The Barrytown Garnet/Ilmenite Project: Site Visit
Last week I visited the Barrytown Ilmenite Project (“Barrytown”), located on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. I was met at Christchurch by Mr Jim Hickey, Managing Director of Pacific Mineral Resources Ltd (“PAC”), which is in the process of acquiring a 100% interest in Barrytown.
We drove through the Southern Alps by way of Arthur’s Pass to the main West Coast town of Greymouth, population about 10,000. This article has an interactive Google map of the region.
PAC has just opened an office in Greymouth and is planning to rename itself Westland Titanium. The local team comprises Neil Griffin, CFO and Company Secretary (left below), Fraser Cunningham, Project Geologist (centre below) and, of course, Jim. The team have all moved to the West Coast, which shows a solid commitment to the project.
The main industries in the Greymouth region are farming (dairy, beef, deer, sheep), fishing, tourism and coal mining. The image below shows an historic coal loadout berth next to PAC’s office.
Barrytown Flats is an area of beach sand approximately 15 kilometres long and up to 2 kilometres wide. The image below is a typical view looking east from the coast, across the flats, to the foothills of the Southern Alps. The land is used for deer and cattle farming, although a considerable amount is fallow or covered in scrubby bush.
The soil (actually sand) on the flats is poor by New Zealand standards, and is often quite swampy. Thus attempts at farming have not always succeeded, as shown by the abandoned farm buildings below.
Erosion has exposed the heavy mineral sand horizon at the coast. It is the dark grey horizon at the base of the small scarp, adjacent to the pebbly beach.
The Barrytown heavy mineral sands are high grade, averaging around 10% ilmenite, and in many cases much more. This close up is a high grade sample from the horizon shown in the previous image.
While there is gold associated with the heavy mineral sands, there is also potential for a separate, much more interesting, gold occurrence, associated with glacial till on the eastern side of the Barrytown Flats.
The three images below show a gold mining operation recovering gold from glacial till. This profitable operation is not an asset of PAC, but is treating equivalent material to that which also occurs at Barrytown. This type of operation is typified by extremely low capital costs and very low operating costs.
Beautiful country, friendly people, and the government acknowledges the region needs more development. The population of the entire West Coast is around 30,000, equivalent to one seat in the unicameral New Zealand parliament. And yet: it is rich in minerals; coal, gold, mineral sands, tin, tungsten and platinoids.
Finally, a brief comment on New Zealand. New Zealand rates first in the world for protecting investors, and third in the world for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank “Doing Business” report of 2011.