/or solidifying domestic commodity supply chains is currently a major priority.

Indeed, China-Western relations have undeniably been turbulent in recent years, and in the wars of words and tariffs that have flown between various trading blocs, rare earths often get a mention.

The obvious question, then, is whether China would ever restrict the supply of rare earths into the West?

It hasn’t done so yet.

But it certainly has threatened to do so. And that’s been enough not only to give prices a significant floor, but also to sound alarm bells in the various European and American government departments tasked with keeping the international economy going.

Why?

Because rare earths are absolutely crucial in high tech manufacturing.

Neodymium is used in the magnets that are found in loudspeakers, and in computer hard drives; praseodymium is used in aircraft engines and in the manufacture of specialised glass; yttrium, terbium and Europium are used in the manufacture of electronic screens, and Europium is also used in the nuclear industry; lanthanum and cerium are used in the refining of crude oil; and neodymium, dysprosium, and occasionally terbium are used in the magnets that go into electric vehicle batteries and wind turbines.

Rare earths, in short, form a commodity group that is essential to any forward-looking modern economy.

And to many policy-makers, diversifying the source of these metals beyond China is becoming essential to mitigating supply chain risk.

That’s why rare earth projects around the world are increasingly gaining the interest and support of local governments.

Security of supply has re-emerged as a major factor in strategic economic analysis for the first time in several decades, and companies that hold rare earths projects are increasingly likely to find favour with regulators and governments alike.

What’s more, investors are waking up to their potential too.

Still, rare earths remain difficult commodities to focus on, precisely because China’s control over the price remains so strong.

And that’s why companies like Kavango hold rare earth projects in conjunction with other major assets.

Indeed, when pricing is weak, rare earths projects can take a back seat. But when, as is increasingly likely, supply gets constrained, companies with projects already on the go can accelerate them for rapid development.

In this regard, the Ditau project we operate and own along Power Metal Resources in Botswana is a perfect example.

Ditau was first identified as prospective in the 1970s, and is now the subject of renewed attention under our joint venture.

Our previous exploration has identified seven drill targets, each of which includes a possible carbonatite intrusive body lying within range of reverse circulation drilling.

All the targets are at a depth of 300 metres or less, and one, ‘Target I1’ is a large, intense magnetic dipole which spans 17 kilometres by eight kilometres and lies at a shallow depth just under the Kalahari sands.

As we’ve highlighted in recent announcements, there’s also the potential that Ditau is prospective for other base metals too–not to mention the fact that it’s long been known that niobium occurs on the ground.

So, there’s a lot to play for here, and in Botswana, a country well-known as a safe mining jurisdiction, Ditau is very much a key part of our portfolio as we gear up for drilling.

 

Why Botswana is the perfect destination for mineral exploration

Botswana consistently hits the number one spot for Africa when the Fraser Institute does its annual ranking of the best places to go mining.

Typically, the top spots go to jurisdictions like Nevada, Saskatchewan and Western Australia.

But even in global terms, Botswana is no laggard.

In the most recent Fraser Investment Attractiveness Index, it placed 11th, ahead of the Republic of Ireland, Queensland, British Columbia, and even the mighty mining province of Ontario.

So, to say that Botswana ranks highly as a mining investment destination is by no means a stretch. It’s Africa’s best mining destination bar none, and comfortably and consistently ranks within the top twenty in the world.

Why is this?

Put simply: politics and geology.

Botswana is famous in the mining industry for its lack of corruption, and perhaps more broadly as an island of relative stability in a continent that can at times be turbulent.

Going down Fraser’s Investment Attractiveness Index, Mali is the next African country that you come to, and Mali presents significantly elevated levels of geopolitical tension.

In old money, you might have expected South Africa to score highly, but in this day and age it’s actually in the 20 least attractive places to go mining, according to the Fraser survey.

But it’s not just a matter of politics, of course.

There’s also the question of the geological endowment.

Here Botswana is blessed in two ways. One, it’s already well-established as the leading African diamond producing country, and–after some manoeuvring over the past couple of decades–has come to an equable understanding with the world’s major diamond miner DeBeers.

DeBeers and the government of Botswana now operate a well-oiled joint venture operation known as Debswana, and this continues to be one of the biggest diamond mining forces in the world.

The history of diamond mining in Botswana goes back some decades, and the country has grown used to playing host to some of the world’s largest mines in this space.

This, in turn, has meant that as the country has opened up to exploration for other commodities, there was already a considerable body of in-country experience both technically and bureaucratically to draw upon.

Botswana is quite happy to diversify into commodities other than diamonds if the mineral endowment is there, and it has the technical and bureaucratic infrastructure already in place to allow that diversification to take place.

In fact, it’s well underway.

 

Kavango’s project areas in Botswana

A major investment by privately-held Khoemacau Copper Mining has just led to the opening of a new world-class copper mine that looks set to produce 60,000 tonnes of copper and around two million ounces of silver per year.

This is big time, but may only be the first of many such projects to come.

The T3 copper project, which is now in the hands of Sandfire, looks set to come on stream too.

And there are others coming along down the line as the pace of work on what’s known as the Kalahari Copper Belt accelerates.

The Kalahari Copper Belt runs roughly 1,000 kilometres from northern Botswana into Namibia, and has been the scene of intense exploration activity in recent years.

The geology is in many ways similar to the more famous Copper Belt that lies to its north, the one that straddles the Zambia-DRC border.

But in the case of the Kalahari Copper Belt, significant levels of cover have historically impeded exploration, and it’s only been in recent years with the advent of more advanced underground surveying techniques that companies have at last been able to build the confidence to put significant amounts of money into exploring the region.

