Interview with Tobias Posel, Managing Director, GeoQuest Sarl on the trends regarding the Copperbelt’s exploration industry

Tobias Posel, Managing Director, GeoQuest Sarl

Tobias Posel, Managing Director, GeoQuest Sarl

Could we begin with a brief overview of the company’s main milestones in the DRC and Zambia?

GeoQuest was founded in Zambia in 2000 and expanded in the DRC in 2005. In Zambia, our office works primarily in mineral exploration services, GIS, environmental services and general logistics while the DRC office focuses primarily on mineral exploration and logistics. That means that if we do get enquiries about GIS or environmental services in the DRC we can refer them to our Head Office in Lusaka or call in an expert from there. In the DRC, GeoQuest worked with virtually all mining companies including Tiger Resources Limited, Glencore Xstrata, Anvil Mining, Vale S.A., Anglo American plc and Chemaf Sarl building a reputation in many technical tasks such as geochemical sampling, which is the very basic sample taking and processing, analyzing by means of the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technique, plus managing and supervising large scale resource drilling programs for all kinds of companies.

Have you seen a decrease in exploration activities lately and what, in your view, remains the geological potential in the Copperbelt?

Due to the drop in the world market price for commodities and the decisions of majors to cut down on exploration activities and spending the DRC has witnessed a decrease in the level of exploration activities lately. However, the Copperbelt remains one of the richest geological regions for base metals in the world with world-class deposits, such as Tenke Fungurume, that have a proven mine life of over one hundred years. The Copperbelt is also more than just copper and cobalt – uranium, gold, silver, lead, zinc and platinum are also there and diamonds of course, outside of the Copperbelt but still within Katanga. The potential is immense and this is drawing more investors to the region and while some prefer Zambia because of the ease of doing business others come to the DRC because of the richness of some of the deposits.

How much of the territory in the region has been explored and what are some of the techniques that GeoQuest relies on when it comes to exploration activities?

Approximately 50% of the territory in the Copperbelt has been well explored and is known to technical people.  The rest has just been scratched at the surface. GeoQuest relies on a mix of historically proven techniques, such as sample collecting and sample preparation by drying and sieving and new techniques such as the XRF, which is a handheld apparatus to test a suite of approximately 35 elements that can be done in the field. For drilling, there are now advanced drilling methods, which can drill through overburden like sand, quite easily and historical drilling methods like Aircore, RAB, RC and Diamond Core that are still in wide use. Within geophysics, there are new interesting, remote methods, which are controlled by satellite, plane or helicopter but do need some ground support. There are also ground surveying methods, based on induced current into the ground and a reception device that records the reflected signal and newer methods still, which are going deep, reaching 1000 meters and beyond and this is very good for identifying the chargeable ore without drilling a hole. In a nuthshell, GeoQuest relies on a mix of historical methods and new advanced methods, to save on money and bring the project forward to the best result possible.

What is your assessment of the permitting process for mineral prospecting in the DRC?

The permitting process is managed by CAMI, or Cadastre Miniere, which is a subsidiary of the Mining Ministry.  The Cadastre Miniere has a progressive database that was set up and financed by the World Bank back in 2001 and 2002.  There is a webpage where people can find some general information and it is relatively accurate. However, since 2012, CAMI is only processing license conversions and renewal of exploration permits and in some instances also licenses that expired and need to be renewed. New applications have been suspended meaning that investors coming to the country cannot currently be granted a new permitting license. The permitting process needs to be urgently re-opened and the so called ZRG, zones the recherché geologique freed up for new applications as this situation is currently going to the disadvantage of mining companies looking to apply for new ground and add to value to it.

What are your predictions for the exploration industry in Katanga in 2015 and are there any other countries in Central or Western Africa that you are looking to expand into?

For 2015 we expect an increase in exploration activities in the region. Some companies will continue to expand and grow, others will not commit much into exploration and others still will try and do as much as they can in-house.  GeoQuest is hoping to win a tender for iron ore exploration with an Australian junior in Gabon and we are also looking at Congo Brazzaville with interest where there are attractive projects for iron ore, gold and other commodities that are taking shape and are currently under evaluation.

Do you have a final message for our international readership?

New investors in the mining sector coming to Katanga should not hesitate to contact us, GeoQuest is here to assist. We have the experience and the know-how to assist new comers, set up new companies, run their administration and logistics and ultimately their technical programs. Everybody is welcome to approach GeoQuest for any assistance on their first steps in the region.