Neometals Benefitting from Battery Beneficiation

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: There’s no denying Neometals (ASX: NMT) – the self-proclaimed “sustainable investment of choice going forward” – is in a league of its own when it comes to the smaller capped mineral houses listed on the Australian bourse. By Mark Fraser

The multi-pronged outfit has its fingers in a number of pies, with all of them relating, in some way or another, to electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage batteries technologies.

During his appearance at the 20th RIU Explorers Conference held in Fremantle last week, Neometals managing director Chris Reed was fairly selective when it came to discussing his company’s undeniably eclectic project portfolio.

Rather than talk about all five of Neometals’ major endeavours, including an advanced conventional nickel exploration play in its home state of Western Australia, Reed focused on two – both of which involve what could be described as above-ground “deposits” that negate the production of carbon dioxide.

The first was its 50:50 incorporated Joint Venture with the German SMS group GmbH to fully develop, and commercialise, its lithium-ion battery recycling technology, while the second involved its vanadium recovery JV in Sweden with unlisted Scandinavian-focused explorer Critical Metals.

In terms of the former, the WA-based company has developed a process flowsheet (known as LIB Recycling Technology) which targets the recovery of valuable materials from consumer electronic batteries – including devices with lithium-cobalt oxide cathodes as well as nickel‐rich EV and stationary storage battery chemistries containing lithium‐nickel-manganese‐cobalt cathodes.

Ultimately, this technology is designed to recover cobalt, nickel, lithium, copper, iron, aluminium, carbon and manganese and turn them into saleable products that can be reused in the battery supply chain.

A 2019 scoping study, based on earlier bench scale testwork, highlighted robust project economics. Data from the successful pilot program is guiding current demonstration trials as well as engineering and feasibility studies. A demonstration plant is being constructed at Hilchenbach, which sits 100 kilometres from Dusseldorf.

During the RIU show Reed suggested the circuit was not just concerned with battery recycling, but would effectively result in the establishment of a base metals refinery, albeit one that was “hydromet not a pyromet”.

“So we just feed batteries into it – that’s all,” he remarked.

“And we beneficiate them too … these grades will double by the time we put them into a leach circuit.

“We did this in Australia and we are using solvent extraction developed in Mt Isa.

“So, we can take batteries of any format, in any state of charge, we safely process them, take out the plastics, the scrap, the metal and aluminium foils, and we get black mass, which is the graphite anode and the battery materials – nickel, lithium, cobalt, manganese – (and we) dissolve them in sulphuric acid, and sequentially strip them out.

“And why we are focused in Germany is 60 per cent of Europe’s battery making operations will be in Germany, and you’ve got the best car makers there, which is fantastic.

“And we’ve secured, for our first demonstration trial, 25 tonnes of EV batteries from one of the leading German car makers. And at the next trial we will run the stationary energy storage batteries and we’ve got about half the feed for that.”

In terms of the vanadium project, which is also a 50:50 JV, Neometals and Critical Metals are evaluating the feasibility of recovering high purity (over 99.5 per cent) vanadium products from three high grade vanadium-bearing steel by-product stockpiles (slag) in Scandinavia owned by SSAB.

Under the agreement, the ASX-listed company will fund and manage the evaluation activities up to the consideration of an investment decision.

According to Neometals, the deal provides a secure basis for the evaluation of an operation capable of processing 200,000t of slag per annum without the need to build a mine and concentrator like existing primary producers.

Other attractive project attributes include the fact the processing flowsheet uses conventional equipment at atmospheric pressure and mild temperatures and there is potentially saleable by-product generation. In addition, there is the likely possibility of a very low, or net zero, greenhouse gas footprint given the absence of mining and a processing route requiring the sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Reed told RIU delegates that while the process would work using sulphuric acid, that would generate a sulphate tail.

“These guys won’t let you do that – they are all tree huggers and stuff like that in Scandinavia,” he said.

“So we’ve developed a process which is essentially a carbonate leach; like a really super-charged soda water.

“You get about 75 per cent extraction, but the tails are carbonate. And so we will actually sequest 65,000 tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for this project, and given that grade (around 3.93 per cent vanadium pentoxide) it’ll be the lowest cost quartile every day of the week.

“It’s fantastic. It’s not very often that you ever see a project where you’ve got 10 years stockpiled, and these guys are making 240,000 tonnes a year excess on the stockpiles.

“By the time we build it there will be bloody three million tonnes there.

