Cyprus Mining History
Copper mining in Cyprus dates back to the 4th millennium BC and is believed to have given the island its Greek name Kúpros (Cyprus). The island is also known for the extraction of iron pyrite, gold, chromite and asbestos.
Copper was first extracted over 4,000 years ago when miners would have targeted gossans, the highly weathered outcropping part of an orebody, typically rocks with very distinctive red colouration and therefore easy to find. During the Bronze age, some underground mining methods were adopted as easily accessed high grade resources became depleted.
Waste material from the historical smelters (slag) can be found across south west Cyprus, often in close proximity to an ancient mining site. Today slag dumps are is used as a first stage exploration tool for vectoring projects.
During the Roman period, Cyprus supplied much of the world’s copper requirements, however after the Roman empire, copper mining on the island became dormant. Mining restarted in Cyprus during the 19th Century due to demand for its sulphur (iron pyrite) and copper.
During the British colonisation, the mining industry was the most important industrial sector to the Cypriot economy. In 1914, Cyprus Mining Corporation started operations at Skouriotissas, which is operating today and possibly the world’s oldest operating mine.
Modern mining commenced in Cyprus in the 1920s with more than 74 million tonnes of massive ore extracted from about 30 deposits in the following 50 years. Production focussed on pyrite, copper, gold and silver, although some of the Cyprus deposits also contain appreciable amounts of zinc. The largest known deposit in Cyprus is Mavrovouni where 16.5 Mt at approximately 4.5% Cu was officially reported as extracted between 1929 and 1974.
From 1922 to 1974, there are official records that 1.3m tons of copper metal was produced from Cypriot mines. Typically historic mines tend to under-report production and actual extraction was probably higher. There was considerable mining during Phoencian and Roman times when Cyprus was the then world centre for copper. We know this from the size of the ancient slag heaps and mines that litter the Troodos mountains. Historians have made some estimates of ancient production.
Taking all this into account, it is likely that more than 1.5m tons of copper has been mined from Cyprus. It is worth bearing in mind that this copper was extracted from a very small area. It only takes around an hour to drive past the length of the mountain range. The prospective volcanic belt occupies only around a quarter of the range.
Copper mining ceased twice in Cyprus during the 20th century, first during World War 2, and then again during the Cypriot coup d’état. The later resulted in Cyprus Mines, the largest of the mining firms, closing down and selling its assets, including Skouriotissa, to Hellenic Copper Mines Ltd.
Falling commodity prices in the 1970’s resulted in the closure of what remained of Cyprus’ mining operations. Hellenic reopened Skouriotissa in 1996, processing low grade ore and re-processing of tailings.
Since the 1980’s, the UN, BRGM and Northern Lion have been the main copper explorers in Cyprus. These groups have mapped, sampled, acquired geophysical surveys and in some places drilled. Chesterfield has located much of this valuable archival data and incorporated it into its database.
Whilst the presence of copper in Cyprus is well-documented it is widely considered that there is little gold in Cyprus. This is a fallacy perpetuated from historical inaccuracies. The gold content of many of the deposits was poorly documented or not tested, and so was rarely included in the historical mining statistics. There is extensive evidence that the massive pyrite deposits contain appreciable primary gold. Furthermore, the weathered zones above many deposits are highly enriched in gold and silver. For example, miners targeted “Devil’s Mud” – a narrow layer above the massive sulphide bodies – because it was so highly enriched in gold and silver (presumably supergene). The first preliminary assays of Devil’s Mud were taken from Skouriotissa in 1920, but it was never seriously investigated until depressed copper and pyrite prices in 1932 forced the Cyprus Mining Corporation (CMC) to investigate a possible precious metal income stream. Devil’s Mud was immediately identified at Skouriotissa with “areas of high- grade ore running as much as 50 ounces of gold per ton, though with very little silver, and, conversely, other areas containing 800 ounces of silver a ton and only traces of gold.” (Lavender, 1962). These discoveries led to exploration elsewhere in the Troodos Mountains and ultimately the mining of Devil’s Mud by CMC at seventeen locations, albeit most of this mining was very small scale. During 2016, the Hellenic Mining Company commissioned a gold circuit at Skouriotissa to process the oxide material in the area. This went into production in 2017.
CMC’s experience of the Devil’s Mud clearly shows that gold and silver are widespread throughout Cyprus. The primary pyrite ores, however, were never exploited because the technology to extract gold and silver at that time was not advanced enough to be economically viable. This is not the case today.
More recent work confirms that gold is widespread in the primary pyrite ore and that it can be quite high grade. For example: 4.98 g/t Au at Pano Lefkara (Northern Lion, 2012); and BMG Resources reported numerous gold intercepts at their Mala Prospect, including 6 m @ 3.70 g/t Au (MALRC007) and 5 m @ 2.15 g/t Au (BMG, 2014).
Chesterfield’s own drill campaign in 4Q 2018 provided strong further evidence of gold:
|Evlomeini||18EV02||22.65 m grading 1.29 g/t Au||0.28% Cu from 8.75m||included 1.25% Cu over 6.1m
|Mavroyi||18MV06||10.45m grading 3.81 g/t Au |
|including peak value of 11.85 g/t
|Double 7||18DS01||18.8m grading 1.29 g/t Au |
and 13.18 g/t Ag
|0.62% Cu and 0.49% Zn from 41.5m|
Zinc was also not considered when mining the Cyprus deposits, even though it is widely encountered and could be a reasonable addition to their exploitation. EMED mining (now knows as Atalaya Mining) defined inferred zinc resources at Klirou (4.5 Mt @ 0.74% Zn and 0.41% Cu) and South Mathiatas (2.1 Mt @ 0.95% Zn; EMED, 2007); and BMG Resources reported numerous zinc intercepts with copper-gold-silver at the Mala Prospect.