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13/9/2017 — Conference Special
AusIMM2017: Otago gold forum a showcase for conference
By Simon Hartley

One of the biggest hits of this year’s annual mining conference was the inaugural Otago Gold Explorers Forum, involving a tour and a one-day forum showcasing the region’s potential for further exploration.

The forum is likely to feature next year, with the conference expected to be held in the upper North Island. It could potentially take in the epithermal gold regions, around the Coromandel or Thames.

The preconference event was co-arranged by Dean Fergusson, conference convener of the New Zealand branch of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy conference in Christchurch, plus Dale Sims of the institute in Melbourne and Rob Smillie from GNS Science.

Many of the conference’s 220 delegates this year attended, with 50 on the field trip and almost that number at the forum, the latter hosted in Christchurch by the University of Canterbury. This was a precursor to conference sessions.

The first day saw attendees touring Otago, visiting sites such as Gabriel’s Gully and St Bathans then onto OceanaGold Corporation’s Macraes site in East Otago.

Fergusson said the “germ of the idea’’ had grown from an Otago field trip held when the conference was hosted in Dunedin last year.

”We (Sims and Smillie) thought about it again and decided a forum would be well allied and complimentary to this year’s conference,’’ he said.

The aim was to provide an opportunity to review exploration and mining data, challenges faced in exploration, scrutinising new ideas from both the industry and research geologists, focussing on Otago.

On day two in Christchurch, the attendees included students through to geoscientists, mineral researchers, plus permitting agency New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals and staff from both GNS Science and OceanaGold.

Fergusson not only wanted to discuss the present understanding of gold mineralisation around Otago, but keep the discussion open on any of the remaining “unknowns’’ within the knowledge base.

“The area still has plenty of potential and is still prospective. Ideally we want to promote another phase of exploration in that region, see if Macraes number two can’t be found,’’ Fergusson said.

The Christchurch forum included an Otago overview, advances in the mine scale of the Hyde-Macraes mineralisation area, case studies of exploration techniques, plus the opportunities and challenges in future work.

Because of the forum’s popularity and its ability to similarly target any region where the annual conference may be held in the future, Fergusson believed it was easily transferable

“We’ve had some really good feedback, so we’re looking forward to another forum, in a new area,’’ he said.

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The Otago Gold Forum at the University of Christchurch on Sunday.