“So, it’s fantastic – I’ve got to say we’ve never been happier with any project we are earning into.”

Reed said Neometals had developed a “fantastic team with a lot of metallurgical and mining skills” that it inherited after developing the Mt Marion lithium project in WA.

“(With) the development and sale of that we’ve given back $55 million in dividends in the last five years (and) we’ve still got $80 million in cash and investments and no debt,” he added.

“What we do and what we present to our shareholders is an unparalleled exposure to this megatrend in these commodities.

“So, we sat back a number of years ago – we got into recycling in 2016 after we started developing Mt Marion because we knew there were better places to be in the supply chain.”


Kaiser Reef to Explore NSW via Victoria Mine Restart

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: A decision to effectively re-list shortly after making its debut on the Australian bourse seems to have paid off for Kaiser Reef (ASX: KAU) as it joins the ranks of domestic gold producers. By Mark Fraser

Having established an initially modest cash cow in the form of the A1 mine in Victoria’s Maldon Goldfield, the company is now free to pursue one of its original goals – to go out and explore a prospective chunk of the northern Lachlan Ford Belt (LFB) in New South Wales.

When Kaiser Reef first listed in February 2020, going into NSW was a priority. But shortly after it started trading on the ASX, the company identified what it believed would be a compelling and strategically attractive acquisition.

This was the combined assets of the historic A1 operation, the Porcupine Flat Maldon gold processing plant and four granted mining leases, which Kaiser Reef purchased from administrators after raising $7.5 million during the second half of last year.

First discovered in 1861, A1 had already produced 620,000 gold ounces from ore grading an average of 25.9 grams per tonne by the time Kaiser Reef bought it. First gold was poured by the proud new owner within a week of re-listing during the summer of 2020/21.

Speaking during the 20th RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle last week, Kaiser Reef executive director Jonathan Downes said as the Victorian operation had no reserves and minimal resources added to its inventory while under administration, building a resource base via exploration was now on top of the company’s to do list.

And there was, he suggested, an opportunity to increase A1’s production rate by the middle of the year by supplementing the current air leg mining through the use of long hole open stoping methods.

“The strategy right now is to continue the current drilling to find some proper reserves and put the company back on its feet after a long period of being in that sort of administration process,” Downes explained.

“It’s going to take us several months to really get the first resources and reserves back into the company. It did have some significant resources – we deleted those because we wanted to start from scratch and have a lot of veracity behind the work that we proceed with now.”

Shortly after the RIU show, Kaiser Reef showed it was serious when it told investors that the latest drilling results from A1 had included gold intercepts like 12.1 metres at 24.26 grams per tonne from 20m and 1.8m at 11.6 grams per tonne from 81.7m.

This second result included a higher grade zone of 5m at 44.3 grams per tonne from 20m and another one of 5.1m at 13.7 grams per tonne – separated by a 0.3m core-loss interval.

Furthermore, the above-mentioned 5m at 44.29 grams per tonne interval contained 1m at 187.25 grams per tonne from 20-21m, which was within a strongly altered dyke (pervasive carbonate and sericite alteration) with disseminated sulphides.

This drilling program, Kaiser Reef said, continued to expand into resource definition for short and medium term production horizons, with around 4,000m to be completed.

Moreover, this would see more drilling at A1 in four months than there had been the three years prior, which in itself was important for the planning and development of an expanded mining operation.

During the RIU show Downes suggested the company was already more-than-happy with its Victorian investment.

“Because we just purchased this project out of administration, we didn’t pay a market price for the asset – we paid what it cost to settle with creditors, deal with administrators and bring this thing back into listing,” he said.

“So we bought something at a non-market price, which is why we have an enterprise value today of less than $35 million which, I may be wrong, but I think that is possibly Australia’s lowest priced operating gold mine.”

While the Maldon acquisition may have re-routed some of Kaiser Reef’s original corporate direction, the company hasn’t forgotten about its NSW LFB tenure, where it has two key exploration projects.

The first, the wholly-owned Stuart Town, is located on the trend just north of Newcrest Mining’s (ASX: NCM) giant Cadia gold copper mine and Alkane Resource’s (ASX: ALK) Boda discovery in the state’s central west, while just to the north west is Macquarie North, where some of the conceptual targets are large scale porphyries, “in areas beyond the belts you see the traditional porphyry mines”.

