ECUADOR - Energy & Mining
SVP, Lumina Gold Corp & President, Luminex
Diego Benalcázar has approximately 30 years of mining and project management experience across Latin America. He was instrumental in bringing the publicly listed Canadian firm Lumina Gold to Ecuador, his home country, when the opportunity arose. He obtained his degrees in geology at the North Carolina State University and program for management development at Harvard University.
We started our pre-feasibility study in 2022 and were able to drill close to 35,000m. We now have 80% of all the engineering studies and necessary data to publish our pre-feasibility by April. We have more resources than we initially believed. It was already massive at 17.1 million ounces according to our PEA published in 2020. The deposits are open laterally and vertically. We have two main pits at Cangrejos that will have a lifespan of at least 25 years. Cangrejos was already the largest primary gold deposit in Ecuador, and this is even larger than that. We have a plan to start the feasibility campaign at the end of 2023. It will take about a year, and we should come to a construction definition by 2025. This does not mean we are ready to set the right time to build a mine; we still need to go through the feasibility study to determine if it is viable. Nevertheless, the end result of the studies for the pre-feasibility are fairly positive. We have among the 12 largest deposits in the world in the hands of private developers. Cangrejos is extremely important because it is a world-class deposit. There are minimum problems at our location in El Oro Province compared to other areas in Ecuador. There are no indigenous populations here, and the location of the project is fantastic. We are next to the Pan American Highway, and it is at low elevation. It is also only 45km from port and fairly close to energy sources. All these aspects make Cangrejos the most competitive project in Ecuador. We are fairly active in social and community programs in order to sustain the development of the project. We run components of horticulture, arts, and technical training, and we are preparing the local population to be ready for jobs in the mining industry. We will need operators of heavy equipment and some degree of technology. We have already started this to incorporate local youth to be part of these programs. We have other programs like a soccer school led by a national champion and a significant forestry program. We have close to 26,000 trees already growing on average of 3-4m tall on 75ha of the property. We have also provided internet access in all of the schools and run a continuous program of assistance. We only have to wait for the government and the administration to understand the needs of the project to continue its development. This is not easy, but we have been navigating this since 2013 to bring this project almost to a pre-construction level.
Luminex Resources Corp. is listed on the TSX venture capital arena. The role of Luminex is to manage and advance a portfolio of properties in contrast to Lumina, which has only one project that may be a commercial product in the future. Luminex is diversified in copper and gold. Our main project is Condor. This project was taken to the PEA level in 2021. We have also incorporated a solid size resource in addition to what we already have. It is an underground-type resource that we discovered in a camp zone in Cuyes West. This project is not as advanced as Los Cangrejos. It is located in Zamora province, and it is more difficult in terms of the social context, with a great deal of informal mining around; however, we will keep going. The remaining part of the portfolio has been extremely dynamic. Luminex has been one of the most dynamic corporations mining in Ecuador. We have had JVs with First Quantum, BHP, Anglo-American, and JOGMEC, the state-owned mining company from Japan. We will also announce a new JV later in 2023. Luminex is extremely important for new investors because there is no cadastral system. We play an important role in terms of offering opportunities for new investment. We have been advancing the Pegasus Project with Anglo-American and have already starting drilling. We finished the first phase of drilling at Orquideas. We also completed a JV with BHP and brought a product already of resources and so on. We also manage our own projects, being the operators for new investors and advancing and developing. We need to be dynamic and take advantage of opportunities. We have extensive know-how of where the good terrain is located once the cadastral system opens.
The good thing about this opportunity is that the authorities now understand that mining is the most important sector to earn income for the country rather than oil. Mining comes in fourth in terms of income for the government with only two large size mines in production; it could become third if two or three more mines are brought into production in the following five years and even second in a decade. Understanding what will sustain the economy of Ecuador is important for any governing party to support our industry. Pre-feasibility for the Cangrejos Project should be ready before the end of the first semester, starting feasibility at the beginning of the fourth semester. For Condor Project, we plan to incorporate a third possible discovery to the new discovered areas that is only 2.5km away from the epithermal district. We will start drilling that project in February. If we hit grade, all those resources can be part of the unified project. This is a combination of open pit and underground. It will take some time and is fairly challenging.
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