Soltera Mining will begin the exploitation of the alluvial part of the El Torno gold property in Argentina.

Soltera president and CEO Dr Fabio Montanari said the company plans to initiate small-scale gold production from surface materials at the property.

The El Torno property is located in the Andean Cordillera close to the international border with Bolivia in a major mineralised belt that stretches several hundred kilometres across Argentina into Bolivia.

The El Torno project spans 78km2 and includes a huge gold-bearing quartz vein system that extends intermittently north-south for 14km with veins up to 20m wide.

The last operation at the site activity stopped in 2007 and the major pieces of processing machinery and workers accommodations are still in tact.

The data on gold tonnage and grade generated by this exploitation activity will be used in the main exploration programme.

Previous production was from surface weathered material that covered one third of a square kilometre located 2km east of the primary gold-bearing vein.

Soltera said it estimates it would be feasible to produce up to 2,000oz of gold per year very quickly with existing machinery and to double this with extra machinery.

This small-scale gold output would also provide vital information on the major targets at El Torno, which are potentially large open pit areas indicated by strong geochemical anomalies, the company said.

Production operations costs are estimated to be up to $400,000 to start up and the value of gold recovered in the first year could be about $1.4m, Soltera said.