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A Search for Gold in Indonesian New Guinea

M R Thirnbeck 1

ABSTRACT

The Indonesian province of Papua is a remote jungle-clad region covering the western half of the mountainous island of New Guinea. Despite being relatively under-explored to this day,Papua is home to the greatest mineral success story of the 20 th century. The Grasberg/Ertsberg minerals district atop the central dividing range contains the world’s largest reserve of both copper and gold (Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, 2002).

With large mines at Ok Tedi,Porgera and Lihir,and many well-delineated resources such as Frieda River,Wafi and Hidden Valley, neighbouring Papua New Guinea,the eastern half of New Guinea has enjoyed sustained exploration campaigns for gold and copper since the mid 1960s. The combined Grasberg and PNG exploration successes can be measured in terms of ounces of gold produced over the last decade versus available landmass,confirming the island of New Guinea and surrounding islands as a world-class destination for gold explorers.

Yet despite this obvious regional prospectivity and the profitability of the Grasberg operation,a sustained exploration effort in the Papua province in Indonesia has not been achieved. Periodic political constraints,poor infrastructure,high costs,operational challenges,social and environmental concerns and lack of immediate exploration success often impact exploration investment decisions. Accordingly a lesser number of mineral occurrences have been documented in Papua compared to those seen along tectonic strike in geologically similar Papua New Guinea.

In seeking to remedy this geological disparity,Mutiara Resources Corporation in 1994 embarked on acquiring large tracts of mostly unexplored areas in Papua province to the north of the central range. A total of 19 blocks consisting of 12 projects were acquired,covering an area of 82 736 square kilometres. Joint Ventures were formed over 11 projects and generally exploration activities were funded by the major partner. Between 1994 and 1998 more than $US 15 million were spent conducting regional reconnaissance exploration primarily for gold and copper over most of these areas.

Exploration involved maintaining numerous base-camps to aid helicopter-supported regional stream sampling of approximately 6500 sites. Interpretation of Landsat imagery assisted in constructing regional geological maps and identified areas warranting closer inspection. Airborne magnetic surveys,totalling more than 85 000 line km,were flown over selected areas totalling 41 400 square km or 50 per cent of the combined project area.

Fallout from the Busang fraud of 1997,coupled with economic and political turmoil that beset Indonesia shortly thereafter,curtailed grass-roots exploration activities throughout much of Indonesia. Increasing land-holding costs and drastically reduced exploration budgets led to selected project terminations,major relinquishments and the withdrawal of all original Joint Venture partners by 1999.

Many gold stream anomalies generated during the 1994 - 1998 period were never investigated. Hard-rock gold occurrences discovered at Kwatisore,Wasewa,Supiori,Kuiri,Biber and Waena were all relinquished prior to complete evaluation. Only the 108 600 hectare Idenburg project,less than 1.5 per cent of the original area,has been retained into late 2004. Exploration at Idenburg has identified lode type gold mineralisation of mesothermal origin.

This paper presents an exploration case history,describing the exploration work undertaken,and the principal findings of this decade-long campaign.

INTRODUCTION

The island of New Guinea beckons exploration and discovery. At hotels and airport lounges throughout the Indonesian province of

  • 1. MAusIMM,President Director,PT Iriana Mining Services,Gedung Graha Simatupang,Tower I,Block D,8th Floor,Jl TB Simatupang Kav 38, Jakarta 12540, Indonesia. E-mail: thirnbeck@cbn.net.id

Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) you often bump into geologists, botanists,zoologists or anthropologists willing to talk about their experiences in this frontier land. However for the first time since exposure of the Busang fraud in 1997 we are starting to see increasing numbers of geologists sniffing around in Papua – always a reliable indicator that any exploration upswing has teeth. Like many high-cost frontier areas,Papua province only sees upsurges in mineral exploration activity during the peak of any exploration investment cycle.

Neighbouring Papua New Guinea has enjoyed more consistent exploration efforts since the mid 1960s,partly fueled by regular exploration and mine development successes. Sustained geological investigations culminated in major copper and/or gold mine developments at Bougainville,Porgera,Ok Tedi,Lihir and Misima along with the delineation of significant deposits at Frieda River, Wafi and Hidden Valley.

Exploration successes on the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea have been more sporadic but nevertheless momentous. PT Freeport Indonesia commenced production of copper and gold at Ertsberg in 1972,some 36 years after the mountain of ore was first described by Dutch explorers. A few nickel laterite deposits were also delineated around Jayapura and on Gag and Waigeo islands in the early 1970s. But there was little else to talk about until Freeport’s 1988 discovery of the world-class Grasberg porphyry (Potter,1996) just 3 km northwest of the Ertsberg mine. The development of the Grasberg mine coincided with the evolution of the Indonesian Contract of Work tenure system and over two decades of relative political and fiscal stability under President Soeharto. The impressive ability to ramp copper and gold production at Grasberg ensured that by the mid 1990s all major global gold and copper miners had raised their in-house knowledge of the Papua province and its mineral investment opportunities. A notable success story from the Grasberg-triggered 1990s exploration upsurge in Papua was the discovery and delineation of the more than ten million ounce Wabu Ridge gold deposit by PT Freeport Indonesia (O’Connor et al, 1999).

In the early 1990s Mutiara Resources Corporation (MRC) was engaged in the timber industry with logging concessions inland from the Papua north coast feeding a plywood factory on Biak Island. A chance meeting in a Nabire hotel between a timber tycoon and a freelance geologist quickly converted opportunity into reality as MRC embarked on a wave of mineral project area applications throughout Indonesia,with a primary focus in Papua province.

