Alba owns a 100% interest in an exclusive exploration licence over the Dolgellau Gold Belt in north Wales, covering a total area of 107 km² and over 300 known gold occurrences. The Project includes the historic Clogau-St David’s gold mine, which produced at least 80,000 ounces of gold, making it the UK’s largest ever gold producer. The mine closed in 1998, when the gold price was only $300 per ounce, compared to its present price close to $2000 per ounce.
The geological setting for the gold at Clogau-St David’s is a combination of intrusive greenstones and shear zones dominated by inter-mixed Clogau shales and quartz veins. Historically, the gold has been found in exceptionally high-grade pockets within these quartz veins, with bonanza grades running from the tens to the hundreds of ounces of gold per tonne.
Alba believes there is excellent potential to find unexploited gold veins and is rolling out the most significant surface and underground exploration and development programme seen at Clogau-St David’s in many decades.
Welsh gold is gold that occurs naturally in two distinct areas of Wales and is highly prized because of its origin, heritage and scarcity. One area it is found in is north Wales, in a band stretching from Barmouth, past Dolgellau and up towards Snowdonia. This area, the Dolgellau Gold Belt, was mined at several mines, the largest of which were the Gwynfynydd Gold Mine and the Clogau Gold Mine.
Welsh gold, and particularly Clogau gold, has historically attracted a significant premium over the normal price of gold, known as the spot price.
Clogau Gold has a unique connection to the British Royal Family, having been used in the wedding bands for Royal weddings stretching back as far as The Queen Mother, then Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1923) but also Queen Elizabeth II (1947), Diana, Princess of Wales (1981), Prince Charles (1981 & 2005), Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (2011) and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (2018).
Clogau Gold has a deep connection and affinity with the Welsh people and is considered a heritage asset for Wales due of its significant contribution over the best part of a century and a half to the country’s society, economy, knowledge and culture.
In 2019, Alba carried out a short surface drilling campaign targeting the Llechfraith mine area, which drilling successfully intersected shear zone-hosted quartz veins, the known geological setting for all historic gold mining at Clogau. Furthermore, it did so up to 25 metres below the lowest known mined areas, thus confirming the continuity of the structure for at least that distance down-dip of the historic mine workings. This was the start of a successful run of drilling programmes undertaken by Alba which have resulted in the identification of two large-scale gold targets.
In 2020, the Company also undertook an extensive underground drilling programme on the Llechfraith level of the mine, the first time to Alba’s knowledge that diamond drilling had ever been carried out underground.
By the completion of the drilling programmes in July 2021, Alba had proven the downward continuation of the Llechfraith payshoot (denoting an area of the lode with possible elevated gold grades) up to ~122 metres below where it was last explored on the No. 4 Level. This target structure, situated within the Lower Llechfraith workings (or Sub-Llechfraith Levels), has remained untouched by historical efforts and to date has only been worked vertically over an estimated 30-50 m. The lode system is also believed to extend to the west, where historical work is minimal. The fact that the lode is unconstrained both vertically and horizontally adds to the resource potential already suggested by geological factors and historical observations.
Lower Llechfraith target structure (red) identified in Alba drilling
Our geological modelling indicates that the total tonnage estimation for the newly identified lode structure is between 24,000 to 27,000 tonnes in the Lower Lode alone.
At the same time, the Company undertook a significant programme of underground bulk sampling, collecting over 36 tonnes of material from several target zones. This material was processed for its gold content and the results from the underground drilling and bulk sampling incorporated into the geological model to refine the gold targets for follow-up drilling and sampling.
From an analysis of its surface drilling campaigns in 2020-21, Alba determined that the priority exploration target within the existing mine complex is that which is situated within the Lower Llechfraith workings (or Sub-Llechfraith Levels) where Alba had proven the downward continuation of the Llechfraith payshoot (denoting an area of the lode with possible elevated gold grades) up to ~122 metres below where it was last explored on the No. 4 Level.
Although gold was not intercepted in the drilling at what could be deemed to be economic grades or quantities, the structural geological information obtained from the drilling indicates that there are reasonable prospects for gold to be found in economically viable quantities and grades below the deepest current level of the Lower Llechfraith workings.
However, these workings, from Level 2 down to Level 4, have been flooded for decades. Dewatering these workings will enable Alba to undertake safety and rehabilitation works within the workings and then explore the workings to assess the potential for gold mineralisation below the existing development.
