Mining giant Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) has announced it will farm into Sipa Resources’ (ASX: SRI) Kitgum-Pader base metals project in northern Uganda.
Rio will serve up US$57 million (A$75 million) in exploration funding and US$2 million in cash payments over up to 11 years as it takes a stake of up to 75% in Kitgum-Pader.
The cash component of the joint venture deal will be payable in stages, while the first US$12 million exploration funds will be shelled out in the first five years, with Rio having to spend US$250,000 to earn an 51% stake during stage one of the farm-in.
Rio’s second US$250,000 cash payment for project spending is due at the 18-month mark, while the final serve-up, of US$1.5 million cash, is due at the start of stage two.
Stage two will involve Rio spending US$15 million of exploration expenditure during a subsequent three-year period to take its holding in the project to 65%.
To pick up its maximum 75% interest during stage three, Rio will have to invest US$30 million in exploration over another three-year term or ensure a JORC resource of at least 250,000 tonnes of contained nickel or nickel equivalents is declared for the project.
Sipa will handle initial exploration activities, including a detailed gravity survey over prospective ultramafic intrusive complexes, while Rio undertakes its three months due diligence.
Drilling is due to start later on in the 2018 calendar year.
Sipa tipped its deal with Rio would help unlock the Kitgum-Pader project and the Akelikongo nickel-copper discovery at the project area.
Sipa managing director Lynda Burnett said the coup was a reflection of the quality work undertaken by its exploration team over the past five years.
“This is a company-defining transaction for Sipa which vindicates our long-term focus on pursuing opportunities to discover new world-class base metal and gold-copper deposits within emerging mineral provinces with tier-one potential,” she said. “Attracting a global major such as Rio to farm-in to the Kitgum-Pader project reflects … the enormous potential of the ground.”
Subiaco-based Sipa will be the initial joint venture manager with Rio able to choose to manage the deal after 18 months of the start of the agreement.
Once Rio’s earn-in is complete, each party must contribute a proportionate amount to project spending or wear a straight-line dilution of its stake. If a party’s interest falls to less than 10%, it can convert it to a 1.5% net smelter royalty, capped at US$60 million.
Rio or an affiliate will have exclusive marketing rights in relation to mines producing from the project area, with an arm’s length commission to apply.
Kitgum-Pader contains the Akelikongo nickel-copper sulphide and Pamwa lead-zinc-silver discoveries made in 2014 and 2015.
Akelikongo exhibits strong similarities to major intrusive-hosted nickel orebodies such as Nova, Raglan and Voisey’s Bay.
The outcropping, delineated intrusive-hosted chonolith style nickel-copper sulphide mineralisation plunges shallowly to the north-west for at least 500 metres and is open to the north-west.
Previous exploration intersected 84.5m at 0.37% nickel and 0.16% copper and 43.7m at 0.53% nickel and 0.18% copper, including 7m at 1.04% nickel, 0.35% Cu 0.05% copper.
The Paterson North joint venture
West Australian junior Sipa is no stranger to joint-venture agreements, having partnered with Ming Gold at the Paterson North copper-gold project in the Paterson province of north-west Western Australia.
Extensive primary copper-gold-silver-molybdenum and tungsten mineralisation was intersected at the Great Sandy tenement’s Obelisk prospect in primary bedrock.
During Sipa’s maiden drilling in August 2016, it delineated a major copper-plus-gold silver-molybdenum-and-tungsten mineral system over a 4km strike length at Obelisk.
The follow-up exploration target is continuously developed over the strike length, including an 800-by-200m-long zone where greater than 500ppm copper and 1.26g/t gold was returned in 2016.
The maiden campaign was chased up by drilling late last year, in 2017, which confirmed the strong hydrothermal alteration and up to 22 grams per tonne gold and 2% copper in narrow, high-grade veins typical to the district.
Paterson province also features the plus 25 million ounce world-class Telfer gold and copper deposits, the Magnum and Calibre gold and copper deposits, the Nifty copper and Kintyre uranium deposits and the O’Callaghans skarn-hosted tungsten deposit.
Sipa’s market capitalisation was at $8.77 million today while its share price at A$0.013 just after 12.30pm – up 62.5%.