Sustained greenfield and brownfield exploration programmes are key to our long-term growth, alongside the cost-effective drive to increase our resource base through the development of next-generation assets.
To optimise our portfolio of exploration projects, we focus on areas adjacent to our processing or potential hubs (brownfield), and on assets with the potential to become sizeable, standalone operations (greenfield). The advancement of all exploration projects is subject to rigorous review through pre-determined project stages, which are linked to our estimate of the resource potential and its economic prospects.
Key 2020 achievements
In 2021, Polymetal succeeded in extending the life-of-mines at producing assets and continued to invest in the next generation of assets. Exploration activities were carried out at 97 licensed properties. 45 new licences were obtained for geological studies, exploration and the production of gold, silver, platinum group metals (PGMs) and copper.
In total, 325 km of drilling was completed, a 72% increase over 2020. The total expenditure on exploration was $84 million, of which $12 million was capitalised (2020: total $61 million, of which $9 million was capitalised). As a result of our exploration efforts, significant reserve and resource estimates were completed during the year, including:
- An initial JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate for the Novopet polymetallic deposit of 2.4 Moz of gold equivalent at an average grade of 8.0 g/t GE. It comprises 9.2 Mt of mineralised material. The resource estimate is based on data from 87 drill holes with a total length of 50.5 km.
- An initial JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate for the Pavlov property (Voro hub) comprised 9.7 Mt of mineralised material with an average grade of 2.3 g/t containing 0.7 Moz of gold. The deposit is represented by free-milling ore which can be processed at Polymetal’s Voro and Varvara mills, delivering a six-year life-of-mine extension for Voro.
- The updated ore reserve estimate at Veduga comprised 31.9 Mt of ore with an average gold grade of 3.9 g/t containing 4.0 Moz of gold. This is a 50% or 1.3 Moz increase compared with the previous estimate. Mineral resources additional to ore reserves stand at 8.7 Mt of ore with an average grade of 4.5 g/t containing 1.3 Moz of gold, representing an opportunity for significant conversion into reserves.
- An increase in ore reserves at Nezhda by 0.7 Moz to 5.1 Moz of gold with an average grade of 3.4 g/t. Mineral resources additional to ore reserves increased by 0.5 Moz of gold to 8.6 Moz with an average grade of 4.8 g/t.
- Initial ore reserves estimate at Elevator (Varvara hub) of 421 Koz of gold with an average grade of 1.2 g/t. Mineral resources additional to ore reserves comprised 240 Koz of gold with an average grade of 1.6 g/t.
- An increase in ore reserves at Kutyn by 325 Koz to 1.1 Moz of gold with an average grade of 2.9 g/t. Mineral resources additional to ore reserves comprised 414 Koz of gold with an average grade of 5.1 g/t.
- An increase in ore reserves at Mayskoye by 103 Koz to 1.9 Moz of gold with an average grade of 7.4 g/t. Mineral resources additional to ore reserves increased by 382 Koz of gold with an average grade of 9.3 g/t.
- At Omolon hub, an increase of ore reserves at Burgali by 110 GE Koz and initial ore reserves estimate at Nevenrekan of 170 GE Koz with an average grade of 10.2 g/t.
- An increase of additional mineral resources at Albazino by 342 Koz to 2.2 Moz of gold with an average grade of 4.2 g/t and Talgiy (Albazino hub) by 576 Koz to 1.1 Moz of gold with an average grade of 3.0 g/t.
- In 2021, Polymetal’s associate ThreeArc completed an initial JORC-compliant ore reserves estimate for the Buranny area of the Tomtor niobium and REM project. The initial ore reserves comprise 11.4 Mt of ore available for open-pit mining. Tomtor confirmed its scale and grade as one of the premier niobium and REM deposits globally. The project team will now focus on completion of a bankable feasibility study, paving the way for an investment decision.
In 2022, Polymetal will continue to invest in both near-mine (brownfield) and greenfield exploration projects.
The key objectives are:
- Complete an updated Ore Reserve estimate at Veduga
- Prepare an initial Ore Reserve estimate at Talgiy (Albazino)
- Prepare an initial Mineral Resource estimate at Doroninskaya area (Dukat).