Southern Gold’s joint venture (JV) partner Bluebird Merchant Ventures has received the permit to develop the Gubong Gold Mine in South Korea.

Permission was granted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE).

Bluebird expects to receive formal documentation of approval from MOTIE in the coming weeks.

The latest permit was the first one issued to a foreign operator since Ivanhoe Mines received its approval for the Eunsan gold deposit in the late 1990s.

Southern Gold and Bluebird each hold 50% interest in Singaporean company Gubong Project JV.

Gubong Project JV owns 100% of South Korean company Gubong Project.

Both companies share the JV costs equally, while Bluebird is responsible for the day to day operations.

A similar corporate JV is in place for the Kochang Project, which is still in the approval process for receiving a permit to develop.

Southern Gold managing director Simon Mitchell said: “This is a very important milestone for the joint venture, and I congratulate Bluebird as operators in securing the permit to develop for Gubong, the first in many years for a foreign operator, at least as far as we are aware.

“This approval paves the way for the JV to take the Gubong project forward and target first gold pour in 2020, another very important milestone that is now closer to being achieved.

“Compared to other regulatory systems, such as we see in Australia, this is an extremely rapid approval process, taking less than one year since its initial submission.”

In June, Bluebird signed a JV deal with Southern Gold for the Kochang gold and silver project in South Korea.