Downes told the RIU crowd that Stuart Town contained a coincident gravity and magnetic target directly below some gold workings as well as large scale geophysical targets modelled at shallow depth and not yet drill tested.

“Stuart Town may have the densest group of gold workings in NSW, and to say it has been underexplored is an understatement,” he said.

“CRA did do a detailed soil survey there and found some huge soil anomalies.

“We have been out there – we’ve been drilling. And we’ve got gold in every drill hole. We found it was very course gold so a lot more met work is going on trying to work out exactly what that gold is composed of.”

As for Macquarie North, its location at the northern end of the Macquarie Arc augers well given these rocks host some of Australia’s largest copper-gold mines.

Downes said this project contained large scale geophysical targets that were yet to be drill tested.

Obvious mineralisation, he maintained, was being obscured by shallow-to-medium overburden.

“That will probably be the last project we get to – it’s still only at an exploration application stage,” he added.



Calidus Resources Poised for Pilbara Gold Production

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: Those looking to quell any doubts regarding the potential of Western Australia’s Pilbara region as a future major gold producing hub should look no further than the example being set by Calidus Resources (ASX: CAI) at its emerging Warrawoona project. By Mark Fraser

While a lot of the oxygen in the small end of town gold space is currently being sucked up by the success of WA-based explorer De Grey Mining (ASX: DEG), Calidus has diligently been working its way towards becoming a producer by the first half of 2022.

The company is currently on the path to establishing a $120 million operation with an average production of 90,000 ounces per annum at a life-of-mine all-in sustainable cost of $1,290 per ounce over an initial eight year (and three month) life.

During this time Calidus is planning to mine 17.6 million tonnes grading 1.24 grams per tonne for 702,000oz (with the recovered gold content being 658,277oz).

Meanwhile, the scheduled ore processing rate is 2.4Mtpa (oxides) and 2Mtpa (fresh material) with the average life-of-mine recovery being 94.4%.

The key feasibility outputs, at a gold price of $2,500 per ounce, include an EBITDA of $110 million a year, a post-tax project free cashflow of $447 million, a post IRR of 69%, a post-tax NPV of $286 million and a payback period of 13 months.

Warrawoona currently has ore reserves of 14.3Mt grading 1.2 grams per tonne for 547,000oz, while the company’s total resource inventory sits at 43.7Mt grading 1.06 grams per tonne for 1.5 million oz.

During the 20th RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle, Calidus managing director Dave Reeves said later this quarter the company planned to release an integration study on the Blue Spec deposit – a super high grade resource containing 219,000oz grading 16.3 grams per tonne – with the intention of bringing it into the current mine plan and increasing production “significantly on an annual basis”.

Located about 70km to the south-south east of Warrawoona, Blue Spec covers a strike length of 8km and remains open down-dip and along strike.

Made up of two ore bodies that is separated along strike by 1km, Blue Spec was mined in the 1970s.

“It is an ore body that requires flotation – we will have a little flotation circuit to the side of Warrawoona, so we will produce gravity gold, a flotation concentrate, and we will then also put the tails through the CIL,” Reeves explained.

“So, we will get about 20-25 per cent of the gold through the Warrawoona gold plant and 75 per cent through concentrate sales – (there is) a very simple circuit in that and one we see as very low risk.

“The scoping study will be out this quarter, the DFS (will be) out around the first gold pour so that when things settle down at Warrawoona we can press the button on this and bring it in as quickly as we can, because you don’t often get 16 gram ore bodies – in fact I think it is the first one I have been involved with, so it has been an absolute pleasure.”

Main construction is set to begin this quarter. Early site works – including the installation of an accommodation village, water bores, communications and access roads – have been completed.

Reeves said he “couldn’t agree more” that the Pilbara was the place to be for an emerging gold producer.

“If you have a look, yesterday Novo (Resources – TSX: NVO) poured their first bar of gold from their Beatons Creek operation at Nullagine to the south east of us, Capricorn (Metals – ASX: CMM) will be pouring gold to the south of Newman later this year, we will be pouring gold early next year, so it is certainly an epicentre of gold development in WA,” he said.

“De Grey is obviously out there kicking goals, and there are a lot of other deposits as well.”

“So it’s a fantastic place to be from the gold perspective.”


