THE INSIDE STORY: According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there was a 4.9 per cent rise in Australia-wide total mineral exploration expenditure.
In monetary terms that equates to $23 million, resulting in a spend of $498.5 million in the March quarter 2018.
The largest contribution, up four per cent, came from Western Australia, which spent $11.5 million.
ABS’s current quarter estimate is 24.4 per cent higher than its March quarter 2017 estimate.
More money means more drilling, which is a good indication the junior exploration end of town is living up to its job description.
“The trend estimate for metres drilled rose 2.4 per cent in the March quarter 2018,” ABS said in a recent report.
“The current quarter estimate is 13.5 per cent higher than the March quarter 2017 estimate.
“The seasonally adjusted estimate for metres drilled rose 9.4 per cent in the March quarter 2018.”
Although it was a late comer to the battery metal party, nickel has consolidated a place as a potential major contributor to the development of electronic gadgetry.
In the March 2018 Resources and Energy Quarterly from the Office of the Chief Economist, it was noted that, “Nickel prices are expected to remain high during 2018, before easing off as growth in the production of stainless steel slows and supply of pig-iron nickel rises.
The Chief Economist reported that the rising prices resulted in nickel and cobalt exploration expenditure almost tripling year-on-year, to reach $48.9 million in the December 2017 quarter.
Most of this expenditure, once again, came from Western Australia.
Cassini Resources (ASX: CZI) is contributing to these figures by operating a fleet of drill rigs as it progresses its West Musgrave nickel-copper project (WMP) through Pre-Feasibility while commencing exploration on its suite of 100 per cent-owned base and precious metal prospects.
Cassini’s stated objective is to advance the WMP and identify additional high-grade mineralisation to supplement potential ore feed and there are five drill rigs spinning to complete a regional exploration program.
Of five rigs, two are focused on exploration. with the other two carrying out a resource drillout and the final rig is drilling water bores.
The program is funded as part of the Earn-in/JV Agreement Cassini has in place with leading resources company OZ Minerals (ASX: OZL).
OZ Minerals has demonstrated its affection for the WMP from the get go and recently committed to the next stage of the earn-in, under which it will spend $19 million to earn a 51 per cent interest.
OZ will eventually move to a 70 per cent interest in the project through total expenditure of $36 million over a staged 3½ year period, of which there is just over two years remaining.
Cassini remains free carried during the earn-in period, through to a decision to mine.
“OZ Minerals’ present and future commitment to the WMP actually addresses a couple of very important aspects of the entire project,” Cassini Resources managing director Richard Bevan told The Resources Roadhouse.
“It speaks to the amount of investment that OZ Minerals is making to be part of the WMP and the level of importance and priority they place on what they are doing.
“They are very positive about the project, obviously, and they are doing everything they can to progress it through this Study phase as quickly as possible.
“They are allocating a lot of resources, consisting of time, money and people to achieve that.”
The JV is keen to rapidly progress the WMP through the Pre-Feasibility Stage, with the drilling rigs collecting metallurgical samples, completing resource infill at Nebo-Babel, drilling water bores as well as the regional exploration.
“The regional exploration program is now underway at the Yappsu and One Tree Hill prospects,” Bevan explained.
“There is also exploration underway aiming to extend the current Resource at the project around Babel and Nebo that represent opportunities to add some high-grade mineralised extension to the existing Resource
“Our exploration strategy has been around identifying additional high-grade Resources that we can add into the mine plan.
“All of these prospects we are now targeting represent great opportunities to do that.”
Cassini has identified priority WMP targets with the potential for providing high-grade nickel and/or copper mineralisation.
The immediate priorities for the 2018 program will be to follow-up the One Tree Hill discovery made in 2017, the Yappsu prospect, and further drilling at the Succoth copper deposit.
One of the harder operational aspects many smaller exploration/development resources companies encounter is getting market observers to fully understand the depth and range of activity being undertaken across their respective projects.
Cassini is eager to address this situation.
“The WMP is continuing strongly,” Bevan said.
“We have more than 40 people on site and five drill rigs operating, so there is quite a significant amount of work being carried out at present around the Pre-Feasibility Study and regional exploration.
“There is a 40,000 metre in-fill drilling program underway to contribute to a Resource estimate as well as a five to six thousand metre metallurgical program that is expected to drive the next round of processing and recovery testing.
“Throw in the extra exploration activity on top of it and there is plenty happening.”
Cassini has commenced exploration on the company’s wholly-owned West Arunta project where drilling targets have been generated on the back of Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) survey, the company had flown in March 2018. Drilling is expected to commence in late June.
The West Arunta is an early stage sedimentary zinc exploration project in northern WA.
Independent contractor NRG flew its helicopter supported Xcite system, over the extent of the prospective basin, for a total of over 1,000-line kilometres to improve its understanding beyond previous geological interpretation, which was limited to a magnetic survey that had been processed to its limits, broad-spaced soil geochemistry and the very sparse geological data gathered from outcrop and drilling in 2016.
The AEM survey mapped stratigraphic horizons within the sedimentary basin identifying the Dione Horizon, which has been interpreted as a possible discrete, sulphide or graphite-rich and perhaps locally mineralised stratigraphic unit within the broader Bitter Springs Formation.
These are the type of horizons that are usually favourable targets for base metal mineralisation.
Cassini now has four datasets to support the conceptual targets at the Janus and Mimas prospects.
At the time of writing a drill program, designed to test the Janus and Mimas prospects, consisting of approximately 2,000 metres is planned, paid in part by funding provided by the WA Government’s Exploration Incentive Scheme.
“It’s worth noting that the Dione Horizon is not uniformly conductive but rather, is more conductive close to the major northeast trending fault corridor that defines the basin margin in this area,” Bevan said.
“This is consistent with the conductivity relating to hydrothermal sulphides controlled by basin margin permeability.
“The 2016 drilling did not test the Dione Horizon, but instead focussed on the gossanous outcrops which now appear to have resulted by ‘down-dip’ lateral dispersion through the weathering profile.
“Including the AEM data means the conceptual targets at Mimas and Janus are now each supported by several anomalous features drawn from independent data sets and are clearly the highest priority targets for future drilling.”
Cassini Resources Limited (ASX: CZI)
…The Short Story
10 Richardson Street
West Perth WA 6005
Phone: +61 8 6164 8900
Mike Young, Richard Bevan, Dr Jon Hronsky, Phil Warren, Greg Miles