By 1996 MRC had assembled project areas covering more than 80 000 square kilometres within northern Papua and had facilitated the entry of major mining companies into the Indonesian mining sector via Joint Venture agreements. MRC took its Papuan mining project interests to the Canadian market and in late 1996 listed on the Toronto and Vancouver Stock Exchanges as Iriana Resources Corporation (IRC). Exposure of the Busang scam in early 1997 badly affected the venture and the ensuing inability to raise finance for an Indonesian gold play listed on Canadian exchanges ensured only limited piecemeal exploration was possible in the following years until IRC suspended trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange in April 2002. The remaining projects were re-organised back into an MRC affiliate in lieu of the MRC-provided shareholder loan that sustained IRC from early 1999.

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REGIONAL GEOLOGY

The island of New Guinea is the product of interaction between the northward moving Australian continental plate and oceanic plates related to the general southwest drift of the Pacific Plate (Figure 1). Understanding of the evolution of Australia’s northern and eastern margin has been hampered by incomplete regional mapping in north central New Guinea,however new isotopic and age data support evidence for an Early to Late Triassic volcanic arc in northern New Guinea (Crowhurst et al, 2004). Generally,rocks with oceanic affinities predominate in the north of the island and incorporate more Australian continental material southwards towards the Central Range. Dow

et al (1988) describe rock types of the Pacific Plate category to include upfaulted mantle material of presumed Mesozoic age, Jurassic oceanic crust and Palaeogene island arc volcanics and subordinate oceanic crust. These Pacific Plate rocks north of the Central Range are mostly covered by an uplifted and folded, mid-Tertiary to Quaternary flysch sequence. All of MRC’s projects were north of the Central dividing mountain range which spines Papua.

THE PROJECTS

The project area blocks (Table 1) are shown in Figure 2 and are described generally from west to east.

M R THIRNBECK REGIONAL GEOLOGY The island of New Guinea is the product of interaction between

FIG 1 - Structural elements of Papua province, Indonesia.

TABLE 1

Project details and JV partners.

Project

Area (km 2 )

COW company name

Major partner

Status

Ransiki

9550

PT Barrick Mutiara Ransiki

Barrick Gold (1996 - 1997)

COW terminated in 1997

Kwatisore

3254

COW not formed

Aurora Gold (1994 - 1996), IRC (1996 - 1997)

COW application returned in 1997

Supiori

 

563

COW not formed

IRC (1998 - 2000)

COW application returned in 2000

Waropen

10

003

COW not formed

Barrick Gold (1995 - 1997)

COW application returned in 1997

Zeiwa

 

418

COW not formed

Barrick Gold (1996 - 1997), IRC (1997 - 1999)

COW application returned in 1999

Iriana

16

109

PT Iriana Mutiara Mining

Battle Mountain (1994 - 1999), IRC (1999 - 2002)

Applied for termination in 2004

Van Daalen

5177

PT Iriana Mutiara Van Daalen

Barrick Gold (1995 - 1997), IRC (1997 - 1999)

COW terminated in 1999

Van Daalen North

 

302

COW not formed

Barrick Gold (1996 - 1997), IRC (1997 - 1999)

COW application returned in 1999

Mamberamo

8434

COW not formed

Battle Mountain (1995 - 1997)

COW application returned in 1997

Sentani

 

146

PT Iriana Sentani

Western Mining Corp (1995 - 1997), IRC (1997 - 2002)

COW terminated in 2003

Senggeh

  • 14 330

PT Iriana Senggeh

Morrison Knudsen (1994 - 1995) Cyprus Amax (1995 - 1998), IRC (1998 - 2002)

COW terminated in 2003

Idenburg

  • 14 450

PT Iriana Mutiara Idenburg

Barrick Gold (1994 - 1997), IRC (1997 - 2002)

Year II of Exploration Period

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A SEARCH FOR GOLD IN INDONESIAN NEW GUINEA F IG 2 - Location of MRC/IRC project

FIG 2 - Location of MRC/IRC project areas in Papua province, Indonesia.

RANSIKI PROJECT

The Ransiki project covered 955 000 hectares of the coastal strip along the western shores of Cendrawasih Bay,and evolved into a sixth generation contract of work signed on 28 April 1997 by PT Barrick Mutiara Ransiki. Barrick Gold Corporation held an 85 per cent interest in the project and under the terms of the JV funded and conducted all exploration. Barrick withdrew from the Ransiki JV in 1997 and the project was terminated shortly thereafter.

Photogeological interpretation from Landsat imagery assisted in identifying four lithotectonic domains based on regional differences in structural style and litho-unit content,from north to south,the Arfak,Kemum and Birds Neck Domains and the Lengguru Fold Belt (Barrick Mutiara Ransiki,1997). The Arfak Domain is dominated by island arc volcanics at the southern margin of the Pacific Plate and is separated from the Kemum domain by the Ransiki Fault System. The Kemum Domain is an elevated block of metamorphic basement of the northern margin of the Australian Plate. The Birds Neck Domain and Lengguru Fold Belt are folded and thrusted Mesozoic and Tertiary cover sequences of the Australian Plate and are differentiated from each other on the basis of structural style. This region represents a product of escape tectonics resulting from the collision between the Australian plate and the remnants of volcanic belts carried by the Pacific plate (Pubellier and Ego, 2002).

Exploration completed by the JV consisted of a single program of boat and vehicle supported drainage sampling from 84 sites and reconnaissance geological mapping. At each drainage sample site -40# BLEG,-60# stream sediment and panned concentrate samples were collected. Stream sediment samples were assayed for gold,silver,arsenic,copper,lead,zinc, molybdenum,bismuth,antimony,mercury,nickel,cobalt and chromium. Sampling was concentrated along the Ransiki and Seiy rivers and along all rivers draining into Cendrawasih Bay.

Twelve stream sediment samples and five BLEG samples returned slightly gold anomalous results. No panned concentrates and none of the rock samples gave anomalous (>0.1 ppm Au) gold assays. No further follow-up investigations were undertaken before the project termination in 1997 due to lack of immediate exploration success,coupled with the inability to attract a new investor after the withdrawal of Barrick Gold from the JV.

