Rio Tinto has released data on 42 drill holes at its Winu copper-gold project in the Yeneena Basin of the Paterson Province, Western Australia.
“Significant intercepts” for the drill holes include 14 diamond drill holes and 28 reverse circulation drill holes that have recently been completed on the site.
The company has reported that results continue to indicate relatively wide intersections of vein style copper mineralisation associated with gold and silver beneath relatively shallow cover.
The mineralisation remains open at depth and to the east, north, and south, with a currently defined strike length of approximately 2.1 kilometres.
Its drill hole intercepts include 155.1 metres at 0.41 per cent copper, 0.38 grams of gold per tonne and 2.39 grams of silver per tonne.
Drilling is ongoing at the site with eight diamond rigs and three reverse circulation rigs drilling at Winu with Rio Tinto reporting that further result will be released in the first quarter of 2020.
The company’s reverse circulation drilling will primarily focus on defining the extent and tenor of the supergene zone and diamond drilling will continue to test the extends of the deposit.
Rio Tinto is also continuing to conduct cultural heritage surveys through strong engagement with Traditional Owners.
Preliminary technical studies have commenced on the project including environmental baseline studies, geotechnical and metallurgical test work.
Construction of a gravel airstrip is near completion and additionally, Rio Tinto is conducting exploration within the broader Paterson Province on its wholly owned licences and joint venture licences during 2019.
While the company has reported that results are encouraging, the exploration project is still at an early stage and drilling to date doesn’t allow sufficient understanding of the mineralised body to assess the potential size or quality of the mineralisation.
Rio Tinto’s Winu update comes as the company reported a bumper first half of 2019, benefiting off a surging iron ore price which has offset disruptions at some of its operations.
The company reported free cash flow of $US3.9 billion ($5.7 billion), representing a 35 per cent increase on the first half of 2018, leading to a record dividend return to shareholders.
This equated to a $US3.5 billion shareholder return, including an interim dividend of $US2.5 billion and a special dividend of $US1 billion.
Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said the strong financial performance was driven by the company’s Pilbara operations being underpinned by strong iron ore prices.
“Our world-class portfolio and strong balance sheet serve us well in all market conditions,” he said.
“This, together with our disciplined capital allocation, underpins our ability to continue to invest in our business and deliver superior returns to shareholders in the short, medium and long term. Our delivery is in evidence today, with our record interim returns of $US3.5 billion.”
The positive results come despite significant disruptions caused by Cyclone Veronica and a fire at Cape Lambert A port in the first quarter.
“We are taking actions to protect the Pilbara Blend and optimise performance across our iron ore system, following the operational challenges which emerged in the first half,” Jacques said.
Rio Tinto’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) totalled $US10.3 billion representing an EBITDA margin of 47 per cent, again driven by the company’s Pilbara operations which had a 72 per cent EBITDA margin.