Torq Resources, a copper and gold exploration company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, is looking at a potential "behemoth" of copper and gold at its Santa Cecilia site, located on Northern Chile's Maricunga belt, an area known for large amounts of metal reserves.


The 32.5-sqm Santa Cecilia project is located around 100 km east of the city of Copiapo, Chile. Shawn Wallace, Torq Resources' chair and CEO, says that the Santa Cecilia project has the potential to contain large-scale gold and copper deposits, based on existing exploration data. The project sits directly adjacent to two deposits – Caspiche and Cerro Casale – collectively known as Norte Abierto. A mining industry publication recently identified Norte Abierto as the fourth-largest undeveloped gold deposit in the world, and Torq's Santa Cecilia project could add further ounces to the district if Torq's exploration is successful.

"Santa Cecilia might very well be the third leg of the stool, so to speak, given the huge potential of the two adjacent sites. But it will take a lot of work to turn it into a tangible asset. This highlights how rare this opportunity is for a junior company of our size, as it's hard to get 100% rights to an asset like this," says Wallace.

Torq Resources is a junior exploration company that drills sites that have the potential to contain copper and gold deposits and, if the minerals can be proven to exist at a significant scale, the site will be sold at a premium to a major mining company that could then start the process of building a mine.

In October 2021, Torq Resources obtained the rights to explore Santa Cecilia through an option agreement that allows the company to acquire a 100% interest for a total of approximately US$40 million. Wallace and Michael Henrichsen, the company's chief geological officer, had been looking to enter the Chilean market for some time, which proved tough, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help land the project, Torq Resources partnered with Waldo Cuadra, who it eventually brought in as their general manager in Chile.

"We found a group of very like-minded people, and we built a mutual trust with them. I can say that we would not have acquired Santa Cecilia had we not partnered with Waldo and his team of multifaceted mining professionals. The site's underlying owner said he would not sell this project to just anyone, and that he would only work with people that had a similar alignment as him. Fortunately, he was very amenable to working with Waldo, so it all turned out well."

Drilling at the Santa Cecilia project commenced in March 2023 and will continue for the next 14 months apart from a break from June to September over the Chilean winter. A total of 15,000 meters of drilling is planned at the project during this time period; the first drilling at Santa Cecilia since a copper porphyry discovery was made in 2012. Results from surface work completed by Torq in the area are also expected to come out over the next few months.

Aside from the rich mineralization and opportunity it represents, Wallace says Chile is a mining-friendly jurisdiction with a stable democracy, which is why Torq worked hard to land the Santa Cecilia project.

"When we look at entering a country, we obviously consider the mineral endowment. But we also look at whether major mining companies can operate there successfully, and whether the government is democratic and stable. Chile ticks all three boxes, so we couldn't be happier with what they're doing down there. After the acquisition, we got our social license with the local community and signed a 7-year agreement with them, which covers the entire tenure of our ownership agreement with the underlying owner."

While gold holds a lot of sway in public consciousness due to its historical and cultural value, Wallace believes that copper is where the most potential lies. Copper is seeing increased use in renewable energy applications and electric vehicles, two industries that are surging worldwide. There is also a looming copper crunch, as demand is expected to outstrip supply, and the discovery of new copper mining sites is always a welcome development.

According to Wallace, the overall prospects of the Santa Cecilia project are excellent, and the size of this opportunity warrants the huge amount of testing Torq is doing in the area. The company plans to do around two years of work at Santa Cecilia, with costs upwards of US$25 million.

"Two years from now, copper prices will be strong. I never thought I would get the opportunity to work on a project like this, but here we are. I really think we're onto a major discovery here."