Boulders containing alunite were recorded in a creek with anomalous copper (124 ppm) and gold (0.18 ppm) stream sediment geochemistry draining volcanic rocks of the Arfak Domain. The reported occurrence of alunite-bearing tuffaceous floats at 134°12.47’E and 1°23.91’S have yet to be investigated.

KWATISORE PROJECT

The Kwatisore project evolved into a sixth generation COW application covering approximately 325 400 hectares on the southwestern shore of Cendrawasih Bay,centred 80 km west of Nabire. A northwest trending package of Palaeozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary,volcanic and metamorphic rocks cover most of the project area and are thrust southwesterly upon Tertiary rocks of the Lengguru Fold Belt (Robinson et al,1990) exposed along the southwestern project boundary. A large pluton of the Triassic Kwatisore Granite occurs in the southeastern part of the project area. Structure is dominated by the Wandamen fault zone,which trends north-northwest through the centre of the block.

MRC first scouted the area in 1992 (Keleher,1993a) and discovered gold mineralisation in narrow quartz sulfide veins exposed in a road cut at 134°51.8’E and 3°21.34’S along the main logging access road into the area. A two-metre horizontal channel rock chip assayed 4.83 g/t Au,41 g/t Ag and 0.16 per cent Pb. A nearby interval returned eight metres at 2.40 g/t Au,46 g/t Ag and 0.52 per cent Pb. The veins were steeply dipping,mostly less than 50 cm thick and hosted in graphitic phyllites near the western contact of the Kwatisore Granite.

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A JV was formed with Aurora Gold Ltd who sole funded and conducted reconnaissance investigations in late 1995 as part of conditions to earn 85 per cent of the proposed project company to be formed upon signing the COW. Exploration was helicopter supported and involved collection of 213 BLEG,204 stream sediments and 98 rock chip samples. The BLEG samples were analysed for gold,silver and copper. Stream sediment samples were analysed for gold,silver,arsenic,antimony,mercury, copper, lead, zinc, bismuth, molybdenum, barium and tungsten.

No anomalous results of significance were encountered during the initial reconnaissance phase and Aurora withdrew from the project in 1996. MRC’s publicly listed vehicle IRC elected not to proceed with forming a COW project and returned the application area back to the Government in late 1997.

SUPIORI PROJECT

The Supiori project was an application for an eighth generation COW covering 56 320 hectares over Supiori Island to the west of Biak. IRC applied for the project area after inspecting an alluvial gold rush that sprung up in late 1998. Hundreds of artisanal gold miners swamped a number of southerly draining creeks to the west of Korido where basement volcanic and metamorphic rocks were first recorded by Visser and Hermes (1962). Most activity was centred near Maradori village where gold nuggets up to two centimetres were frequently being won.

Pieters et al (1979) recommended follow-up investigations of copper mineralisation seen in metamorphic rocks on the southwest coast of Supiori island,where a rock chip with streaky pyrite and pyritic quartz bands with specks of bornite assayed 0.87 per cent copper.

IRC collected 37 stream samples and 21 rock chips during field visits from 1998 to 2000. There were no anomalous results in the northern half of the island. A regional gold-copper anomaly draining metamorphic rocks was located immediately northwest of Korido in the area where the alluvial gold rush occurred in 1998 - 1999. Best -150# stream sediment results were 3.12 ppm Au and 159 ppm Cu in the 10 × 5 km anomaly, centred on 140°30’E and 1°30’S. Gold was pannable in many creeks in the metamorphic terrain with a highest panned concentrate result of 235 ppm Au. Volcanic massive sulfide style mineralisation hosted in sheared spilite was sampled in creeks near Maradori with the three rock chips collected returning values of 1.05 g/t Au and 1.88 per cent Cu; 0.59 g/t Au and 2.35 per cent Cu and 2.21 g/t Au and 0.54 per cent Cu. An intensely altered spilite with native copper in fractures assayed 27.2 g/t Au and 954 ppm Cu. Altered dacite float were seen in creeks in the southeast of Supiori island.

Despite this encouraging regional anomaly near Korido,IRC elected not to proceed into full COW status and returned the area back to the Government in late 2000. A large protected reserve park in the central part of Supiori Island influenced the decision not to proceed with further investigations.

WAROPEN AND ZEIWA PROJECTS

A JV was formed between an MRC affiliate (PT Mutiara Iriana Utama) and Barrick Gold Corporation with the latter sole funding all expenditures through commencement of commercial production for an 85 per cent shareholding in the future COW company. MRC first scouted the Wapoga River basin in 1993 (Keleher,1993b). Reconnaissance exploration was undertaken by PT Mutiara Iriana Utama in late 1995,over two blocks covering 1 000 300 hectares on the southeastern shore of Cendrawasih Bay,along the Wapoga coastline east of Nabire. Exploration in this initial phase collected BLEG,-60# stream sediment and panned concentrates from 94 sites. Best geology was seen in Paleogene volcanic rocks in the southeast of the project area within the headwaters of the Katehawa River. Gold was panned in almost all creeks in the headwaters of the Katehawa river

where mineralised and altered volcanic float were noted, including a quartz vein float rock chip assaying 7.5 g/t Au.

The project evolved into two seventh generation COW applications; the Waropen project covering 403 560 hectares in three blocks and the Zeiwa project of one block covering 41 780 hectares. The Zeiwa project area was adjacent to the southern boundary of the Waropen project area and covered parts of the Katehawa River headwaters.