Carawine Resources Encamped on the East and West Coasts

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: While he didn’t exactly give the game away during his formal presentation at the RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle, Carawine Resources (ASX: CWX) boss David Boyd does have a couple of favourites when it comes to his company’s five highly prospective Australian exploration projects. By Mark Fraser

While Boyd told Resources Roadhouse he was still pretty much sitting on the fence when it came to Carawine’s extensive and diversified minerals portfolio, he had to admit there were a couple of standouts for him – and they were the first two mentioned during his time at the RIU podium.

The first is the Tropicana North gold project in his home state of WA, where the company has 80 kilometres of strike in the prospective Tropicana Belt some 400km north east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and is now looking at multiple targets.

Meanwhile, the second is the Jamieson gold-copper-zinc play in Victoria’s south east Lachlan Fold Belt, home of the high-grade Hill 50 gold deposit as well as a number of interesting porphyry targets.

“In the second half of last year we did two deals – one with a combined interest in a couple of granted tenements to the north and south of Tropicana and another deal to give us a big bunch of application ground which – together with the ground Carawine had pegged previously – basically gave us the second largest holding throughout that Tropicana Belt,” Boyd explained.

“And we’ve just finished 100-odd holes there – over December and into January we did around 3,000 metres of RC drilling and 4,000m of aircore.

“It’s a really exciting prospect, so in terms of what’s new and exciting for the company it’s definitely the Tropicana stuff, and we will see those results come through.

“But Jamieson has been bit of a mainstay for us – there’s a gold system there that is good to chase down.

“So they would be the two right now.”

In relation to Tropicana North, Carawine – as 90% partner – formed a Joint Venture with Thunderstruck Investments to take a closer look at, amongst some other prospects, the advanced Hercules and Atlantis targets which, combined, have already returned assays like 3m at 12 grams per tonne from 49m, 10m at 4.02 grams per tonne from 127m, 15m at 21 grams per tonne from 50m and 9m at 5.19g/t from 63m.

Meanwhile, over in north east Victoria, the company has also launched another drilling campaign focusing on the Jamieson volcanics, where it is confident it has found links with the prospective Stavely volcanics (in western Victoria) and Tasmania’s Mt Read volcanics.

Although down-plunge extension drilling at Hill 50 has revealed promising gold-only intercepts like 50m at 3.08 grams per tonne and 101m at 1.44 grams per tonne, other holes have included copper mineralisation as well.

These include 43m at 4.24 grams per gold and 0.3 per cent copper (with 5m at 24.1 grams per tonne gold and 0.4 per cent copper) as well as 67m at 2.94 grams per tonne gold and 0.1 per cent copper (including 11m at 13.9 grams per tonne gold and 0.2 per cent copper).

Another interesting aspect of the Carawine story is the fact it has formed a few JVs with some serious mining houses – with two partners being Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) and Fortescue Metals (ASX: FMG) at its Paterson copper-gold project in WA’s east Pilbara.

With the West Paterson target, Rio Tinto has farmed-in to the tune of $5.5 million and can earn up to 80% in a discovery.

In the meantime, just to the south east at Coolbro, Fortescue’s $6.1 million farm-in can earn the iron ore miner up to 75% in any ore body found.

“When we did those deals we had already done a bit of our own work, generated targets and lifted them up to the next stage of the exploration process,” Boyd said.

“We then looked at where we could spend our money, which is hard fought for and generously guarded, and thought about where it could be best spent – at where we would get our best bang for our buck.

“So at that time we thought we would be better off concentrating on our other projects and letting the likes of Rio and FMG, who are already active in the area, become involved.

“The outlook here is probably a little longer term, but we’re happy to give away some of the interest in these projects and see these farm-in partners spend the money to advance them.

“Ultimately the outcome of these deals in the Paterson is about $12 million being spent in the ground that we don’t have to find ourselves.”



Aruma Resources Pitches New Gold Camp

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: Gold explorer Aruma Resources (ASX: AAJ) is living proof the market doesn’t always respond appropriately to the release of a promising set of drill results. By Mark Fraser

On the day the company’s managing director Peter Schwann spoke at the RIU Explorers Conference in Western Australia, Aruma had just published the initial assay results from 37 of a 40 hole 4,518 metre maiden RC drilling program at its Saltwater gold project in WA’s Pilbara.

On face value this all should have generated some investor interest for the company.

For a start 14 out of 37 holes hit anomalous gold (over 0.2 grams per tonne), while the results extended over a 4 kilometre strike length (which was open in all directions), indicating the presence of a possible new gold camp.

Furthermore, according to Schwann, a supergene gold blanket in excess of 200m in width was identified.

