US-based silver ore mining company Gatos Silver has begun drilling operations at its Santa Valeria project located in southern Chihuahua, Mexico.

The project is located 5km east of the 103,000ha Los Gatos District mineral concession block, which is owned by the Los Gatos joint venture.

As part of the initial test of the principal targets, the company is planning to carry out an eighteen-hole, 5,400m drill campaign at the project.

Gatos said that Santa Valeria seems to hold a similar geologic setting to the Cerro Los Gatos deposit on the eastern flank of the same sedimentary basin.

Gatos Silver CEO Stephen Orr said: “The commencement of drilling at our wholly owned Santa Valeria project represents the achievement of another strategic milestone to broaden Gatos Silver’s mineral asset base.

“Santa Valeria is believed to be a basin-bounding, geologic mirror of Cerro Los Gatos and we are excited to initiate this drill campaign to explore the mineral potential on the eastern half of this prolific basin.

“The Santa Valeria campaign represents the company’s first substantive work outside the Los Gatos District in over seven years. Given the extensive geologic understanding accumulated over the past decade at Cerro Los Gatos, we are eager to deploy this substantial knowledge to advance exploration at Santa Valeria.”

Gatos Silver recently signed an agreement with Dowa Metals & Mining to exercise its right to repurchase an additional 18.5% of the Los Gatos joint venture.

The deal will increase the company’s stake in the joint venture from 51.5% to 70%.

The Los Gatos underground silver-zinc-lead project is located in the municipality of Satevo, Chihuahua, Northern Mexico.

It is operated by Minera Plata Real (MPR), a joint venture between Sunshine Silver Mining and Dowa Metals (DOWA).