Vancouver based Golden Arrow, a subsidiary of the Grosso Group, has previously mainly focused on exploration projects in Argentina, but San Pietro, which has the largest footprint of its current suite of development assets, marks a move into a new territory.
Having acquired the 185 square kilometre property in 2022, the first year has been spent assessing what the company had on its hand by analysing data from previous drilling programmes before starting to put its own holes in the ground.
"This is a big year for us," emphasises Brian McEwen, vice president of exploration at Golden Arrow. "Year one was just about collecting the data, organising the data, reinterpreting the data, and putting things in a format that we want and now we're coming out of the gate of the second year with guns blazing."
In practice, that means a 2,650-metre, seven-hole drill programme as the first stage of a planned 20,000 metres of drilling that are budgeted for in the first year to advance at least five targets at the asset.
There has already been more than 30,000 metres of drilling at the property carried out by previous owners, with the 83 holes focused on iron-oxide, copper, gold (IOCG) and cobalt mineralisation. The mineralisation on site is typical of an IOCG system, with the addition of cobalt.
Mr McEwen describes how this mix gives Golden Arrow a rich array of options when looking to develop at San Pietro: "There are areas to develop an oxide copper tip pit. We could be developing a high-grade iron pit. We could be developing a cobalt pit. Or we could develop one big pit that could have combined metals. There are just so many ways to approach this; it's just an excellent project to be working on.
"One thing we considered was drilling off the resource, but we saw all this other unexplored property, and we wanted to understand it much better."
Among the notable discoveries so far is 28m of 1% copper, but Mr McEwen insists that cobalt is likely the key to success: "It's the cobalt that makes this project work. Prices are high and I guarantee they're going to go higher. When this project was being drilled and looked at before it was for the copper, and you can see that the copper grades are pretty low but the cobalt grades are very high."
The best interval of cobalt on the property has been found at the Colla target, one of the five that Golden Arrow has identified. Four holes have been drilled here in the past, at wide spacing over a strike length of 2.2km. They returned high grades of iron and cobalt, including 414 ppm Co over 32m, starting at 116m.
The increasing heat in the cobalt market has led to Golden Arrow making the Colla target a priority for detailed mapping, sampling and imaging work.
Besides the mineralisation, the positioning of San Pietro is also a major part of its potential. The project is located 100km north of Copiapo, in the rich mining territory of the Atacama Desert, which Mr McEwen describes as "the Mecca of IOCG deposits". That means that it benefits from excellent established infrastructure, including ports, roads, desalination plants and a town just 8km away.
But even more crucially, San Pietro is situated between two other major concessions in the shape of Capstone Copper's Santo Domingo IOCG development project and its Mantoverde IOCG property.
"Between those two there's a billion tonnes of resource," continues Mr McEwen. "So we're sitting in the middle of a billion tonnes of resource and reserves and we've got all of the property right in the middle. So you can see like how synergies could work here. Because these properties are so big, standalone operations work well. We are talking to them about deals but standalone operations can work too".
Golden Arrow has around US$7m to explore the San Pietro asset, having paid for it outright last year. The war chest comes from the 2019 sale of its Chinchillas Silver Project to SSR Mining. Golden Arrow had taken Chinchillas from discovery to development in five years before selling, and the company hopes to follow a similar playbook after pivoting to IOCG.
"If we're successful in the drilling we will follow a similar plan to what we did on Chinchillas," says Mr McEwen. "We wanted to find a target that will be attractive to a major - that's really what our goal is here, and we will stick to that."
The Chinchilla's deal has also meant that Golden Arrow could be selective about where to invest, allowing it to look for an asset that already had a track record when it comes to discoveries.
"In the junior mining business there are two ways to success," says Mr McEwen, describing the company's strategy. "You either pick up the big blue-sky project and then you drill a hole and it's got this fantastic intersection and everybody goes after it and your stock goes sky high - and everybody loves to find those, but you swing and you miss on a lot of those.
"So the other way is to is to pick up a project that you might pay a lot of money for or some money upfront, and it's got a lot of information and then you accrete that value by finding more information and defining things - and that's where we are right now on this project."