In addition, the results confirmed the Saltwater anomaly, returned assays of up to 1.26 grams per tonne and validated the outcropping Saltwater ring structure, which in turn highlighted a target area of 65 square kilometres.

The market, however, did not seem bullish, with Aruma’s share price dropping from 0.094 to 0.074 cents – a fall of 21.28 per cent.

“Now the question I have to ask is: why do we want to do greenfields exploration?” a seemingly perplexed Schwann asked RIU delegates.

“We put out good results this morning and bang – down we go.

“But the rewards are great. They’re there, De Grey and Chalice prove it.

“So that’s the rant – the rant is over.”

Aruma’s close-spaced drilling targeted old workings at the historic Saltwater mining area within the recently identified and prospective Mt McGrath Formation, host of the Mt Olympus gold mine.

Meanwhile the wider-spaced holes aimed at the extension of the contact and structure under cover some 3km to the east.
Aruma told the ASX that the supergene blanket was located almost 4km from the Saltwater cluster and highlighted the potential for a significant system – with the intersection of 4m at 0.47g/t in hole SRC 32.

Saltwater has eight granted exploration licences covering 736 square km. It sits around 100km south west of Newman and enjoys a strike extent of more than 65km of the highly significant Nanjilgardy Fault, the same regional structure reported as the primary source of gold mineralisation at Northern Star Resources’ (ASX: NST) Paulsens gold mine and Mt Olympus.

Despite the confused reaction from the market regarding the Saltwater drill results, Schwann still made his case for Aruma being an investment destination just before he stood down from the RIU podium.

The company, he said, offered organic growth via project generation for large gold discoveries in Australia.

It also wholly-owns large prospective project areas near major gold deposits in underexplored areas in both WA (Saltwater, Melrose and Scotia South) and New South Wales (Capital) that combined cover 1,572sqkm.

In addition the junior is debt-free and has $3 million in cash and receivables.

Just as important, though, is the fact Aruma does not plan to idly sit around.

“We’re going to be drilling, drilling, drilling,” Schwann said.

“And the good thing about our money is that we spend our money one and a half times.

“These are the R and D returns that we have got back since I took over in 2011 ($9,570,754, or a 43.8% return, creating a tax benefit of $4,189,894), so you can see we’ve got about $4 million – about the same as a float.”



AuTECO Minerals Revitalising Pickle Crow

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: Canada-focused AuTECO Minerals (ASX: AUT) wants to make one thing clear – it is not just revitalising an historic gold mine at its Pickle Crow gold brownfield project in Ontario, but is on the verge of establishing a major new gold camp. By Mark Fraser

The Perth-based company is now in the process of updating the project’s resource inventory and is looking to have new numbers in place sometime during the second quarter of 2021.

It plans, however, to also devote part of its current drilling campaign towards looking for further regional targets based on encouraging historical data.

The project, which sits 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay in the Canadian province of Ontario, clocked up historic production of 3.1 million tonnes grading 16.1 grams per tonne for 1.05 million ounces between 1935-1966.

Although the company is encouraged by the drilling results coming from within the proverbial shadow of the headframe, regional assays have suggested there is more in the area than has previously met the eye.

During his appearance at the 20th RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle, AuTECO chief operating office Darren Cooke said it was important to note that limited systematic exploration had taken place outside of the immediate Pickle Crow mine area which had revealed broad camp-scale mineralisation and compelling walk-up discovery targets.

Although previous work had shown structures parallel to the main Core Mine shear contained indications of significant gold mineralisation, limited follow-up activities were completed.

Some of these historical regional gold intercepts included 1.7 metres at 36.6 grams per tonne from 15.1m (Springer Shaft), 4.6m at 9.3 grams per tonne from 27.1m, (F Vein), 6.1m at 7.3 grams per tonne from 86.6m (SW Powerhouse) and 6m at 7.7 grams per tonne from 232m (East Pat Shear).

So far AuTECO has completed almost half (around 20,000m) of its 45,000m drill campaign and currently has four rigs on site. Cooke said it was now trying to procure a fifth one to up the field ante.

As it stands the company has already established a resource of 2.8 million tonnes at 11.3 grams per tonne for 1 million ounces.

Its tenure covers 496 square kilometres with 106 patented mining claims, with the regional exploration focus being on the Pickle Lake Greenstone Belt and Sioux Lookout.