Exploration completed by the JV included production of a 1:250 000 lithostructural summary map interpreted mainly from Landsat TM imagery. Five litho-tectonic domains were interpreted for this western part of the North Coast Basin of Papua; Neogene marine clastic sediments of the Wapoga Domain,the Waropen Fault System,the Chaotic Rock Domain, clastic-dominated assemblages of the Rouffaer Mountain Domain and the Paleogene Volcanic Arc (Barrick Indonesia (F) Ltd and Multi Gemilang Abadi,PT,1997). The main structural feature is the major E-W oriented Rombak Fault Zone which defines the boundary between the Rouffaer Mountain and Chaotic Rock/Waropen Fault System Domain.

Helicopter-supported drainage sampling was undertaken in the two COW application areas in early 1997. BLEG,-60# stream sediment and panned concentrate samples were collected from 292 sites covering most of the southern two Waropen blocks and the Zeiwa block. BLEG samples were analysed for Au,Ag and Cu,whilst stream sediment samples were assayed for Au,Ag, Cu, Pb, Zn, Mo, Bi and As.

More than a dozen multi-element stream geochemical anomalies,scattered throughout the northern clastic-dominated assemblages were attributed to interbedded conglomerate sources with notable ultramafic detritus.

Within the Zeiwa COW application block,weak porphyry copper mineralisation was identified at the Wasewa prospect in the headwaters of the Katehawa River where potassic altered diorite porphyries intrude strongly hornfelsed sediments. Copper mineralisation occurs as veining in overprinting zones of phyllic alteration within the diorite porphyries. The prospect area, covering approximately 10 km 2 is defined by five adjacent creeks displaying anomalous drainage geochemistry,centred on 136°32.8’E and 2°59.8’S. Values up to 340 ppm Cu,21 ppm Mo and 0.21 ppm Au were returned from stream sediment sampling. The maximum BLEG gold value was 145 ppb Au. Gold was panned in four of the five creeks.

Field observations indicated the mineralisation vectoring stronger to the south into a COW block held by PT Irja Eastern Minerals Corporation,a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold. Within this block,surface sampling of a 200 m by 500 m mineralised intrusive at Katehawa East associated with a magnetic high returned anomalous values ranging between 1.0 - 4.5 per cent Cu and 0.75 - 4.0 g/t Au (Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold,1997). Porphyry style mineralisation was also reported in the Haiura area,some 35 km southwest of Wasewa, where grades from surface samples range between 1.0 - 1.25 per cent Cu and 0.75 - 2.5 g/t Au and a 1997 drill intersection at Haiura returned 228 m @ 2.08 g/t Au.

Barrick withdrew from the JV in 1997 and the Waropen COW application was terminated shortly thereafter. IRC continued to hold the Zeiwa COW application block,however the inability to attract new investors at the time led to the eventual termination of the Zeiwa project in 1999.

IRIANA PROJECT

The Iriana project comprised 1 610 890 hectares divided into four blocks covering large tracts of north central Papua,evolving into a sixth generation COW signed on 28 April 1997 by PT Iriana Mutiara Mining. Exploration commenced in August 1994 with Battle Mountain Gold holding an 80 per cent shareholding in PT Iriana Mutiara Mining by sole funding all expenditures through completion of a bankable feasibility study.

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Blocks 1 and 2 covered rocks of Pacific Plate geology. Block 1 (Cendrawana) was centred over the Gauttier Range,which owed its high relief to a WNW-trending,thrust-faulted block of Tertiary, island arc volcanics and intrusives of basic to intermediate composition (Iriana Mutiara Mining,1997). Miocene-Pleistocene flysch sediments of the Makats Formation and Mamberamo Group crop out on the flanks of the Gauttier and several smaller ranges. The Mamberamo Thrust belt dominates structure in the region and is marked by shale diapirs and chaotically faulted blocks of sedimentary rocks,with occasional fault wedges of volcanic rocks. Block 2 (Koada) is underlain by similar poorly consolidated flysch sedimentary rocks. Separate inliers of unaltered intermediate volcanics and phyllite were encountered in the Sungai Nadabui area within the Koada block.

Blocks 3 and 4 cover the southern boundary zone of Pacific Plate rocks,including upfaulted Pacific Plate mantle material of the presumed Mesozoic Irian Jaya Ophiolite Belt and Tertiary island arc volcanics and intrusives and tectonically transitional Tertiary metamorphic sequences.

Interpretation of acquired Landsat TM imagery and available air photos assisted in constructing regional drainage base maps and outlining broad geology (Iriana Mutiara Mining, 1997).

A fixed wing aeromagnetic survey was flown for MRC in December 1995 over the Cendrawana block and the northern half of Block 3,encompassing 18 522 line km. The survey line spacing was 500 m flown N-S with tie lines flown perpendicular to the survey lines at a spacing of 5000 m.

Helicopter-supported exploration completed by PT Mutiara Iriana Minerals (an MRC affiliate) in the 1994 - 1997 period included regional drainage geochemical sampling targeting porphyry copper-gold,epithermal and sediment-hosted gold and gold-base metal skarn deposit styles. A total of 2672 sites were sampled on first pass investigations. At each sample site,stream float and outcrop were recorded and selected rock specimens sampled for laboratory analysis for gold,silver,copper,lead, zinc,and arsenic and occasionally nickel,cobalt,bismuth and molybdenum. Stream sediment were sieved -80 mesh in the field and the -200# fraction was further sieved in the laboratory and analysed for gold,silver,copper,lead,zinc,nickel and arsenic and occasionally cobalt,bismuth and molybdenum. Panned concentrates were always assayed for gold and in early stages for antimony,mercury and arsenic,however analyses for the latter three elements were discontinued when anomalous values were interpreted to reflect pyrite content in the heavy mineral concentrate.

