Geology and Prospectivity
Mineral exploration activities being undertaken by exploration companies in neighbouring countries confirm the high potential for Western Sahara to host deposits of iron ore, gold, uranium and base metals (see table below). Regional mining operations and exploration activities include:
Iron Ore – the Archaean banded iron formation (BIF) hosted Zouerate iron ore complex, Guelb el Aouj and Askaf magnetite development projects in Mauritania and the Gara Djebilet Devonian oolitic iron ore deposit in Algeria
Gold and Base Metals – the Tasiast gold mine and Guelb Moghrein copper mine in Mauritania
Uranium – the Bir En Nar, Bir Moghrein and Ain Ben Tili exploration projects in northern Mauritania
Iron ore exploration in both Mauritania and Algeria has identified two different styles of iron mineralisation that are very likely to be found in the SADR. The Zouerate complex in Mauritania contains a number of Archaean BIF-hosted iron ore deposits of both hematite enrichments and primary magnetite (SNIM, Sphere Minerals). Known deposits extend north of Zouerate in close proximity to the Mauritania-SADR border. Investigation during the Technical Cooperation Agreement confirmed the extension of this Tiris Iron Ore Province into Western Sahara. Evidence from exploration results at Aghracha and Awhifrit in the Occupied Territories as well as from satellite imagery indicates strong potential for similar deposits within the Occupied Territories of the SADR.
The North African Palaeozoic Ironstone Belt extends from Libya to Western Sahara and contains a number of identified sedimentary iron ore deposits of Ordovician to Devonian age. Similar oolitic iron ore deposits to Gara Djebilet could be found along strike within the sedimentary units of the southern part of the Tindouf Basin of northern SADR.
Gold and Base Metals
Two areas of gold and base metal exploration in Mauritania highlight strong potential for similar mineralisation within the SADR. In the western part of the Reguibat Shield a series of greenstone belts have been identified that host the producing Tasiast gold mine. These greenstone belts are thought to be geologically similar to other global greenstone areas hosting major gold deposits. The strike of the belts trends approximately north-south towards the southern border of the SADR. Identification of extensions of this greenstone terrain into southern SADR should be the focus of exploration for this type of gold mineralisation.
In northeast Mauritania gold mineralisation has been identified associated with a major crustal shear structure. The strike of this feature has a northwest-southeast orientation and can be seen to extend into northeast SADR. Strong potential for gold mineralisation associated with the shear zone is inferred within this area of the SADR.
Uranium exploration in northern Mauritania is focused on a number of different styles of uranium mineralisation. Exploration results around the Bir En Nar prospect (Forte Energy) have identified uranium mineralisation associated with major crustal shearing in igneous intrusives, which are generally syenites. The strike of these crustal structures has a northwest-southeast orientation, which at the north-western end appears to trend over the border into the SADR. Exploration for this type of mineralisation should be focused on identifying similar geological settings within the SADR, either along strike from Bir En Nar or associated with similar structural features within the SADR.
Further exploration results around Bir Moghrein and Ain Ben Tili (Forte Energy, Aura Energy) has demonstrated uranium mineralisation associated with calcrete deposits. Surficial deposits of calcrete form by the weathering of granites in a semi-arid to arid climate and often overlie Archaean terrains. Investigation of known calcrete deposits and the identification of new deposits within the SADR has the potential to host this style of uranium mineralisation.
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