Importantly, the project boasts on-site surface and below ground infrastructure including three main shafts, 38km of lateral development, a 225 tonne per day processing plant, a 24 person camp, a 600 kilowatt generator as well as a core processing facility.

In addition it is grid-connected to hydropower.

Cooke said he sometimes referred to Pickle Crow as the “Kundana of Canada” as the project contained numerous analogues to other stand-alone deposits that had been discovered on parallel trends – including the Kundana camp in WA, which has yielded over 9 million gold ounces.

Aside from the fact they are both the same deposit type (Archean orogenic vein), Kundana also has similar host rocks (a mafic sequence with interflow sediments proximal to conglomerates), structural architecture (a multi-phase history with sub parallel shear zones and Riedel shear geometrics) as well as similar mineralisation (both are high grade narrow vein low sulphide quartz-carbonate-scheelite veins with a predominantly steep dip).

Cooke also noted that Pickle Crow was second on a list of emerging tier-1 exploration properties in North America and Australia which have over 1 million ounces in resources, but no reserves.

The first is dual-listed international mining giant Barrick Gold Corporation’s (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) REN project in the US state of Nevada, which currently contains 1.65 million oz at a resource grade of 13.4 grams per tonne.



Firefly Resources Bitten by the Gold Bug

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: Having spun off its manganese assets into an oversubscribed IPO, Firefly Resources (ASX: FFR) is now set to devote its corporate attention to three predominantly gold exploration plays in Western Australia. By Mark Fraser

The first – which provided a “defining moment” in the company’s evolution when it acquired the asset last year and will take up most of its oxygen in the foreseeable future – is the historic Yalgoo gold project in the state’s Murchison, where the company holds 800 square kilometres of tenure covering real estate that has already yielded 140,000 gold ounces at a grade of 1.57 grams per tonne.

Over the coming year Firefly plans to drill 30,000 RC metres at Yalgoo as part of a resource upgrade. At the moment it has two rigs on site, with the company planning to employ a third rig during March.

The second cab off the rank is the Paterson copper-gold project in WA’s remote east Pilbara, which is currently at the early exploration stage.

Here, Firefly has around 600 square kilometres of highly prospective rocks in the under-explored Paterson Province. So far it has found some interesting copper-gold mineralisation less than 100m below surface – including grades of 6.5% copper, 1 gram per tonne gold and 900 parts per million molybdenum.

Finally, there’s the early stage Forrestonia gold project, which sits 380km east of Perth on the southern portion of the Forrestonia Greenstone Belt, where the company plans to follow up on some small discoveries at a later date.

For the time being, though, the focus is on Yalgoo, where the company is expecting to establish an update resource for the Melville gold deposit while advancing another seven firm gold prospects.

During the second day of the 2021 RIU Explorers Conference in WA, Firefly Resources managing director Simon Lawson said the company held almost 95 per cent of the upper northern part of the Yalgoo Greenstone Gold Belt.

“What I want to drive home to people is that we are pretty much alone on that belt, it’s already proven that it can produce gold and we have a number of different prospects that can become JORC 2012 resources very quickly,” he said.

In terms of the Melville deposit – which produced the aforementioned 140,000 ounces and was last subjected to a resource estimate in 2004 when the (Australian) gold price was $500 per ounce – Lawson noted that it contained thick high grade mineralisation in the main banded iron formation and further high-grade intercepts from 142m, reinforcing the recently discovered mineralised position both to the east and below the historic resource.

Furthermore, there was a broad mineralised oxide profile between the surface and 12m depth.

“One of the things we sort of discovered during the process of reviewing the old data, and during our own drilling, is that there is mineralisation from surface over a very extensive part of this ore body, and we are going to work on that as a separate model with the intention that we would like to commercialise that as an oxide gold opportunity,” Lawson explained.

Outside of Melville, Firefly has seven other prospects at Yalgoo with four of them (City of Melbourne, Brilliant, Lady Lydia, Prince George and Crescent) all having historic resources.

On the day before Lawson appeared at the RIU conference, Firefly announced it had spun out its Oakover manganese assets – located 80km east on Newman in WA – into a $5.5 million wholly-own IPO to be called Firebird Metals.

“The proposed IPO creates value from a non-core asset,” he added.

“Firefly shareholders will see the in-specie distribution of the shares in this company.

“Firefly won’t retain that value – we will give it to our shareholders. We will get a little bit of cash back from the initial IPO, but the majority of that will go out to our shareholders.”