The regional reconnaissance drainage-sampling program identified nickel laterite mineralisation flanking the Siduarsi Range and numerous gold anomalies – many of which were attributed to auriferous conglomerate lenses within sediments of the Mamberamo formation. However gold in stream sediment anomalies seen draining volcanic,metamorphic and ultramafic terranes were accorded greater significance and follow-up investigations identified hard rock gold prospects at Biber and Kuiri.

The Biber prospect is located on the northern slopes of the Gauttier range in the centre of the Cendrawana block at 138°53.0’E and 2°31.3’S and is hosted by intermediate to mafic Auwewa Volcanics,intruded by gabbroic and dioritic intrusives (Iriana Mutiara Mining,1997). The initial anomalous BLEG sample collected in the mouth of Sungai Jomen,14 km downstream of Biber assayed 61 ppb Au. Follow-up stream sampling returned anomalous values along the length of Sungai Jomen with peak values of 580 ppb Au in BLEG,582 ppb Au in -200# stream sediment and 5569 µg Au in HMC,seen in the headwater reaches in the immediate prospect area. Prospect investigations included,60 line km grid establishment,collection of 1134 ridge/spur and grid soil samples,detailed mapping and rock chip sampling (685 mostly channel samples) and 52 line km of ground magnetics. Soil sampling outlined a 1200 m by 600 m

gold anomaly (average 48 ppb Au) partially coinciding with an area of moderate to strong propylitic alteration developed along a WNW-trending fault system. Mineralisation is strongest in fault/breccias containing quartz,pyrite and epidote. Best rock chip results were from a 0.5 m wide quartz-pyrite shear zone assaying 15.6 g/t Au and 3.05 g/t Au from a quartz veined, propylitically altered mafic volcanic rock. However mineralisation seen at surface is limited to narrow shears and fractures along a fault parallel to the thrusts that bound the accreted belt of Auwewa Volcanics and further investigations such as drilling were not considered.

The Kuiri prospect (136°17.4’E and 3°9.4’S) was discovered by PT Mutiara Iriana Minerals with an anomalous BLEG sample of 86 ppb Au,coupled with a value of 1053 µg in the HMC sample from the regional sample site some 4 km downstream of the prospect. The prospect is located adjacent to a prominent NE-trending fault,which displaces the southern margin of the Irian Jaya Ophiolite Belt at the contact with Derewo Metamorphic rocks. Grid soils,21 line km of ground magnetics, detailed mapping and sampling led to the hand-digging of 14 trenches to better expose mineralisation in the steep forested terrain. The prospect is partially defined by a 1000 m by 400 m northeast trending soil gold anomaly defined by the +30 ppb Au contour. Gold mineralisation is associated with pyrite-arsenopyrite bearing,quartz veined,potassically and phyllically altered,porphyritic intermediate intrusive rocks and volcanics. A 2 - 3 m thick pyritic quartz vein at a metamorphic-volcanic contact returned 6.5 m @ 3.63 g/t Au and 37.7 g/t Ag from an oblique intersection. Trench 13 exposed a narrow (<1 m),northwest dipping shear zone with minor splays, hosted by metavolcanics. Sampling of this clay-silica pyrite shear zone included high-grade channel results of 1.0 m @ 129 g/t Au and 0.4 m @ 98.3 g/t Au. Mineralisation is restricted to the brecciated vein structure with no mineralisation,and limited alteration extending into the host metavolcanics.

PT Mineserve International (a subsidiary of Freeport McMoran) was contracted by PT Iriana Mutiara Mining to complete a review of the project in 1998. An infill reconnaissance helicopter hoist-sampling program was undertaken in Blocks 3 and 4 with a total of 142 sites sampled during the campaign. Follow-up investigations of selected gold-copper anomalies failed to locate significant indications of mineralisation and both blocks were relinquished in late 1998. The only area retained into 1999 was a block of 16 470 hectares covering nickel-cobalt laterite mineralisation at Siduarsi (Thirnbeck,2001). Battle Mountain gave notice withdrawing from the project in 1999 and application to terminate the project was lodged in early 2004,following the lack of interest to further evaluate the Siduarsi nickel-cobalt laterite prospect.

VAN DAALEN PROJECT

The Van Daalen project comprised two blocks,one a sixth generation COW signed 28 April 1997 by PT Barrick Mutiara Van Daalen covering 517 700 hectares and an adjoining seventh generation COW application covering 30 220 hectares to the immediate northeast of the COW block. Both blocks were located in Paniai Regency in the headwaters of the Van Daalen and Rouffaer Rivers within a structurally complex zone of the Irian Jaya fold and thrust belt. Barrick Gold Corporation held 85 per cent of the COW company shares and funded exploration under the terms of a JV with MRC.

Four litho-tectonic domains were identified from Landsat imagery (Barrick Mutiara Van Daalen,1997). From south to north,Mesozoic shelf sequences of the Kembelangan Group from the Australian Plate were separated from schist/phyllite units of the Derewo Metamorphic Belt by the prominent regional Derewo Fault Zone. The Rouffaer Fault Zone and Gauttier Offset separated Derewo Metamorphics with ultramafics and intrusives

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of the Irian Jaya Ophiolite Belt (Monnier et al,2000). Further to the north,Neogene volcanics and clastics of the North Coast Basin were seen in lowland areas of the COW project.

A helicopter-borne magnetic-radiometric survey was flown for MRC at 400 m spacing over both blocks,a total of 16 466 line km. The most prominent feature in both the magnetics and radiometrics was the southern boundary of the Ophiolite Belt. Forty geophysical-lithostructural targets were identified for ground investigations.

