Since November 2019, Max Resource Corp. (TSX.V:MXR) has been identifying copper and silver targets within a 120- x 20-km area, at their CESAR copper + silver project in northeastern Colombia.
Max continues to expand the surface mineralization at CESAR, using rock panel samples and composite grab samples to identify structures, continuity of thickness, strike length and potential size, prior to drilling.
The Vancouver-based company is following the theory that continuous panel samples are pointing to a giant, sediment-hosted copper + silver mineralized system.
Its recent AM North and AM South discoveries are hosted in well-bedded sandstone-siltstone similar to KGHM’s monster “Kupferschiefer” mines in Poland.
Outlining a copper porphyry is difficult and expensive because so much drilling has to be done to figure out what is the size and shape of the deposit. With sedimentary copper, the trick is to find the copper outcroppings, then use seismic/ oil and gas drilling log data to find the orebody that may be dipping beneath the soil cover. After that, it’s a matter of identifying the best drill targets.
Max’s goal is to get to that point, bring in a major copper company as a partner, that can help finance a drill program at CESAR and bring it to a resource, then complete the rest of the steps (PEA, prefeas, feasibility study, permits, etc.) required to build a mine.
Max has already signed a non-exclusive confidentiality agreement with a global miner.
Andean Copper Belt
One of the most interesting places to look for new copper deposits is the Andean Copper Belt of northwestern South America. The belt runs from Colombia in the north, through Ecuador and Peru, to northern Chile in the south. Not only does the region host immense copper, gold and molybdenum porphyry deposits, recently it has emerged as an exciting area play for companies that have just started tickling the surface of hugely prospective sedimentary copper-silver basins in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
A 2016 peace agreement between the government and the largest Marxist rebel group has stabilized Colombia and opened it up to foreign investment. This has allowed the South American country to explore for minerals in previously inaccessible areas.
The area’s geology is among the Earth’s most richly mineralized. The North Andean copper-gold province is a 2,500-kilometer mineralized arc that formed on the western edge of South America’s complex Proterozoic and Archaean shield, during the Lower Paleozoic era, around 300 million years ago. A complex of Cretaceous-era terranes (pieces of crust, broken from tectonic plates) was forged on the northwest margin of South America, connecting it to the southern tip of North America sometime between the Oligocene and Miocene epochs.
The significant stratabound (confined to a single stratigraphic unit) copper-silver mineralization found at CESAR is similar to the mineralization found in Ecuador and Peru in Jurassic-age rocks. The project lies along a historic 120-km copper-silver belt within a major oil and gas and coal-mining sedimentary basin.
The Cesar-Ranchería Basin is bounded by the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serranía del Perijá mountain ranges. Two rivers flowing through the basin, the Cesar and Ranchería, bear its name.
The Cesar-Ranchería Basin hosts Cerrejón (owned by BHP, Anglo American and Glencore), the tenth biggest coal mine worldwide and the largest in Latin America, where low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal is mined from the Paleocene Cerrejón Formation. Offshore gas operators include Chevron and others. The basin is relatively under-explored for hydrocarbons, compared to such neighboring hydrocarbon-rich provinces as the Maracaibo Basin and Middle Magdalena Valley.
The basin is also estimated to hold the second-largest reserves of coal bed methane in Colombia, or 25% of the country’s total resources.
It’s interesting to note that energy companies looking for oil and gas in the sedimentary basin at CESAR possibly missed core intervals indicative of a copper deposit (or groups of deposits) since O&G companies were looking for hydrocarbons.
Max is using historical drill results from the Colombian government, seismic data and drilling logs gleaned from historical oil and gas exploration.
Sedimentary copper deposits
The world’s biggest sedimentary copper deposits are only found in three basins: the Paleoproterozoic Kodaro-Udokan Basin of Siberia, the Neoproterozoic Katangan Basin of south-central Africa, and the Permian Zechstein Basin of northern Europe.
However, this may be changing. Over the past year or so, an intriguing theory has come to light: that within the Andean Copper Belt, are a series of large-scale sedimentary copper deposits, formed in areas known to contain other minerals, including oil, gas, coal and salt.
