West Wits Mining Limited (ASX:WWI) has secured a crucial approval, establishing its right to mine at the Witwatersrand Basin Gold Project in South Africa.

The country’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) granted West Wits’ mining right application, with director general Adv Thabo Mokoena confirming the key approval.

Ultimately, the mining right brings the ASX-lister a step closer to producer status and operating in South Africa’s Central Rand Goldfields, a region famous for hosting the world’s largest-known gold reserves.

At Witwatersrand, West Wits hopes to produce more than 60,000 gold ounces every year across the project’s 15-year mine life.

Shares have jumped more than 31% on the back of today’s announcement, changing hands at A$0.105 in trading this morning while the company’s market cap pre-open was approximately A$112.1 million.

“Pivotal milestone”

West Wits chairman Michael Quinert said: “The department’s decision to grant West Wits’ mining right is a pivotal milestone for the company which heralds in the development of WWI’s marque Witwatersrand Basin Project.

“The granting is a testament to the quality and thoroughness of the engagement process undertaken by our lawyers, specialist consultants and the executive team led by managing director Jac van Heerden and comes at a critical time with the independent definitive feasibility study on the Qala Shallows nearing completion.

“The WWI Team continues to ramp up development activity and is focused on project execution in the second half of 2021 as it targets maiden underground gold production.”

Map of West Wits’ holding in the Central Rand Goldfield’s Witwatersrand Basin.

Mineral resource update

The pivotal mining right approval comes just weeks after West Wits delivered a resource update following infill drilling at Witwatersrand’s Qala Shallows region.

Earlier this month, West Wits boosted the mineral resource at its cornerstone exploration asset, adding 149,000 gold ounces to the existing resource.

Ultimately, the resource upgrade brings West Wits a step closer to establishing a maiden ore reserve for the 4.47-million-ounce gold play, with a definitive feasibility study slated for completion in August.

The increase means the Witwatersrand gold play now hosts a global estimate totalling 32.78 million tonnes of resource at 4.24 g/t for 4.47 million gold ounces at the same cut-off grade.

Of this, 65% of the resource, or 2.9 million gold ounces at 4.13 g/t, falls into the measured or indicated category.

Environmental approval reinstated

Today’s approval follows another regulatory greenlight, secured earlier this year, which paved the way for the ASX-lister to secure its right to mine.

Back in March, West Wits traded as much as 58% higher after the DMRE reinstated an environmental approval for the Witwatersrand Basin Project.

At the time, managing director Jac van Heerden said: “The successful completion of the EA process significantly de-risks the project and is a major catalyst for execution of the next stage of the WBP’s development strategy, allowing the WWI team to ramp up activity as the company targets maiden underground gold production in 2021.”

Together, the environmental approval and mining right position West Wits to mine in a major, globally renowned gold region, which has historically produced more than 1.5 billion gold ounces — representing about 22% of all the gold accounted for above the surface.