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Updated
16 Aug 2008

Lesotho

Management services were contracted to Australian mining company, Bolnisi Gold NL, with Stephen Lay being appointed Managing Director of Bolnisi Mining Operations and Director of its Georgian joint venture companies: Quartzite Ltd and Trans Georgian Resources Ltd.

Quartzite Ltd was incorporated in 1993 to process 12 million tonnes of auriferous "quartzite" ore that had been stockpiled at the Madneuli copper mine in southern Georgia.

Production started in 1997 utilising VAT cyanide treatment giving about 18,000ounces of gold per year. In 1998 heap leaching commenced and VAT treatment was phased out. Full design capacity was reached in late 1999 with 2 million tonnes per year being processed giving the operation the potential to produce in excess of 100,000+ ounces of gold per year.

Bolnisi had a clear strategy in Georgia to mature the very real mineral opportunities held in Trans Georgian Resources. Quartzite strived to achieve the highest international standards: to demonstrate to the people of Georgia that responsible mining brings tremendous socio-economic benefit; and to demonstrate to the foreign investment community that Georgia is a safe country in which to invest.

Trans Georgian Resources Ltd was exploring in a 1,000sq km belt of highly prospective kuroko type VHMS mineralisation. Over 60 mineral occurrences had been identified in Soviet times, five of which were taken to an advanced stage of evaluation. TGR discovered additional occurrences.

In early 2000, Quartzite became Georgia's largest exporter and brought significant socio-economic benefit to the region. Unfortunately, Bolnisiís investment came under a great deal of hostile activity to destabilise their investment; Stephen Lay was targeted and left the country after threats to his welfare. In 2003 (three years after he left the country) falsified criminal charges were brought against Lay to further undermine Bolnisiís credibility, these were removed in late 2006 after intense diplomatic pressure.

Bolnisi sold their Georgian interests in late 2005.


Foreground: crushed quartzite ore stacked on heaps; process ponds at centre. Madneuli Mine in background right and stockpiled quartzite beyond.

President Shevardnadze being shown the Quartzite operation by MMCís Stephen Lay.

View showing the heap leach operation (top right), the rest being quartzite stockpile which extends a further 40m below the existing level.