Initial exploration of sedimentary basins in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru has revealed a startling realization – that surface outcroppings might be just the tip of giant icebergs of sediment-hosted copper-silver deposits lurking underneath. Samples derived from boots-on-the ground prospecting suggest these areas are analogous to “Kupferschiefer”-type copper-silver mineralization found in Germany and Poland.
Proving this theory could mean billions of pounds of copper and hundreds of millions of ounces of silver lay hidden beneath the diverse geography of northwestern South America.
How they form
Sedimentary copper deposits are formed in ocean basins, where the seabed is composed of porous materials such as sandstone, limestone and black shale, through which copper and other minerals travel up and become trapped in the rock layers.
For a sedimentary copper deposit to form, all four of the following conditions must be met: an oxidized source rock, a source of brine to mobilize the copper, a source of reduced fluid to precipitate copper and form a deposit, and finally, there has to be the right environment for fluid mixing.
When the metals precipitate from fluids circulating in the host rock, they may be deposited in sandstones or shales. The massive Kamoa sedimentary-hosted stratiform deposit in Africa’s DRC is the best example of copper-bearing sandstones.
Sedimentary exhalative deposits formed when hydrothermal fluids contacted a body of water, and precipitated ore. The large deposits in the Zambian copper belt are an example of SedEx-style mineralization.
Red-bed deposits, so named due to oxidation resulting from exposure to the atmosphere, are divided into volcanic and sedimentary.
Kupferschiefer deposits are similar to red-beds but larger, even regionally extensive. They typically form in a marine setting, after land is gradually submerged into a shallow sea, then overlain by sedimentary rocks – which formed from the gradual deposition of the carcasses of dead sea creatures, onto the ocean floor.
Kupferschiefers consist of three layers – sandstone, limestone and bituminous shale. Copper-containing fluids migrate up through the sandstone and get trapped by the carbon-rich “kupferschiefer” layer. This is where most of the mineralization is concentrated, although it can also be found in the sandstone, limestone, or a combination of all three layers.
In an earlier interview with AOTH, Max’s head geologist, Piotr Lutynski, said Colombia’s stratigraphy is similar to his homeland, Poland, and its cluster of Kupferschiefer sediment-hosted copper-silver deposits.
“The copper and silver are very classical elements likely to be in sedimentary deposits like Colombia,” said Lutynski, noting he has worked in similar mineralization in Peru. “It’s the same stratigraphy with the sandstone below the limestone on top and the Kupferschiefer-equivalent in the middle.”
State-owned KGHM Polska Miedz is the world’s eighth largest copper producer and the second biggest silver producer. Its Kupferschiefer (“copper shale” in German) copper-silver deposits are regionally extensive.
They comprise Europe’s largest copper-mining area, with 2018 production of 30 million tonnes grading 1.49% copper and 48.6 g/t silver from a mineralized zone of 0.5 to 5.5-meter thickness.
The Kupferscheifer deposits are also the world’s leading silver producer, yielding 40 million ounces in 2019, almost twice the production of the world’s second largest silver mine, states the 2020 World Silver Survey.
In June, Max entered into a collaboration agreement with “one of the world’s leading copper producers”, starting with a technical study of CESAR by Fathom Geophysics.
The aim of Fathom’s study is to map stratigraphic (rock layers) features that can help to pinpoint stratabound copper-silver mineral horizons at the property.
The collaboration with the un-named major, and the study being carried out by Fathom, complements research initiated by the University of Science and Technology (“AGH”) of Krakow, Poland – one of the most important research centers in the world for the study of these sedimentary-hosted stratiform copper deposits, which are also large repositories of silver.
In an April 21, 2020 press release, Max said it sent surface rock samples extracted from CESAR’s stratabound copper + silver mineralization horizons to AGH. Researchers at the university, which has worked extensively with KGHM, will conduct mineralogical and geochemical studies on the samples; also, a Masters-level student is planning on writing a thesis paper on the results.
