Empire Mining Corporation (TSX VENTURE:EPC) has provided the following exploration progress report on its Bulqiza chromite project in Albania.
Drilling: On September 30th, 2010 Empire announced that Phase I drilling at its Bulqiza-Batra chromite licence in Albania had definitely confirmed the existence of the eastern mineralized extension of the fold structures (the "Eastern Limb") controlling and hosting the chromite ores in the productive Bulqiza and Batra mines (the "Orebody") where recorded past production is about 20 million tonnes of high-grade (35%-42% Cr2O3) and high metallurgical quality (CrFe ratios of up to 3:1) ore. The drilling confirmed the Eastern Limb at both ends of the Orebody, which extends over 2 km of strike and over an average width of 500 metres.
Empire's Phase I drilling consisted of 13 core holes totalling 1,609 metres. High grade lump chromite was intersected at the Batra end of the Orebody, and thick developments of shallow disseminated and banded chromite was encountered at and near surface at the Bulqiza end situated above the fold cusp which is anticipated to be located at depth where high-grade lump ores were mined in the past. This area of lower-grade disseminated and banded chromite is known as Dhoks.
Dhoks: While mining of lower grade ores (15% to 35%) is not a principal objective of Empire, testing indicates that this lower grade material is amenable to upgrading and is therefore potentially an additional source of revenue for Empire. Initial test work was carried-out by a local processing plant on a 100kg sample of 22% Cr2O3 material extracted from outcrop at Dhoks, using gravimetric methods.
Seventy-five percent (75%) of the chromite in the original sample proved recoverable to a calculated head grade of 48% Cr2O3.
A check assay by OMAC/Stewart Laboratory in Ireland gave a recovered grade of 49.81% Cr2O3 with a Chrome:Iron ratio of 3.6:1. Typical grades for lump ores are 35-42% Cr2O3 with Chrome:Iron ratios of 2.6-3.1%.
Low grade chromite mines at Bulqiza have been in operation since the start-up of the Bulqiza chromite enrichment plant in 1971. Concentrates commonly sell at a premium to 35-42% lump ores. The potential for the extension of the Dhoks mineralization to the south is earmarked for drill testing in the spring.
Gallery 25 at Thekna: The Thekna Deposit is located within the Bulqiza-Batra Licence, 5 km southeast of the Bulqiza-Batra Orebody and is believed to be part of the same structure. Thekna is reported to host an historical state resource of 330,000 tonnes grading +40% Cr2O3 and Empire believes there is scope for significant expansion.
Empire's development team has completed the necessary rehabilitation of gallery level 25 at Thekna. Empire now has access to an important underground drill chamber where previous state drilling intersected reported grades and thicknesses of up to 22 metres of 43% Cr2O3. Power-lines have been installed from the main power-grid to the entrance of Gallery 25. Work to extend the power-lines approximately 1 kilometer within the gallery to the drilling chamber is scheduled to be completed within 10 days and a diamond drilling program of up to 1,000 metres is planned to commence in February.
Gallery 1440 at Bulqiza: Gallery 1440 extends south over a 5 km length from the Bulqiza end of the Orebody to beyond the Batra end of the Orebody providing valuable infrastructure for drilling, evaluation and eventual mining of mineralisation expected within only a few tens of metres above Gallery 1440. Geological reconstructions of state records also indicate unmined blocks below, but in close proximity to Gallery 1440.
The necessary rehabilitation of Gallery 1440 has been completed to provide access to drill sites in closer proximity to mineralization (versus drilling from surface as in Phase I). Full access has been gained to the 1440 drill chambers and power is scheduled to be installed in the next three to four weeks. There have been delays to building a short access road caused by winter weather, but windows of improved weather have allowed the construction team to commence work, hence arrangements are being made to commence a diamond drilling program in March. Drilling will target banded and massive chromite mineralization intersected in Phase I drilling, 120 m above Gallery 1440.
Batra Outcrop: The Eastern Limb has recently been mined from an open pit by a local operator adjacent to Empire's licence boundary. Empire intends to continue development of this chromite seam by means of an exploration adit (the "Batra Gallery"). A mining team is sourcing equipment to commence mining in February or March after heavy snow caused a delay in accessing the site. Chromite extracted while developing the Batra Gallery is expected to be sold and will be an important source of early cash-flow for Empire Mining.
The Next Twelve Months: Work performed at the Bulqiza chromite project to date has demonstrated that it is more cost effective to develop adits along mineralisation than it is to carry out surface diamond drilling, and that a metre of development is only marginally more expensive than a metre of drill hole. As new adits are developed, mineralization can be evaluated by underground mapping and sampling and can be combined with short (20-40 m) offset underground diamond drill holes where required to provide new resource estimates. Empire intends to convert exploration licences to mining licences as soon as practical with the aim of accelerating development within chromite mineralisation. Costs are estimated at $2.9 million in the next twelve month period, but with the potential to defray costs from the sale of chromite, utilising a plan to increase production incrementally in conjunction with exploration and development, from existing infrastructure where possible. In addition, up front capital costs can be minimized and deferred by utilizing contract miners.
Quality Assurance/Quality Control
Drill core was submitted for assaying in batches as drilling progressed and sent to the OMAC/Stewart Laboratory in Loughrea, Ireland under strict QA/QP procedures, including standard reference material, blanks and chain of custody.
Source: Empire Mining Corporation