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This Copper Major is Staking a New District

This Copper Major is Staking a New District

One of the biggest trends going in mining has been less exploration.

Especially from major firms, who are cutting costs in the face of lower metals prices.

But news this week suggests at least one major miner is taking an interesting departure. And increasing exploration activity--in an unexpected place.

The company is Rio Tinto. Which announced it has commenced a new exploration program for copper in northeastern Namibia.

Related: Mick Davis has now almost $5 billion to build new mining empire

This represents Rio's first work for copper in the West African nation. Showing that the company isn't afraid to try new ideas--even as most competitors are slashing their exploration budgets.

The more interesting question is: what does Rio see in Namibia? After all, the nation has so far been a relatively minor producer when it comes to base metals.

The answer may be: potential for new a copper belt.

The Kalahari belt in Namibia and neighbouring Botswana has actually been known for decades. With the Botswana side having seen some attention a few years ago--including a project buyout from private equity-backed copper super-team Cupric Canyon Capital.

But things have been relatively quiet since then. And definitely so when it comes to activity by major miners.

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Rio may therefore be working on new geologic data or interpretations. The kind that suggest potential for important new discoveries.

In fact, the company's granted tenements lie in the Kavango region, which lies north of the mapped extent of the Kalahari belt. The area has little reported occurrence of copper, but does lie generally in line with the Kaoko copper belt--a little-explored terrane, where copper heavyweight First Quantum Minerals struck a project earn-in deal earlier this year.

Watch for results from Rio Tinto themselves on exploration activity here. And any new projects being staked by other majors--or juniors--in this trend.

Here's to new things,
Dave Forest

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