Initial results from petrographic analysis of two samples from AM South were released by Max on May 26.
They confirm the presence of native copper, chalcolite, and malachite hosted in siltstone and sandstone. Covellite, a rare copper sulfide mineral, was also detected, having not been found previously. That could be significant, because copper sulfides are more profitable to mine as a result of their higher copper content. The copper is also more easily separated from other minerals, compared to copper oxides.
The study was conducted by the National University of Colombia’s geological engineering department, with assistance from Max’s field team, as part of another Masters-level thesis, on stratabound copper-silver mineralization within the Cesar-Ranchería Basin of northeastern Colombia.
Max’s exploration of CESAR goes back almost one year. After staking the property, located 420 km from the capital Bogota, the company embarked on a first-pass exploration program to identify surface outcrops, and to evaluate the potential for expanding its copper holdings.
A total of 12 outcrops were found within a 9-square-kilometer area, from which copper assays up to 4.15% were reported, along with silver assays up to 116 grams per tonne (g/t). Sixteen of the 24 samples exceeded 1% copper with three surpassing 3% Cu, with the mineralization appearing to be open in all directions. Silver was an important constituent, with values ranging from 4 to 116 g/t.
In January, 2020 Max made a major discovery within its CESAR block of claims north of Medellin, Colombia.
Dubbed the AM Horizon, the discovery features a stratabound copper-silver horizon that trends northeast-southwest in excess of 1.4 kilometers. The mineralized system appears to be open in both directions and dips down about 40 degrees to the northwest.
According to the news release, grades of the main mineralized zone at the AM Horizon range from 0.05% to 2.69% copper, 3 g/t to 39.5 g/t silver, and mineralized rock chip or panel samples with widths varying from 0.5m to 3m.
In mid-February, Max followed up with a second high-grade discovery, just south of AM Horizon. The aptly named Outcrop Zone is defined by 13 outcrops, from which rock chip and panel samples have been taken.
Chip and panel rock sample highlights included 4.4% copper + 33 g/t over 0.6m; and 4.3% copper + 26 g/t silver over a 3m x 3m panel ( Feb 11, 2020, )
Two days later, Max announced the zone had been extended by 1.5 km, from 2 km to 3.5 km.
Chip and panel rock sample highlights included 2.4% copper + 11 g/t silver over a 3m x 3m panel; and 4.3% copper + 26 g/t silver over a 3m x 3m panel (Feb 13, 2020, )
Composite grab sampling returned a preliminary 25-meter-thick interval grading 0.7% copper and 4 g/t silver, and a 25m-thick interval grading 0.6% copper and 7 g/t silver. These thicker intersections include a significant portion of the hanging wall and footwall of the copper-silver horizon, according to the news release.
“We were very excited to see such thick intervals of copper-silver values,” said Max’s CEO, Brett Matich.
Note these are very high copper and silver grades – up to 4.4% copper and 49 grams per tonne silver. Note also – these grades are averages from panels, not pieces of high-grade ore chipped from the outcrop to fool investors into thinking the whole outcrop is high-grade when only a small chunk of it is. It’s important for investors to differentiate between a select rock chip sample, and average grade across a 3m x 3m = 9 sq meter panel.
The 3.5-kilometer-long Outcrop Zone, coupled with the AM Horizon, comprise a 4.9-km strike that is open in all directions – indicating further size potential. Outcrops 2 to 8 and 12, the green circles on the map below, are thought to be lateral extensions of the strike, the dotted red line, totaling 15 km.
“The CESAR style of mineralization appears to be similar to a large sub-horizontal sheet, with the edges partly exposed at surface,” Matich explained in the Feb. 11 news release.
In February, Max reported two significant stratabound discoveries at a new zone called “AM North”.
AM North Zone contains two mineralized areas from which rock samples were taken – AMN-1 and AMN-2 (Figure 1). Assay results from a 1-meter continuous rock chip sample at AMN-1 returned 10.4% copper + 88 grams per tonne (g/t) silver.
