Artisal mining in the Tin-Kerandet
and Tafassasset quartz vein fields
In November 2013, two hours north of Djaba, in the northern Ténéré desert, a group of Tuareg in a Toyota Hilux bogged down their vehicle. Upon freeing the wheels, the passengers noticed that the sand was quite shallow and just covering the bedrock. On top of the latter, there was some gravel, and from this, one of the men picked up a tiny yellowish crumb, immediately recognized as a gold nugget (Source B).
The group stayed at the site and within short time, more gold was found. The men made three round trips, selling their finds in the district capital Agadez, and returning anew to the secret site with tools and supplies. It is said, that the group made a fortune, but after the third trip, word got round in Agadez, and triggered what became the biggest gold rush in the country’s history (Fioriti 2016). Two years after the initial discovery, in mid 2015, some 20,000 artisal miners from around Niger, Chad, Sudan and Nigeria inhabited the western fringes of the inhospitable Djado Plateau, which had become the base of the regional gold mining operations (Fioriti 2016).
The knowledge of potential gold deposits in the Tafassasset, however, is not new. Samples taken by an Algerian mining company in the 1970s and 1980s proved to contain 10 ppm Au in average (Hampel 2001), but industrial mining had been considered unfeasible due to low gold prices and the remoteness of the area. In 1999, Canadian companies Resources Robex Inc. and GeoAfrica Gold Corp. explored the Tafassasset anew (Robex 1999, Mobbs 2000). The probing confirmed the widespread occurrence of massive auriferous quartz veins in the triangle between Adrar Bous, Djado and the Niger-Algerian Border (Hampel 2001). In an exploration proposal for GeoAfrica Gold, dated April 2001, Hampel (2001) came to the conclusion that the Tin-Kerandet main quartz vein field and its southern satellite deposits contained gold in the range from 0.1 g to 200 g per metric ton. At 100 m intervals, grades of 6.6, 40.4, 6.3, 32.8, and 15.8 g/t of gold were recorded along one vein (Robex 1999).
Following these results, the Tafassasset North prospecting license was expanded from 2000 km2 to 100,000 km2 to allow for exploration of adjacent vein fields. An application was submitted to allow for detailed drilling and mapping of key targets within the initial license area (Robex 1999). The plan was to define a required resource of 50,000 ounces that was needed for feasible economic exploitation of the deposit (Robex 1999). However, presumably due to the same reasons as earlier, no operation other than sampling was initiated.