Interest in Chile’s Iron Deposits Renewed with Application of Modern Exploration Techniques

As the price of commodities has increased in the rest of the world, so has the production of iron ore in Chile. Historically, Chile has only been attractive to local companies interested in iron. However, for the past three years, junior exploration companies specializing in iron have shown increased interest, as have local producers and international companies looking for more sources of iron ore.

SRK has worked extensively with clients on exploration programs, mineral resource estimation, and scoping analyses of potential mines. Both well-established clients and juniors have focused on traditional iron exploration and extraction, either through exploiting structurally-related massive magnetite veins, or Iron Oxide/Copper/Gold (IOCG) deposits.

In 2006, SRK’s Geology - Resources & Reserves group in Santiago teamed up with a client to find new deposits, and explore new alternatives. This led to the discovery of previously unmined bulk-tonnage iron sources in Chile. With the current market conditions, “stockworked” magnetite zones bordering the massive magnetite veins create a viable target for open pit mining. Generally classed as Kiruna (magmatic) style iron ore deposits, SRK believes they are more properly classed as hydrothermal deposits or, in some cases, hybrid magmatic-hydrothermal deposits.

Hydrothermal magnetite ore deposition was accompanied by the pervasive occurrence of actinolite. In many deposits, movement on the north-south trending Atacama Fault Zone was concurrent with ore deposition and intra-mineral dikes. Other spatially-related dikes are clearly post-mineralization. Host rocks are generally early Cretaceous intermediate volcanics and intrusives.

Once a client takes an exploration claim position along the 600km-long prospective iron belt, exploration for these deposits can be done using remote spectral analysis, through which ASTER and high resolution satellite images are studied to identify the associated bandwidth and footprint, and thus determine the target exploration zones. Aeromagnetic data are also used where available. This is followed by reconnaissance field work to further define target zones for more detailed surface mapping and sampling. Ground magnetics are used to help focus initial drill targets.

Based on pilot drill results of prospective areas, grid drilling is planned, and where successful, after geological modeling and resource estimation, SRK’s Mining Engineering department carries out preliminary mining scoping studies.

While full metallurgical work is still pending, the initial scoping studies show very positive economic results for several of these deposits.

George Even:
Ernesto Jaramillo:

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