AMN-2 is located 1.8 km west of AMN-1. Both zones dip 20 degrees northwest and appear to be part of the same mineralized horizon.
A week later, field crews found another high-grade outcrop, featuring 24.8% copper and 230 grams per tonne silver.
According to the company, the stratabound copper-silver mineralization at AM North and AM South (formerly, the AM Horizon + Outcrop Zone) share the same mineralized trend, and are hosted in a well-bedded sandstone-siltstone similar to the Kupferschiefer in Poland.
“The high-grade AM North discovery supports our model of a significant, large-scale stratabound copper + silver system, stretching over 35-kilometers from AM North to AM South,” Matich said in the Feb. 27, 2020 news release.
Indeed the most significant opportunity for expansion, occurs between the AM North and AM South discoveries, a 40-km-long target zone shown on the map below.
In early April, Max reported the 1.4-km stratabound copper-silver horizon at AM South, was extended 1,000m, to 2,400m. (2.4 km). The new area is shown on the map below as a dotted yellow line.
Max also reported a new discovery, AM-2, located 500 meters south of AM-1, represented by the lower solid yellow line.
The new zone extends for 1,000 meters, and is open along strike and dip. The fact that it is parallel to AM-2 strongly suggests stacked horizons.
That is an intriguing thought, because it would verify Max’s geological theory of “Kupfershiefer”-style mineralization. According to the US Geological Survey, the massive volume of metal in Poland’s Kupferschiefer deposits is due to continuous mineralization that extends down dip and laterally for kilometers.
Summarizing the project to the end of May, two greenfield discoveries, AM North and AM South, appear to support Max’s theory of the high-grade outcrops being the surface showings of a sizable sediment-hosted copper system underground.
AM South features a stratabound copper-silver horizon, with mineralized structures totaling over 5 km of strike length. Sampling from 0.1 to 25-meter intervals returned highlight values of 5.4% copper and 63 g/t silver (US$324.26 gross metal value per tonne).
On trend 40 kilometers north, AM North contains two mineralized areas from which rock chip samples were taken.
The AMN-1 target returned values of 10.4% copper and 88 g/t silver (US$605.36 gross metal value per tonne) over a 1-meter interval, along 1,800m of strike.
AMN-2 returned 24.8% copper + 230 g/t silver (US$1455.13 gross metal value per tonne) over a 4m x 1m rock chip panel discovery.
Max also reported bulk sample assay and QEMSCAN values of 9.4 % copper + 79 g/t silver (US$546.84 gross metal value per tonne) obtained in the vicinity of AMN-2, and 3.5 % copper + 29 g/t silver (US$203.37 gross metal value per tonne) near AMN-1.
In June the company extended the AM North target area from 2.5 km to over 11 km.
The new Ventana Zone lies within an 11-km zone of continuous copper-silver mineralization, trending north to the Herradura Zone, from which the bulk samples were taken.
Herradura lies at the northern end of AM North. The copper-silver mineralization is interpreted to be stratabound, Kupferschiefer-type and is open in all directions. Herradura also contains a high-grade component area consisting of 12 outcrops with varying intervals grading 4.0 to 34.4% copper + 28 to 305 g/t silver. Follow-up field work identified a continuous horizon, striking SWW-NEE with shallow dip to the NNW. Rock chip channels sampled across the exposed horizon assayed 34.4% copper + 305 g/t silver over half a meter.
Copper-silver mineralization at the Ventana discovery appears to be structurally controlled, trends NW-SE and dips NE. This mineralization appears to cross-cut primary stratabound mineralization and contains epidote, native copper and cuprite, in addition to chalcocite and copper oxides.
Highlight values include 4.6% copper + 21 g/t over 0.2 meters, 3.3% copper + 18 g/t silver over 0.8 meters, and 2.1% copper + 10 g/t silver over 4.2 meters.
Additional rock chip sampling is underway at both Herradura and Ventana, since the full width of the copper-silver horizon is not exposed.