Even allowing for that new technology, though, the first port of call for exploration companies has still been where cover is at its shallowest. Kavango Resources, though, also holds ground where cover is deeper and although this might be more expensive to mine, it could also be hiding great riches.

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How modern exploration technology is helping us to unlock the full potential of Botswana’s hidden wealth

Though the country has many positives, Botswana’s biggest challenge has thwarted many. Until now.

How come no one saw this before?

That’s the first question you’d be forgiven for asking when you initially come across the extensive work we’re doing here in Botswana.

At Kavango Resources (LON:KAV), we’re in the process of uncovering what could be massively untapped sources of base and precious metal deposits.

The investigations we’ve already completed in the country suggest there could potentially be huge finds across our different project areas.

And, with each new update coming out of those projects, it seems the scope of the opportunity is only getting bigger.

Add to that the fact that Botswana itself is ranked by the Fraser Institute as one of the most attractive regions for investment globally—especially given its well-developed infrastructure and lack of corruption—and you do wonder...

Really, how come no one saw this before?

On that note, how did we, a relatively young company, manage to beat so many others to the opportunity?

Though there are naturally several factors contributing to our success so far, perhaps one of the most fundamental is technology.

Before now, others who’ve tried to explore areas around where we’re focusing have simply not had the equipment to do so.

You see, Botswana’s biggest challenge to explorers has always been the same:

The great Kalahari Desert.

It’s why, in our opinion, figuring out a way to explore beneath the African nation’s thick sand cover has always been the key to unlocking its true wealth.

 

A little patience goes a long way: overcoming the challenge of the Kalahari

The huge Kalahari Desert covers nearly 70% of Botswana and, though the ground beneath may potentially be rich with base and precious metals, the sand cover imposing the area has made proving so much more difficult.

Indeed, the well-known and daunting ‘Kalahari sand cover’ has foiled many who’ve tried to explore the region in the past.

For example, back in the 1970s and 1980s, an exploration team funded by the Canadian government looked to investigate the same Kalahari Suture Zone (known as ‘the KSZ’) that we’re now exploring.

At the time, limits in technology meant that the Canadian team were soon forced to give up and move on, leaving the KSZ still largely unexplored, hidden beneath the Kalahari sand cover.

However, one of our founders Hillary Gumbo felt the area still had potential. They understood that, if they had the right technology, then proving so would be a whole lot easier.

It’s one of the reasons that, as well as aligning ourselves so closely with Botswana itself, we’re also putting technology at the heart of everything we do.

In fact, by embracing modern mining exploration technology and experimenting with the latest breakthroughs, we hope to put ourselves at the forefront of metal discoveries in the country.

 

Three key technologies we’ve embraced to help unlock Botswana’s hidden wealth

Speaking with our CEO Ben Turney recently, it’s clear he personally believes very strongly that our adoption of modern technology is one of the smartest edges we have over the competition.

“It’s been game-changing,” says Ben. “It’s exciting to see the new ideas our partners develop and figure out ways in which we can use their tech to evidence further the potential present in areas that might have otherwise been overlooked.”

The three specific tech breakthroughs Ben cites as being most transformative for our fortunes in the Kalahari are TDEM surveys, AMT surveys, and improvements in the modeling software we’re now able to draw on:

  • TDEM stands for Time-Domain Electromagnetic. It refers to a method of identifying what’s below the surface by essentially firing an electrical current into the ground and monitoring the electrical feedback that’s generated. You can quickly build up a good picture of which metals might be present based on the feedback recorded by the receivers on the surface.

 

Time Domain Electromagnetic (TDEM) Surveys
The technology to find Ni/Cu Drill Targets in the KSZ

Formation of magmatic sulphides

 

  • AMT stands for Audio-Frequency Magnetotellurics. Rather than using electric currents, AMT surveys map naturally-occurring energy sources in the ground, such as magnetic fields and the earth’s own electric field. These surveys are crucial in covered regions like Botswana because of the depth the survey can reach, mapping territory as far down as 500 metres or more below the surface.
  • And of course, modeling software of varying capabilities has been available for decades, but in working with our various technology partners, we’re always keen to deploy the very latest methods. One key breakthrough in recent years has been the use of what’s known as ‘inversion software’, which uses seismic readings, together with other data, to physically map out the structure of the earth below ground.

 

As you can imagine, by combining these different technologies, it’s much easier to build up a picture of what’s in the ground beneath the Kalahari sand cover.

Where such detail and accuracy would have been impossible in the past, today companies like ours—who embrace the tech and use it drive their ambitions—are able to gather a much clearer picture of what’s going on during exploration.

Not only does it create more transparency around what’s going on beneath the surface, but it also helps us to be more transparent with investors too, which is something we pride ourselves on.

 

Always on the lookout for new ways to reduce risk and increase opportunity

Of course, when it comes to exploring, a company’s success relies largely on making a discovery.

But, as we all know, exploration is necessarily a speculative venture, and not all projects can come good.

The key, then, is to minimize the risk of embarking on projects that don’t lead to discovery.

This is why it’s so fundamental to embrace modern advancements in technology such as TDEM surveys and AMT surveys alongside the various developments being made in below surface modeling.

You see, by building more accurate imaging of what’s going on in the ground before needing to incur the massive costs that come with drilling, we’re able to expand our scope, cover more projects and bring greater opportunity to potential investors.

It’s a huge positive.

And it’s why we’re excited to continue to explore the next advancements in exploration technology too.

As the industry develops, so do we, and we continue to seek out ways we can take advantage of new technologies to help us unlock even more of the potential that the great country of Botswana offers.

And we’ll be sure to keep you informed of all the latest developments.

 

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