District Metals Corp (CVE:DMX) CEO Garrett Ainsworth had a very visceral reaction when he first came across the Tomtebo polymetallic project in south central Sweden.
“It smacked me in the face – I couldn’t believe it was available,” Ainsworth told Proactive.
The CEO was searching for a new company-maker after he left Canada’s NexGen Energy in 2018 and found Tomtebo, a historical producer in the prolific Bergslagen mining district that is situated between two of the country’s most prolific mines: Falun, one of the oldest operating mines in the world, and Garpenberg, a high-grade silver, lead, zinc, gold and copper producer. Introduced to the project by EMX Royalty, a project generator with a long history of exploration in the Nordic region, Ainsworth quickly put a team together to acquire the project and set out to conduct a modern exploration program on the 5,144-hectare property.
READ THE DEEP DIVE: District Metals is putting the historic Bergslagen mining district on the international map with its Tomtebo project in Sweden
Tomtebo’s two historic mines show significant polymetallic mineralization at grades similar to Garpenberg, which Ainsworth refers to as a “monster of a mine.”
A flagship operation of Sweden’s largest mining company Boliden, Garpenberg has produced around 54 million tons of ore, including high-grade silver at 134 grams per ton (g/t) with lead, zinc and copper credits over its decades-long mining history. What’s more, Boliden’s Garpenberg is highly profitable at the 1,400-metre level.
Even with such large mining operations, Sweden as a mining district typically flies under the radar of most North American juniors that might not be familiar with the jurisdiction. District Metals is one of a handful of international exploration companies that are actively advancing projects in the country.
That doesn’t dissuade Ainsworth. “Sweden is a really good place to find a mine – the infrastructure is excellent and there are five smelters in the Nordic region,” he said. “It’s got some major mining companies that are financially very healthy and could act as a partner in some form. There are a lot of options to expand the project.”
For now, fieldwork at Tomtebo is illustrating that the property has the same geology and structure as Garpenberg and similar mines in the area. Past drilling at the 200 metre level of the historic Tomtebo Mine shows significant mineralization that is open in all directions, a fact that fills Ainsworth with confidence.
“To have that at the 200 metre level and knowing that Garpenberg is mining at the 1400 metre level provides a huge window of opportunity for us,” he said. “We plan to start shallow and work our way down.”
Highly defined targets
Given the prolific region and the historical data supporting mineralization at Tomtebo, many companies would have rushed to sink some drill holes on the property. But District is taking a different approach to develop a better understanding of the geology by flying an airborne survey, analyzing the historic data and conducting a sampling program.
“We could have drilled right away with limited information but it would have reduced our confidence in the drill targeting,” Ainsworth said. “Overall it would hurt the project because we need to be successful with the funds at hand. Every dollar in the ground needs to count and in order to be the most impactful we need to do all of the pre-drilling work to make sure that we have the highest confidence in prioritizing our targets.”
The firm has just had the results of a Leapfrog 3D modeling of mineralized zones, which outlined 33 polymetallic mineralized domains within four zones based on drill assays and historical drill holes. The majority of mineralized zones appear to extend from surface down to 200 metres, with high grade copper-gold dominant mineralization in the feeder zone to high grade silver-zinc-lead dominant mineralization in the distal zone.
More than just base metals
Meanwhile, District’s team is reviewing drill core to put together in a report with recommendations and interpretations for a planned 5,000-metre drill program slated to start in early 2021.
If all goes according to plan, Tomtebo could become a polymetallic mine in the centre of Sweden with access to markets hungry for base metals. Swedish electric vehicle company Northvolt is currently building a massive battery factory in the northern part of the country that will need locally-sourced metals in order to minimize its environmental footprint.
But it is not just the base metals that make Tomtebo attractive: the mines in the region are very rich in precious metals. In 2019, Boliden stated that 30% of Garpenberg’s value is from silver and 40% from zinc, so given the rise in the silver price the operation is technically a silver mine. Falun, while a different style of mineralization, is also very gold-rich, with about 40% of its historic production value based on last year’s metal prices coming from the gold.
“A lot of people think we’re base metals explorers,” Ainsworth added. “Sure, there’s a lot of zinc and copper there but there’s also a lot of precious metal potential here as well.”
Sweden mining facts (as of 2019):
- 12 operating mines
- Main mining companies include Boliden, LKAB, Agnico Eagle, Lundin Mining
- Produced 86.5 million tonnes of ore including 91% of Europe’s iron ore, as well as 9% of the copper and 24-39% of its lead, zinc, silver and gold
- Corporate tax rate of 22%
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