Helicopter supported field investigations had collected broadly spaced drainage samples over approximately 60 per cent of the project area when exploration activities were suspended in mid 1997. BLEG,-80# stream sediment,panned concentrate and rock chip samples were collected at 204 sampling sites that allowed direct helicopter access. Stream sediments were analysed for gold,silver,copper,lead,zinc,molybdenum,bismuth and arsenic. Half the geophysical-lithostructural targets were not sampled and 16 geochemical anomalies were identified for further investigations that were not carried out. Barrick Gold withdrew from the JV in late 1997,with the Barrick share of the project reverting to IRC. Western Mining Corporation checked the porphyry copper potential under a 1998 option but elected not to proceed further. Despite many unchecked drainage anomalies,the high exploration and land holding costs were major factors in IRC’s decision to terminate the COW project in early 1999 when competition for limited funds was intense.

MAMBERAMO PROJECT

The Mamberamo project was a sixth generation COW application covering 843 400 hectares in north central Papua, centred on the middle to lower reaches of the Mamberamo River. The exploration effort was governed by a memorandum of understanding between MRC and Battle Mountain Gold. Battle Mountain would sole fund expenditures through to completion of a bankable feasibility study and hold 85 per cent shareholding once a COW company was formed.

Geology comprised disrupted sedimentary rocks of the Mamberamo Basin as evidenced by numerous mud volcanoes (Williams and Amiruddin,1984). Helicopter supported reconnaissance sampling of 930 drainage sites was completed by PT Mutiara Iriana Minerals in 1996. Gold was panned in several drainages and three gold in stream sediment anomalies were identified. However the lack of any supporting arsenic or base metal anomalism supported field observations that gold was shed from conglomerate lenses within the thick sedimentary sequence of the Mamberamo Basin. No further investigations took place and the project was terminated in 1997.

SENTANI PROJECT

MRC formed a JV with Western Mining Corporation to evaluate nickel laterite deposits in the Sentani area,near the provincial capital Jayapura. However Western Mining Corporation withdrew as joint COW applicants prior to establishment of the COW company and the project was continued with 95 per cent ownership by MRC’s publicly listed vehicle IRC. The Sentani project,covering 14 640 hectares,was a seventh generation COW signed 19 February 1998 by PT Iriana Sentani. The main project focus was evaluation of nickel laterite deposits fringing Tanahmerah Bay (Thirnbeck, 2001).

Geology is dominated by the Cyclops massif,an ophiolite sequence with component residual mantle peridotites,cumulate gabbros,dolerites,normal mid-oceanic ridge basalts and minor amounts of boninitic lavas (Monnier et al, 1999).

In late 1998 colluvial gold was discovered at Waena within the Sentani project boundary and an ensuing gold rush developed. Gossanous boulder subcrop characterised by chalcedonic quartz vein stockwork,occur in grass fields over a 300 m by 1000 m

zone centred along a inferred east-west trending north dipping thrust fault. Limited rock chip sampling returned a best result of 1 m @ 1.71 g/t Au from a chalcedonic vein stockworked gossan.

Gold mineralisation at Waena (140°37.7’E,2°34.4’S) occurs in hydrothermal breccias with strong silicic,carbonate and pyrite alteration hosted in serpentinised ultramafic igneous rocks, possibly an olivine bearing pyroxenite. The alteration mineralogy is dominated by amorphous silica and chalcedony. Secondary fluid inclusions from late stage quartz overgrowing opaline silica cement were measured to homogenize in the range from 138° to 150° Celsius (Iriana Sentani,1998). Furthermore multiple episodes of hydrothermal brecciation and fluidisation of wallrock indicate a high-level epithermal system at Waena.

After failing to identify additional tonnage potential in and around the known nickel laterite deposits,the Sentani project was terminated in 2003.

SENGGEH PROJECT

MRC applied for the Senggeh project area in northeastern Papua initially with Morrison Knudsen Corporation in 1994. Cyprus Gold Australia replaced Morrison Knudsen in 1995 and as fully funding 85 per cent partners progressed the project through to a sixth generation COW signed on 28 April 1997 by PT Cyprus Amax Iriana.

A fixed wing air magnetic survey for 20 000 line km was completed for MRC over the entire project area apart from a 17 km wide security strip adjacent to the international border with Papua New Guinea. North-south flight lines at 800 m spacing were closed down to 400 m in resultant areas of interest. Interpretation defined two priority targets with magnetic features compatible with the Grasberg/Porgera target model.

Drainage base maps were prepared from Landsat TM imagery interpretation and available airphotos. A helicopter,boat and vehicle supported reconnaissance program by PT Cyprus Amax Iriana collected drainage samples from 1071 sites in the second half of 1997 (Cyprus Amax Iriana,1998). IRC funded exploration over the eastern third of the project area under an option arrangement to earn up to a 46 per cent interest in the eastern third of the block. Observations confirmed regional geology as dominated by shallow dipping sediments of the Mamberamo basin. Faulted inliers of phyllites,schists and ophiolite rocks were encountered,particularly in the southeastern quadrant of the project area. Lack of helicopter landing sites precluded direct inspection of the magnetic anomaly targets.

At each site a BLEG and -150# stream sediment sample was collected. BLEG samples were analysed for gold,copper and silver,whilst the stream sediment samples were assayed for gold, silver,copper,lead,zinc,arsenic,molybdenum,nickel,antimony and bismuth.

Also,where possible,magnetic concentrates were collected using a six square inch magnet plate to collect any magnetic fraction in the stream (Cyprus Amax Iriana,1998). This is a rapid technique requiring a low sample weight,relying on precipitated gold and pathfinder gold being associated with limonitic particles which include maghaemite. The latter is readily extractable by magnet directly from the streambed. All up magcon samples were able to be collected from 72 per cent of sites. The magcon samples were analysed for gold,silver,copper,lead,zinc,arsenic,iron, molybdenum,nickel,antimony and bismuth.

Numerous drainage gold anomalies were generated during the first pass reconnaissance sampling. However Cyprus withdrew from the JV in October 1998 before any follow-up sampling was undertaken thus marking the end of regional field investigations. IRC progressed the project by immediately reducing the COW area from 1 433 000 hectares to 63 090 hectares,retaining two blocks covering the best regional gold anomalies at Nambla and the Southwest Target area.

