Cardinal Resources’ boss Archie Koimtsidis first found gold in northern Ghana 20 years ago but no one believed him because there wasn’t supposed to be any there. Apparently, it was all down in the south where big gold mines abound.

But come early 2014, Koimtsidis was able to convince the industry naysayers they had got the north wrong when Cardinal (ASX: CDV) drilled the discovery hole at its Namdini property in the West African nation, way up north near the border with Burkina Faso.

Namdini has since gone on to be confirmed as one of the biggest gold discoveries ever by a junior ASX-listed company, with its mining reserve now standing at 5.1 million oz from a 7m oz resource in a planned open cut.

The discovery is big enough to have picked up the coveted “Thayer Lindsley’’ award this year from the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada. The award is for a “recent significant mineral discovery anywhere in the world”.

That it went to Cardinal was a first for an Australian company. The year before the award went to Don Taylor, the geologist who discovered the Taylor silver-lead-zinc deposit in the US for Canadian company Arizona Mining, since acquired by South32 for $US1.3 billion.

So it only gets handed to world-class type discoveries, and with its resource base of 7m oz, Namdini fits the bill.

But Koimtsidis is not done yet.

“We were hopeful of finding truckloads of gold back when we started and today we’re hopeful of finding truck loads more,’’ Koimtsidis told Garimpeiro. He reckons Namdini could well be the first big deposit in the region.

That’s why he is excited by early drill results from a high-grade and shallow discovery at Cardinal’s Ndongo East prospect, 25km from Namdini. It’s early days at the prospect but the hope is that it could provide a higher-grade ore to sweeten an already sweet but lower grade Namdini.

“Here we are now with 7m oz in resources at Namdini and a decent regional exploration land package that may have another discovery or two on it,’’ Koimtsidis said.

But the main task at hand – and one which is likely to trigger a major re-rating of the $145m company at 38.5c a share – is getting Namdini financed and in to production under the current timeline for first production in 2022.

Things are coming together on that front.

Balls ready to drop?

Cardinal is working towards releasing a final feasibility study in to Namdini late this month, early next month.

That will be followed by a final development decision in the December quarter this year after Cardinal has first pinned down financing, something it expects to achieve expeditiously as it has had a range of financing types in a data room for nearly a year.

Koimtsidis would not be drawn on what the final feasibility will contain.

“Pending the release of the feasibility study, all of the balls are up in the air. They will drop soon enough though.’’

“But what I can say is that the recent pit optimisation which increased reserves to 5.1m oz forms the basis of the financial modelling and mining scheduling.’’

“And we would like to think that as a result of getting a few extra ounces from the pit optimisation (up from 4.8m oz previously) we will come in at least similar to our preliminary feasibility study (PFS) economics,’’ Koimtsidis said.

The PFS (based on 4.8m oz) was released in September last year and looked at a 9.5 million tonne-a-year mining and processing operation at Namdini costing $US414m.

Annual production from a higher grade “starter’’ pit in the first two and half years was estimated at 361,000 oz at an all in sustaining cost of $US599 an oz. Total project payback was put at 1.8 years assuming a $US1,250 an oz gold price.

On a life-of-mine basis, annual production was put at 294,000 oz over 14 years – just shy of the 300,000 oz rate most in the industry use as the benchmark for a project to be considered world-class.

It is figures like that which have Cardinal on most “likely takeover target” lists, given its current market value is yet to reflect the upside from Namdini’s world-class potential.