Since January, when Cordoba Minerals (TSXV: CDB; US-OTC: CDBMF) completed the first resource estimate on its Alacran deposit in Colombia based on 22 drill holes, the company has drilled another 45 holes, and in mid-August, unveiled a new 3,000-metre drill program to test high-priority targets to the south, northeast and down dip.

“We’re pretty confident that Alacran is going to get bigger than the 54 million tonnes previously reported,” says president and CEO Mario Stifano, referring to the inferred resource of 53.5 million tonnes grading 0.70% copper and 0.37 gram gold per tonne, or 0.95% copper equivalent.

“We’re well on our way to having a sizeable resource here,” he adds. “We think we will be able to demonstrate that we have a really economic ore body at Alacran. It’s exciting because the mineralization starts right from surface — so you have no pre-strip — and you’ve got great grades.”

The near-surface copper-gold skarn deposit, about 200 km north of Medelin, is part of the company’s San Matias project, which consists of a 20,000-hectare land package in the northern part of the Mid-Cauca gold belt within the department of Cordoba.

“Colombia is a frontier for new discoveries and the reason is that there really hasn’t been modern exploration,” Stifano tells The Northern Miner in an interview. “Historically, Colombia was one of the oldest gold producers in the world, but in northern Colombia, where we are, there wasn’t any exploration in gold and copper before we came in 2012.”

Cordoba hopes to make up for lost time.

So far the company has defined mineralization at Alacran over 1.3 km of strike and up to 400 metres of lateral width and is now looking to the south, northeast and the down-dip extension on the western edge of the ore body. “We’ve got to see if Alacran continues at depth,” Stifano says. “But it won’t stop there — we haven’t even started to test where we think the source of the porphyry is for Alacran — we’re still trying to understand the model.”

“The Alacaran deposit is complex and doesn’t fit into any known model, which is fantastic in that the largest deposits and structures in the world are complex, and they write their own rules,” he says. “We think we’ve got the most exciting copper-gold project in Colombia and Latin America.”

In July, Cordoba released results from hole ACD066, which was drilled to the south of the current mineral resource shell. The hole assayed 48 metres of 0.70% copper and 0.19 gram gold (0.84% copper-equivalent) from surface, including 12 metres of 1.13% copper and 0.26 gram gold (1.32% copper equivalent) from 20 metres. The hole also returned a 34 metre-intercept of 0.37% copper and 0.14 gram gold (0.48% copper equivalent) from 60 metres, including 8 metres of 0.73% copper and 0.37 gram gold (1.01% copper equivalent) from 57 metres.

Another hole, ACD063, cut 30 metres of 0.66% copper and 0.69 gram gold (1.18% copper equivalent) from 78 metres; and 48 metres of 1.70% copper and 0.79 gram gold (2.30% copper equivalent) from 51 metres in drill hole ACD064.

Earlier results released in May included 184 metres of 0.46% copper and 0.28 gram gold (0.67% copper equivalent) from six metres in hole ACD041; and 122 metres of 0.55% copper and 0.22 gram gold (0.72% copper equivalent) from 40 metres in hole ACD040.

There’s more to San Matias than Alacran, however. The project hosts several known areas of porphyry mineralization including two near-surface copper-gold porphyries called Monteil and Costa Azul.

Alacran is 2 km southwest of Montiel, where drilling has intersected 101 metres of 1.0% copper and 0.65 gram gold per tonne, and 2 km northwest of Costa Azul, where drilling has cut 87 metres of 0.62% copper and 0.51 gram gold per tonne.

Stifano notes that Cordoba’s footprint in northern Colombia exceeds that of any other company. Cordoba currently has mining rights covering about 20,000 hectares (260 sq. km), and has an additional 250,000 hectares under application, which Stifano says, means that when the government is ready to grant that land, it will go to Cordoba.

“When we saw in our part of northern Colombia that we had potentially a district that nobody was even aware of, we locked it up, because we think there are going to be multiple deposits in this district,” Stifano says. “If San Matias proves as prospective as we think it is, we own it all. This is not a district where other juniors have ground. There is no ability for any other mining company to come in and take ground from us. That’s what makes it really exciting from an investor’s perspective.”

Moreover, while artisanal mining has been problematic for some companies (six contractors working for Continental Gold [TSX: CNL; US-OTC: CGOOF] at its Buritica project, were killed in an explosion by artisanal miners in July), Cordoba has not had any issues.

“We are quite lucky. We haven’t the same problems that many other companies have with illegal miners,” Stifano says. “The difference is that in our district, essentially it’s open-pit-style grades rather than high-grade vein systems, so we don’t have illegal miners coming from all over the country to mine it.”

In addition, he says, northern Colombia is less populated than many other areas of the country due to its hot temperatures and fewer towns.

Stifano estimates there are about 70 artisanal miners at Alacran while at Monteil there is just one family with eleven members. At Alacran, he adds, some of the miners, who are very poor, have asked the company to buy them out.

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