Mining tycoon Lukas Lundin, chairman of the Lundin Group, spoke with The Northern Miner at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention in March about his early successes in Argentina and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), before touching upon his latest adventure in Ecuador.
Starting with the Bajo de la Alumbrera project in Catamarca, Argentina, Lundin says in 1990 he began investigating the classic copper-gold porphyry deposit, but was unfamiliar with porphyries at the time. “I was a bit naive. I didn’t know what a porphyry system was in the nineties. I thought it was a heap-leach gold project.
“It probably helped not to know too much, because if you knew too much, you’d probably think it was too far in the interior or too long to go to the coast … the majors thought it was too complicated.” Despite these challenges, Alumbrera has become one of the world’s top-10 copper producers. It has churned out an average 150,000 tonnes copper and 498,000 oz. gold a year since production started in 1998. (Alumbrera is nearing the end of its 20-year mine life in 2018.)
Recalling the history of the project, Lundin notes that a professor at the Tucuman National University discovered the prospect in 1936. By 1958, the Tucuman University had formed YMAD — an exploration and development partnership with the province of Catamarca and the federal government. This happened after president Juan Peron, who wanted to nationalize resources, was ousted in 1955.
In the 1970s, John Guilbert, a geology professor from the University of Arizona, became interested in the porphyry copper potential at Alumbrera. From 1975 to 1982, Guilbert, as part of a United Nations Development program, oversaw YMAD’s exploration at Alumbrera. Guilbert led the efforts because he noticed the system “stuck out at surface,” Lundin says.
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