The Bolnisi copper and gold project is a major underexplored copper-gold asset in the Republic of Georgia, a mountainous country located in the Caucasus region, at the boundary between Europe and Asia.

The project owned by Georgian Copper and Gold (GCG), a 50:50 joint venture between Empire Metals’ wholly-owned subsidiary GMC Investments and its local partner Caucasian Mining Group.

Candelaria Mining signed a definitive agreement with Empire Metals to acquire GMC Investments which holds a 50% stake in the Bolnisi gold and copper project, in October 2020.

The project comprises a 30-year mining license covering an area of 860km2. The five deposits identified in the project area are Kvemo Bolnisi East (KBE), Kvemo Bolnisi West (KBW), Dambludi, Tsitel Sopeli, and Balichi.

GCG received confirmation of tenure from the National Agency of Mines (NAM) over Kvemo Bolnisi East and Dambludi deposits in January 2020, while discussions are underway for the rights to the remaining three deposits.

Although the tenure paved the way for recommencement of work at the KBE deposit, the work was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Location and geology

The Bolnisi copper-gold project is located in the Bolnisi district of the Kvemo Kartli region in southern Georgia.

It lies on the prolific Tethyan geological belt that hosts several high-grade copper-gold deposits and producing mines.

The Bolnisi district in Georgia is dotted by epithermal, low-to-intermediate sulphidation, and volcanic-hosted ore deposits with significant concentrations of copper-gold polymetallic mineralisation.

The KBE deposit is an epithermal gold-copper project based on breccia pipes with supergene zone and oxide cap. It is 7km northeast to the producing Madneuli mine and processing plant, which is operated by Empire Metals’ local partner Rich Metals Group.

The KBW deposit is a low-sulphidation polymetallic gold-silver system, while the Dambludi deposit is a narrow-vein epithermal deposit with high gold grades in quartz-sulphide veins in the east, and high-grade polymetallic sulphide veins in the north and west.

Tsitel Sopeli is a classic low-sulphidation epithermal deposit with quartz-sulphide gold/copper mineralisation.

Exploration drilling details

The drilling programme for the Bolnisi copper-gold project has been carried out in three phases. Phase one was aimed to delineate a minimum of one million tonnes (Mt) to 2Mt of ore resources to support initial spare capacity.

The second phase was targeted to delineate up to 5Mt of combined copper-gold sulphide and gold oxide ore. The third phase is aimed to delineate more than 50Mt resources over the long term.

Discovered at the KBE deposit in Q3 2017, the Gold Zone 3 (GZ3) is a polymetallic gold mineralisation zone situated below 50m of unconsolidated alluvial sediments next to GZ2.

The drilling update of June 2018 confirmed the presence of a high-grade epithermal gold system adjacent to the current Kvemo Bolnisi deposit footprint.

Located 600m west of GZ3, the KBW deposit represents a silver-rich epithermal system with a separate discrete feeder breccia pipe. The peak surface sampling assay of the KBW is 888g/t silver.

The drilling activities of the GZ2 discovery at KBW deposit involved drilling of five holes, including the KBWDDH450 drill hole which intersected polymetallic gold mineralisation of 30.9m grading 1.60g/t gold and 10.78g/t silver from 193m.

Mineral resources

The Kvemo Bolnisi East project was estimated to hold 2.3Mt of recoverable ore resources grading 0.85g/t gold and 3.15Mt of ore resources grading 0.82% copper, as of July 2017.

Mining method and infrastructure facilities

The developer plans to implement the open-pit mining method at the KBE project. A mining and processing agreement is planned to be signed to enable the transfer of the ore extracted from the KBE project to the nearby processing plant, operated by Rich Metals Group.

The infrastructure development for the project includes site access roads, a small number of dumps and stockpiles, water management facilities, and a road to connect with the Madneuli mine.