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Anomalous zones dropped prior to any follow-up investigations during this major relinquishment included gold stream anomalies at Lereh,Senggi,Ampas,Arso and Wembi,a nickel laterite near Ubrub and a weakly copper mineralised diorite intrusive also near Ubrub. The gold anomalous areas appeared to drain sedimentary rocks containing lenses of conglomerate that in some cases were found to be gold-bearing. Whilst gold is detected in panning in these areas (small scale alluvial mining continues at Senggi) there was no mineralised float nor was there any supporting anomalous geochemistry in other elements in the stream sediments.

In general the magcon results mirrored the stream sediment results apart from detecting some low level antimony anomalies ranging from 3 - 6 ppm Sb that were not detected in conventional stream sediment geochemistry. These low-level antimony anomalies were also not followed up.

The nickel geochemistry in stream sediment samples clearly revealed a provenance break aligned along a broad north-northwest trending valley in the sedimentary formations of the Mamberamo basin. The northern half of the project area consistently returned background nickel in stream sediment values ranging from 50 to 120 ppm Ni suggesting sediments derived from rocks of oceanic affinity. In stark contrast drainages within sedimentary formations derived from presumed continental rocks as seen in the southern half of the project area were always below 50 ppm Ni.

The Southwest Target area was retained in a block covering 31 220 hectares where pronounced airmag features (139°54.4’E, 3°25.6’S) infer shallow buried intrusives localised at the intersection of arc normal and arc parallel structures. These airmagnetic anomalies have target signatures comparable to Grasberg and Porgera. The airmag anomaly overlapped a 250 sq km area shedding anomalous gold. Thirteen sites recorded gold in BLEG values greater than 50 ppb Au,with a maximum gold in BLEG value of 1400 ppb Au and maximum stream sediment (-150#) value of 2450 ppb Au both from the same site. These anomalies could only be reached with helicopter support and were unable to be further investigated due to financial constraints.

The other retained block at Nambla covered the northern flanks of the Idenburg Inlier terrane. Reconnaissance investigations recorded anomalous stream gold geochemistry with a maximum BLEG value of 125 ppb Au and a gossan breccia float assaying 79.2 g/t Au and 124 g/t Ag. Limited follow-up investigations in late 1998 recognised extensions of the mineralised Mafi River thrust zone seen in the adjoining Idenburg project area to the south. Brecciated and silicified ultramafic sampled from the thrust zone (140°38.0’E,3°36.8’S), assayed 0.89 g/t Au,484 g/t Ag,2.91 per cent Pb and 11 per cent Zn. Outcropping massive magnetite skarn (140°36.1’E,3°37.1’S) in Tekai Creek assayed 0.16 g/t Au and contained minor amounts of the rare earth mineral, allanite.

The Senggeh project was eventually terminated in early 2003 to preserve funds for other exploration projects exhibiting more promise.

IDENBURG PROJECT

Approval to explore the Idenburg project area was received by joint applicants MRC and Barrick Gold in early 1995. Exploration activities commenced in August 1995,operating under a Joint Venture whereby Barrick held 85 per cent of the COW company by sole funding all expenditures through commencement of commercial production. A sixth generation COW was signed by PT Barrick Mutiara Idenburg on 28 April 1997 covering 1 445 000 hectares of east central Papua. The eastern boundary of the project abutted the border with Papua New Guinea and extended westwards over a 260 km distance covering the northern flanks and foothills of the central range of eastern Papua.

Interpretation of satellite imagery identified six major litho-tectonic domains (Barrick Mutiara Idenburg,1998). From south to north these are Mesozoic shelf slope sequences of the Australian Plate,schist and phyllite of the Derewo Metamorphics,interleaved metamorphic and melange units and intrusives of the Irian Jaya Ophiolite Belt,Neogene volcanics and sediments of the North Coast Basin and Palaeozoic metamorphic and intrusive rocks of the Idenburg Inlier.

A fixed wing magnetic survey was completed for MRC over the entire area for 30 595 line km,flown north-south at 400 m line spacing with tie lines flown east-west at 4000 m line spacing. One hundred and eleven geophysical-lithostructural targets were identified for follow-up.

The 1995 - 1996 helicopter-supported reconnaissance exploration program comprised broadly spaced BLEG,-60# stream sediment,panned concentrate and rock sampling from 845 sites (Barrick Mutiara Idenburg,1998). BLEG samples were assayed for gold and silver. Stream sediment samples were assayed for gold,silver,copper,lead,zinc,molybdenum, bismuth,arsenic,antimony,mercury,nickel,cobalt and chromium. Rock samples were analysed for the same suite of elements as stream sediments plus potassium. The geochemical sampling generated 116 single and multi-element anomalies to follow-up with over half located in the Idenburg Inlier where the geochemical anomalies were often coincident with geophysical-lithostructural targets. More than half the panned concentrate samples from the Idenburg Inlier contained visible gold. The JV collected a total of 1443 rock chips in the Idenburg COW. Eighteen of these recorded values greater than 1 g/t Au, with 17 of these regional rock chips from the Idenburg Inlier.

Barrick Gold planned to continue funding activities at Idenburg but withdrew from the project in late 1997 as part of a countrywide pullout. Barrick’s share of the project reverted to IRC and the COW company was renamed PT Iriana Mutiara Idenburg. By mid 1998 vast tracts of the Idenburg project area had been relinquished,eventually retaining only 108 600 hectares in a single block covering the prospective Idenburg Inlier terrane. Fortunately an all weather road provides access to the reduced project area,120 km directly south of the coastal provincial capital Jayapura.

