The Couflens Project located in the Pyrenees region of southern France comprises a 42 km2 license area, within which lies the high grade historical Salau tungsten mine.
Court Appeal Against Decision to Cancel the Couflens Exploration License
On 28 June 2019, the Administrative Court of Toulouse ruled to cancel the Couflens exploration license (the “Couflens PER”) that was granted to a French subsidiary of the Company in 2016. The Couflens PER includes the historical Salau tungsten mine. The decision was issued following a Court hearing held earlier in June 2019 and all work on site was required to stop immediately. The court case was lodged by a group of opposition parties against the French State (specifically the Ministry of Economy and Finance which is responsible for the mining sector). As the legal challenge was against the French State, the Company was an interested party and was not directly involved in the proceedings although it did provide supporting arguments for the French State in the defence of the case.
The Company and the French State lodged coordinated appeals in the Bordeaux Court of Appeals in late August 2019 against the decision of the Toulouse Administrative Court to cancel the Couflens PER.
The French State and the Company are contesting the decision of the Toulouse Administrative Court on the grounds that Variscan Mines SAS had sufficient financial capacity at the time of the granting of the PER Couflens. The appeal includes a request for a Stay of Execution which, if successful, would allow the Company to continue work on the PER Couflens during the appeal process. The Company will update the market on material developments during the appeal.
The Company was working towards the reactivation of the historical Salau tungsten mine. The existence of remaining resources had been proven and initial discoveries of promising mineralised zones elsewhere had been made, as stated in Fonteilles et al., 1989.
In addition to tungsten, significant gold values were recorded in the high-grade Veronique zone at the base of the Salau mine, which is largely untapped and is open at depth.
The database from previous operations is extensive and comprises a combination of high quality geological and drilling data, as well as underground mining and processing data, covering all exploration and production during the mine’s 15 years in operation.
* BRGM: French geological survey
Prior to the cancellation of the Couflens PER the Company completed the following:
- Identified numerous gold and tungsten targets from extensive in-mine mapping undertaken as part of health and safety risk assessments at the historical Salau mine. The new targets included extensive zones with strong gold potential related to breccias cemented by massive sulphides, with thicknesses up to 5 metres
- Installed in-mine ventilation infrastructure, repaired mine supports, secured working areas for exploration and installed communication and emergency facilities
- Completed all in-mine health and safety risk assessment programs, with final results pending
- A Cooperation Agreement in relation to the Couflens Project was approved by a unanimous vote at the General Assembly of the Community of Communes Couserans Pyrenees
- Announced previously unavailable reports on gold assay results from 1986 from historical channel sampling and drilling inside the Salau mine including:
- up to 1.9m @ 16 g/t gold from channel sampling programs; and
- 8.5m @ 3.4 g/t gold, including 1.9m @ 8.4 g/t gold, from diamond drilling results within the mine area
- Commenced with geophysical programs to assist with the definition of exploration targets and to improve the Company’s understanding of regional geological structures