There's a saying in exploration that there are only two ways to make a discovery.
Either used advanced technology and techniques in a mature area. Or apply basic methods in a new terrain.
One of the most interesting "new places" around the world is Madagascar. A nation that enjoyed a rich mining history in colonial times. But has seen little in the way of systematic modern exploration since.
There was a brief period of openness here from 2002 to 2009. Which encouragingly, yielded some major mining developments like Sherritt's Ambatovy nickel mine, and the Fort Dauphin titanium project developed by Rio Tinto.
But then a political coup plunged the country back into isolation.
Things now appear to be changing for this "lost world" however. With news last week suggesting that some much-needed geological attention is coming to the island.
Xinhua reported that the China Geological Survey has signed a cooperation agreement with Madagascar's University of Antananarivo. With one of the program aims being the creation of a geologic map across the country.
This seemingly basic step could be a critical one for exploration here. With large parts of the island simply being unknown right now when it comes to detailed geology.
And knowing the rocks is a big first step toward exploration targeting. With a number of the country's regions having significant potential--based on comparison with nearby nations.
In gold, for example. During the distant past, Madagascar lay sandwiched between South Africa and India--both locales known for their massive gold endowments. And there's long been suspicion that similar-sized deposits could be found in the country's northeast. But little information existed to help test this hypothesis.
The new mapping program is a big step toward this. And could allow explorationists to start "doing the basics" when it comes to assessing this virgin territory. And not just for minerals--the hydrocarbon potential here is also significant. Especially in light of recent offshore activity in places like Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa.
Madagascar's government also appears to be (slowly) going in the right direction. Having recently held its first democratic elections in years. Last month, Canada sent its first trade minister to the island since the 2009 coup--with mining being one of the big discussion points.
It won't be overnight, but this could be a place we'll be hearing a lot more about coming up.
Here's to awakening the giant,
By Dave Forest