Funding constraints ensured only piecemeal follow-up investigations during the 1998 - 2003 period when it was virtually impossible for a junior exploration company listed on a Canadian Stock Exchange to attract funds to develop a grassroots gold exploration play in Indonesia. Nevertheless prospecting of near road areas of the Idenburg Inlier in 1998,identified numerous gold mineralised outcrops of mesothermal origin,the most notable where gold bearing gossan boulders marked out a 5 km segment of the trace of a northwest trending thrust structure characterised by dismembered ophiolite slices in the Mafi River valley. Initial rock chipping of 16 scorodite and fuchsite bearing gossans in a 500 m by 150 m segment in the hanging wall of the thrust zone (140°39.0’E,3°38.4’S) returned gold assay results ranging from 5.23 g/t Au to 33.4 g/t Au,with a best channel chip of 7 m averaging 26.7 g/t Au. Extensions to the Mafi occurrence were suspected 500 m to the southeast where follow-up prospecting of a 737 g/t Au gossan float in a small creek was sourced to a narrow 10 cm pyrite-quartz-chalcopyrite vein that assayed 1018 g/t Au. Gold in this high-grade vein sample occurs in irregular 20 µm long grains infilling fractures between pyrite and quartz grains that occur later than the chalcopyrite.

Other areas of interest identified in 1998 within 20 km of Mafi included Bermol where mylonitised quartz sulfide vein material assayed 13.9 g/t Au; a 20 cm mesothermal quartz sulfide vein at Tekai assaying 81 g/t Au; a 50 cm boulder vein at Afley assaying 28.6 g/t Au and at Nova where fingernail sized gold nuggets were readily pannable.

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More detailed investigations from late 2000 to early 2002 funded by project optionholders advanced Mafi and Bermol to prospect status. Diamond drilling in the second half of 2000 at Mafi intersected mesothermal quartz sulfide vein gold mineralisation hosted in magnesite-silica altered serpentinite, with a best interval of 12.6 m at 8.0 g/t Au,108 g/t Ag and 2.69 per cent Pb from 6.0 to 18.6 m depth in hole 14. The distinctive magnesite-silica altered host rock has been mapped along the Mafi thrust structure in excess of 10 km. The drill intersected gold mineralisation dips shallowly southwest at approximately 15° within the hanging wall of the thrust structure and remains open downdip under alluvium cover. Regional footwall rocks at Mafi are almandine bearing amphibolite metamorphic facies,with the precursor rocks most likely being an intermediate igneous rock, possibly a tuff.

Meanwhile at Bermol,some 10 km south of Mafi,host rocks to mineralisation include unaltered regional metamorphic rocks of upper greenschist facies. Detailed investigations included 14 line km of grid soil sampling and mapping and channel rock chip sampling of mineralised lode exposures. Structure is dominated by a north trending,shallow west dipping thrust that is interpreted to be southern extensions of the thrust structure seen to the north at Mafi. Prospect geology includes fine-grained weakly foliated diorite,feldspar porphyry,mafic dykes and schists. Best channel chip results were 14 m at 6.91 g/t Au and 4 m at 19.4 g/t Au from vertical samples 150 m apart where the gently dipping quartz-sulfide lode vein outcropped through a hilltop. The quartz-sulfide veins at Bermol contain early pyrite followed by arsenopyrite,with chalcopyrite and later electrum deposited in fractures. Preliminary bottle roll tests indicate that the gold can be cyanide-leached at a recovery rate of about 80 per cent for the fresh unoxidised samples with estimated 15 per cent sulfides, mostly arsenopyrite and pyrite with minor chalcopyrite. Drilling is the next planned phase of exploration at Bermol.

Additional hunting-party prospecting in 2002 and 2003 identified mineralised gold structures hosted in diorite at Kali Sua Sinta where the discovery channel sample across a mineralised structure with mesothermal quartz veining assayed 3 m at 65.5 g/t Au. A grab rock chip of fresh quartz pyrite vein within this mineralised exposure assayed 348 g/t Au. Mineralised quartz sulfide scree material are seen scattered on surrounding slopes and as float in the main river both upstream and downstream adjacent to the discovery exposure suggesting additional veins are present in the Kali Sua Sinta district. More detailed surface investigations by PT Iriana Mutiara Idenburg are continuing through 2004 to define drill targets in this area some 11 km west of Bermol.

CONCLUSIONS

The discovery of the world-class Grasberg porphyry copper-gold deposit in 1988 triggered an upsurge of mineral exploration activity throughout Papua province that peaked in 1997. Between 1994 and 1996,MRC attracted some major international mining companies to Papua and formed Joint Ventures to explore large tracts of under-explored country to the north of the central range. In general,first pass regional reconnaissance exploration was completed over most project areas. However planned follow up investigations were thwarted by the withdrawal of major funding partners in the 1997 - 1999 period in response to the perceived deteriorating investment climate attributed to fallout from the Busang scandal of 1997,coupled with economic and political turmoil that plagued Indonesia into 1998.

Following the withdrawal of all the initial JV partners by 1999, MRC/IRC continued exploration in selected projects as funding permitted. Gold mineralisation styles identified include VMS on Supiori Island,epithermal breccias at Waena,skarn in Senggeh project,porphyry-related at Wasewa,vein breccia shears at Kuiri and numerous mesothermal lode occurrences within the Idenburg project.

After the buoyant optimism of the mid 1990s,this ambitious gold search of frontier country in Indonesian New Guinea has a decade later failed to meet initial expectations. Despite immense setbacks and hurdles,particularly in attracting further funding following exposure of the Busang fraud in 1997 and the 1997 - 1999 mass withdrawal of JV partners,the venture has identified and retained a promising gold exploration project at Idenburg. Further exploration,in particular diamond drilling,is required at Idenburg to ascertain the significance and development potential of the widespread lode type gold mineralisation of mesothermal origin.

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