There was special significance attached to the presentation of the prestigious Craig Oliver Award to Botswana-focused MOD Resources at the RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle in February.

The annual accolade, presented to the ASX-listed resources sector small-to-mid cap company voted to be the best all-round performer over the previous 12 months, is huge recognition of overall achievement in mining and resources.

The award is named in honour of former Western Areas Chief Financial Officer and Sundance Resources board member Craig Oliver, one of six Sundance board members who tragically died in a plane crash in Congo in 2010, aged just 46.

When MOD Resources Managing Director Julian Hanna accepted the Craig Oliver Award, he did so in recognition of outstanding performance, but also in memory of a friend and former colleague.

Mr Hanna and Mr Oliver had worked closely together at Western Areas – Mr Hanna as Co-Founder and Managing Director – and it was he who broke the tragic news to Western Areas stakeholders in a release some nine years ago.

Onstage he spoke of being moved by the award. In speaking to National Mining Chronicle he said Mr Oliver’s legacy was reflected in what it stood for.

“It meant a lot to me actually,” he said.

“Craig was a very energetic guy and a driving force in Western Areas. He was a wonderful, outgoing, enthusiastic and dynamic colleague and friend and a very interesting character in the mining industry.”

Mr Oliver’s core values are remembered through the award and embodied in the performance of its recipients. Mr Hanna said this made the award a huge honour for MOD.

“It’s not just about exploration or development,” he said. “It’s about innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and community approach. It’s meant to represent a company that’s achieved all-round success in the past 12 months.

“MOD was surprised but also very honoured to win the award.”

Mr Hanna may have been surprised by the recognition, but there’s little denying the performance of MOD in the development of its flagship Botswana assets on the Kalahari copper belt in southern Africa.

At time of writing, MOD was in the process of completing a feasibility study on the 60 million tonne T3 project, working towards an open pit copper mine with an expanded process plant throughput of some three million tonnes per annum to likely be exported via Walvis Bay in neighbouring Namibia.

A prefeasibility study on T3 determined the project would be financially robust at a 2.5-million-tonne-per-annum base case scenario, with pre-tax net cash flow of $697 million.

It’s quite the performance to date from a project only identified in March 2016, and one which MOD hopes is a forecast of things to come from what is an underexplored region in a stable jurisdiction with a government looking to diversify its economic inputs.

“We control about two-thirds of the Botswana part of the Kalahari copper belt,” Mr Hanna said.

“We’ve had a lot of success finding copper occurrences outside of T3 and we’re using the very best technology to find copper. There’s no outcrop and effectively no prior drilling in the region we’re focused on at the moment.

“We are very fortunate that our mine sequence has a conductive marker unit at the top, and we’re able to map that using airborne electromagnetics down to about 500m depth below surface.

“That’s been very effective and we’ve been able to de ne quite a large number of domal features which we believe are structural features where the mine sequence comes very close to surface.

“We’ve had a lot of success drilling these occurrences, with visible copper in almost every drill hole, and our team will follow these up this year.”

MOD is Mr Hanna’s first foray into Africa, and the all-round commitment to the jurisdiction is evident through the company’s overall approach.

Based in the town of Ghanzi within the district of the same name, MOD recently imported a fire engine to be stationed in the capital for the mutual bene t of nearby farms and the mining project. The region is prone to grass fires.

Meanwhile, the company’s Africa-based subsidiary, Tshukudu Metals Botswana, aims to train local workers with the expertise of Australian talent.

“All of our day-to-day activities are run by Botswana people and we’re using some very experienced Australian professionals there in a consulting role, just providing exploration and development expertise and to pass their experience to the local workforce,” Mr Hanna said.

“That’s working really well – the relationships are very good in the community in which we operate.

“We’re looking to bring the best we can into the country and disseminate that knowledge into Botswana.”

Asked if there were parallels between Western Areas, which he ran for 12 years from a start-up to significant producer, and MOD, Mr Hanna said he was confident of replicating success.

“I’ve been a geologist for more than 40 years and Western Areas was a highlight,” he said.

“Western Areas was lucky with its timing in that it was founded in the early 2000s and two years later prices took o  on the back of the China boom.

“Western Areas had two wonderful assets which were developed into underground mines and are still in production now in Western Australia – both very high- grade nickel projects.

“We were very fortunate on our timing there, and I see a potential repeat of that at MOD. I’m convinced copper will be the next metal to run – there are very few projects coming on stream and some of those are very low grade and energy intensive.

“We’re looking toward a mid-grade, one per cent copper open pit, but potentially underground deposits in the two per cent grade. This is all well above average global grades.

“The scale of what we’re doing now in terms of area is far bigger than anything else I’ve ever been involved in.”

Image: Julian Hanna.