Clogau underground mine workings, with flooded workings shown in blue
In 2021, Alba submitted an application to NRW for transfer and discharge permits to allow the extraction of water from the flooded workings at the Llechfraith Shaft (within the Lower Llechfraith workings) and its discharge into the Afon Cwm-Lechen. These permits were finally granted in July 2023, and revised permits allowing for higher-rate pumping were granted in Dec 2023.
Alba is now proceeding with mapping and sampling on No.4 Level, followed by bulk sampling of the gold target below No.4 Level, in order to determine the presence of economic gold resources. Should this prove successful, Alba will then seek to sink new development in order to access the payshoot at depth for mining purposes.
Visualisation of where inclined shaft (yellow) may be developed from existing workings on the Llechfraith Level, including how it could link to the existing No.4 Level
Aside from the target structure by Alba in the Lower Llechfraith workings, which is the current focus of the Company’s work underground, the Company has also identified a significant target further to the east, the Main Lode Extension.
The Main Lode is the structure from which most gold has historically been produced at Clogau, at a location almost exclusively to the east of the Ty’n-y-Cornel Adit. The Main Lode splits into three structures: the Jack Williams Lode, the 7-10 Lode, and newly defined New Branch Lode. As these three lodes are in close proximity to one another, they are treated as one combined target area.
Drilling suggests that the 7-10 Lode continues at depth below the Llechfraith Adit level, and likely continues upwards through the overlying >100 m of strata. The Jack Williams and New Branch Lodes have also not been exploited on the Llechfraith Adit level, and so present a ~550 m long zone to the north of the Llechfraith Adit which remains untouched by mining efforts.
North facing cross-section of existing mine development, showing primary lower Llechfraith target (left-hand side, “Llechfraith Payshoot model”) and secondary Main Lode target (middle of image, comprising “JW Lode Model”, “NBL Lode Model” and “7-10 Lode Model”)
Should the sampling of the Jack Williams and New Branch Lodes return positive results, Alba would then seek to undertake bulk sampling programmes to quantify the economic potential of these structures. This would require two phases of new development to access these lodes:
Future development plans for the Main Lode Extension
Within Alba’s existing licence package at Clogau is a historic open waste tip (the “Waste Tip”), which covers ~2,833m² and contains an estimated ~15,000 tonnes of broken rock. Alba believes the Waste tup has the potential to host economic quantities and grades of gold, on the basis that fine gold released by the blasting of ore during past periods of production could easily have fragmented and been dumped on the Waste Tip with waste rock as part of the mining process. This has led to the Company carrying out significant pitting, sampling and processing programmes over the Waste Tip.
From Alba’s exploration work to date, current estimations of the higher-grade portion of the Waste Tip indicate an in-situ tonnage of approximately 11,000 tonnes, of which up to 4,000 tonnes of fine material (<20mm) could be available for processing to extract its gold content.
Exploration and evaluation of the Waste Tip to date has proceeded in two phases. In Phase 1, eight pits were dug at the Waste Pit, with around 15 tonnes of material being extracted per pit.
That material was then passed over a rock screen to screen out the oversize material (≥20mm). The composite samples were then tested at an independent assay laboratory, with the assay results indicating that the fine fraction (<2mm) had the highest grade with averages reaching up to 4.37 g/t.
Phase 2 involved a larger pitting and sampling campaign, focused on a more targeted area within the Waste Tip where, from the results of the previous exercise, higher gold grades were expected to be found. Assays of the average gold content of the fine fraction of material extracted from this exercise averaged up to 2.13 g/t. These results give representative mill head grades of 0.27 to 3.5 g/t (whole-sample average grades).
Alba has estimated that the sub-20mm size fraction constitutes up to 33% of the total mass of the waste tip, which implies that up to 5,000 tonnes could processed for its gold content.
Separately, the Company processed some of the excavated fines through its existing gravity gold plant to extract the gold content. Average centrifuge material grades were 108 g/t prior to tabling, with final average gold concentrate grades (post tabling) averaging 503 g/t, with a high of 1,000 g/t. Average gold concentrate grades of 196 g/t after tabling were also produced from the sluice box material, greatly improving the total recovery of the processing plant.
Following the positive outcome from Alba’s two-phase exploration programme at the Waste Tip, the Company is developing a detailed plan which is expected to lead to the submission of a formal planning application to extract and process gold from the up to 5,000 tonnes or so of fines estimated to be contained within the Waste Tip.