For many years, the Ophir district, not far from Omakau in Central Otago, has been very quiet. Apart from the local pub, a few establishments offering accommodation, and some historic stone buildings dated back to the gold rush days of the 1860s, there’s not much there.
While the biggest lift for Ophir recently has been its inclusion on the Central Otago Rail Trail, a revival of the gold mining industry in the district should make it an area of national focus.
Known as Ophir Mines until 2006, gold explorer Ophir Gold, has announced “encouraging results” from the initial batch of assays from its recent round of exploration drilling in Central Otago. A further drilling programme is planned after winter, as the region can be very cold, even until the end of September. It currently holds the dubious record of the lowest recorded temperature with -21.6 degrees Celsius on July 3, 1995.
The region was renowned for its hard-rock gold deposits in the 19th century gold rush era, but technical difficulties made recovery too hard and too expensive. Consultant geologist John Youngson says Ophir Gold recently carried out a follow-up drilling programme on its Wai-iti gold prospect, near Ophir, where it is targeting a Macraes-style hard-rock gold deposit, discovered in the late 19th century.
According to Youngson, results from the first batch of samples submitted to SGS Laboratory for assay returned many intercepts, with grades between one gram and 5.25 grams of gold per tonne. He says results from a second batch of samples due in about a month are expected to return further gold-bearing intercepts and confirm the presence of a mineable resource.
Youngson says 11 holes were drilled, amounting to 500 lineal metres, at depths of between 24 metres to 51 metres. He says there is alluvial gold within Ophir’s permitted area, but it is “trivial” in quantity, and it is the gold in the schist rock that is being sought. This is similar to OceanaGold’s operation at Macraes in East Otago. That mine has produced over two million ounces of gold since 1990.
He also confirms the Wai-iti deposit is considerably smaller than the Macraes deposit, but has the singular advantage of being able to be projected along a strike line for more than a kilometre and offers “significant potential” to increase the gold resource in the future.
Ophir Gold is also aware of other gold-bearing structures within its permit which may also be mined in the future.
Meanwhile, Youngson adds, the directors of the company have not yet decided whether to develop a mine for themselves or to form a joint mining venture with an existing gold mining company. By Peter Owens.