At AM South, all four mineralized zones have reported assay results. On July 14 Max announced several composite grab sample and panel sample results from AM-2, shown in Figure 2 below in red. Highlights include 5.6% copper and 70 g/t silver from a 13- by 1-meter panel, and 1.7% copper + 13 g/t silver over 5 meters.
Notice the 40-km target zone shown on the map as a lighter gradient. All four zones – AM-1 (2.4 km), AM-2 (1.1 km), AM-3 (1.6 km) and AM-4 (0.7 km) – are open to the northwest and southeast, shown by the white arrowheads, with a cumulative strike length exceeding 5.8 km.
Highlight panel values include: 5.8% copper + 80 g/t silver over 7 meters by 1 meter; 5.6% copper + 70 g/t silver over 13 meters by 1 metre; 4.3% copper + 57 g/t silver over 3 meters by 3 meters; 3.6% copper + 48 g/t silver over 7 meters by 1 meter; 3.5% copper + 26 g/t silver over 10 meters by 2 meters.
AM South’s copper-silver mineralization is interpreted to be of stratabound/Kupferschiefer-type, hosted in fine-grained sediments. The principal minerals are chalcocite – a copper sulfide – and copper oxides malachite and azurite.
“Our field teams continue to locate stratabound copper-silver mineralization within the key horizon units as they trace these horizons along strike and down dip. We feel more and more confident the Company is on the verge of a significant mineral discovery at CESAR,” said CEO Brett Matich.
Though still early-stage, Max’s CESAR, in just 7 months, has, to us at AOTH demonstrated the massive scale needed to interest a major mining company.
Moreover, and this is really important, Max doesn’t have to drill it, not at this stage. The whole idea is to identify the mineralized horizons and the dips. So far, Max has managed to do this with rock chip sampling because rivers and creeks cut across and expose the multiple horizons for a considerable depth.
Having a major copper company come in so early – just 7 months into an exploration program – validates Max’s exploration model, and the results.
The first phase of the partnership with the yet-to-be-named company involves a technical study by Fathom Geophysics.
The aim of the study is to map stratigraphic (rock layers) features that can help to pinpoint stratabound copper-silver mineral horizons at CESAR.
The project has also grabbed the attention of one of the most important research centers in the world for the study of these sedimentary-hosted stratiform copper deposits which are also large repositories of silver.
Researchers with the University of Science and Technology (“AGH”) of Krakow, Poland are conducting mineralogical and geochemical studies on CESAR samples. Notably, AGH has a long history of cooperation with KGHM.
“CESAR’s geological model is based on KGHM’s Kupferschiefer, Europe’s largest copper mine, with production in 2018 of 30 million tonnes grading 1.49% copper and 48.6 g/t silver from a mineralized zone of 0.5 to 5.5-metre thickness. The Kupferschier deposit is also the world’s leading silver producer, yielding 40 million ounces in 2019, almost twice the production of the world’s second largest silver mine (World Silver Survey 2020).”
Initial results from petrographic analysis of two samples confirm the presence of native copper, chalcolite, and malachite hosted in siltstone and sandstone. Covellite, a rare copper sulfide mineral, was also detected for the first time, indicating the potential for copper sulfide mineralization. Copper sulfides are more profitable to mine as a result of their higher copper content. Max believes the copper oxides near surface transition to the richer copper minerals at depth.
Max’s CESAR project appears to offer good value for investors looking to take a position in an early-stage copper-silver play. Rock chip samples taken thus far have returned high-grade copper and silver assays. The fact that the AM North and AM South targets appear to be large sub-horizontal sheets, that partly outcrop at surface, adds credibility to the Kupferschiefer analogy. In Poland’s Kupferschiefer deposits, continuous mineralization extends down dip and laterally for kilometers. Could the mineralization at CESAR do the same? If so Max could be looking at a district-scale, even a regionally extensive copper-silver mineralized system.
Max has entered non-exclusive confidentially agreements with one of the world’s leading copper producers and a second with a Global Miner.
Max Resource Corp.
Shares Outstanding 35,719,906m
Market cap Cdn$76.7m
Richard (Rick) Mills
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