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One of the biggest hits of this year's mining conference was an inaugural forum focusing on gold exploration in Otago, a two-day event showcasing the region's potential for further exploration.
The forum is likely to feature again next year, and if the conference is held in the upper North Island, it could feature the epithermal gold regions around Coromandel or Thames.
The pre-conference event was co-arranged by Dean Fergusson, convener of the New Zealand branch of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy conference in Christchurch, along with Dale Sims, of the institute, and Rob Smillie, from GNS Science.
On the first day of the event, 30 people visited Otago gold sites such as Gabriels Gully and St Bathans, and Oceana Gold's Macraes site in East Otago, then 50 attended the second-day session hosted in Christchurch by the University of Canterbury; all of which became a popular talking point for many during the three-day conference, which was attended by 220 delegates.
Mr Fergusson said the ''germ of the [forum] idea had grown from an Otago field trip held when the conference was hosted in Dunedin last year''.
''We [Mr Sims and Mr Smillie] thought about it again and decided a forum would be well allied and complementary to this years conference,'' he said.
The aim was to provide an opportunity to review exploration and mining data, challenges faced in exploration, and new ideas from both the industry and research geologists, focusing on Otago.
On day two in Christchurch, the 50 attending included students, geoscientists, mineral researchers, permitting agency New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals representatives and staff from both GNS Science and Oceana Gold.
Mr Fergusson not only wanted to discuss the present understanding of gold mineralisation around Otago, but keep discussion open on any of the remaining ''unknowns within the knowledge base''.
''The area still has plenty of potential and is still prospective'', he said.
''Ideally we want to promote another phase of exploration in that region, see if Macraes number two can't be found,'' Mr Fergusson said.
The Christchurch forum included an Otago overview, advances in the mine scale of the Hyde-Macraes mineralisation area, case studies of exploration techniques, plus the opportunities and challenges in future work.
Because of the forum's popularity and its capability of similarly targeting any region where the annual conference might be held in the future, Mr Fergusson believed it was easily transferable.
''We've had some really good feedback, so we're looking forward to another forum, in a new area,'' he said.