Ardea Resources Goongarrie Resources Upgrade Sparks Interest

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: Following what has literally been decades in the making, 2021 could be the year that marks a major turning point in the evolution of one of Western Australia’s most anticipated critical metals projects. By Mark Fraser

With its Kalgoorlie Nickel Project (KNP), Ardea Resources (ASX: ARL) is confident it is sitting on one of the largest nickel-cobalt ore bodies in the developed world – a boast which is not unreasonable given it has a current resource inventory of 826 million tonnes of ore grading 0.7 per cent nickel and 0.046 per cent cobalt (for 5.8 Mt of contained nickel metal and 384,000t of contained cobalt).

Sitting within the western portion of the KNP tenements just 70 kilometres to the north west of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is the Goongarrie Nickel Cobalt Project (GNCP), which on its own contains resources that extend over 25km of strike.

Here the company has a resource – using a nickel cut-off grade of 0.5% – of 259 million tonnes at 0.7% nickel and 0.046% cobalt for 1.82 million tonnes and 119,200 tonnes of contained metal respectively.

These numbers were the result of a resource upgrade at Goongarrie, which Ardea announced on the day before this year’s RIU Explorers Conference in WA, where the junior presented during the opening day.

While at the podium, the company’s managing director and chief executive Andrew Penkethman was keen to make it clear that this mineralised reboot included the addition of 2,590 tonnes of contained scandium to the inventory.

It also meant the high grade component of the KNP was now 60 million tonnes at 1% nickel and 0.074 per cent cobalt for 595,000 tonnes of contained nickel and 44 tonnes of contained cobalt.

With numbers like this, Penketham suggested, the company is confident it is well placed to provide the world with essential supplies of ethically-sourced nickel and cobalt, along with other critical minerals like scandium and the rare earths duo of neodymium and cerium.

“With our ASX resource update released to the market yesterday, the core takeaway there is the 60 million tonnes at 1 per cent nickel (which) demonstrates high grade continuity,” he said.

“Our current base case is a 2 million tonnes per annum processing plant (at the GNCP), so you can see in sight ample production capacity.

“And again I’d just like to stress that Goongarrie is only the start of the KNP resource update – the next cab off the rank is Highway, located 30 kilometres to the north, so it is within easy hauling distance.”

While WA’s nickel laterite projects have something of a chequered history dating back to the late 1990s when Murrin Murrin, Cawse and Bulong all came on-stream only to be collectively plagued with a slew of ramp-up issues, Ardea is confident its so-called “WINNER” (Water, In-pit Neutraliser and Nickel Enhanced Reserve) strategy will add further value to the development of the GNCP and support the production aspirations of the KNP.

Part of this will involve a resource update of the Goongarrie Line, which is due to be completed during the March quarter, while resource estimation work is – as already mentioned – expected to continue on Highway, which represents a potential high grade satellite ore source for the proposed 2 Mtpa high pressure acid leach (HPAL) planned for the GNCP.

Ardea believes the latest Goongarrie resource update will be another large step forward in this initiative and, in addition to nickel and cobalt resources, will embrace the scandium, manganese and aluminium components.

Follow-up open pit optimisations are anticipated to target over 1% nickel leach feed grade, while plant optimisation will be complemented by mineralised neutraliser.

According to Ardea, neutraliser that can be sourced during open pit mining at Goongarrie is considered a large advantage over peer projects as it reduces the consumables that need to be purchased and transported to site, thereby reducing carbon emissions and lowers operating cost.

Ultimately, the aim is to optimise plant feed grades to the HPAL plant exceeding 1% nickel for at least 15 years. Options such as developing a second GNCP 2Mtpa HPAL train will also be considered, dependent upon the production requirements of the successful strategic partner.



Trigg Mining Declares Lake Throssell Target

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: If there is one compelling reason to invest in specialist sulphate of potash (SOP) explorer Trigg Mining (ASX: TMG) it’s that people have to eat. By Mark Fraser

Describing itself as a modern, purpose-driven exploration house set on helping to deliver global food security, Trigg plans to employ a sustainable “mining” method – the solar evaporation of hyper-saline brine – to produce a SOP premium mineral fertiliser essential for the production of high value agricultural products.

The company controls around 1,585 square kilometres of tenure covering two projects in Western Australia’s north eastern Goldfields, which includes 380 square kilometres of playa lakes and 140km of paleochannels – all of which are prospective for SOP mineralisation.

These projects lie near the terminus of extensive palaeovalley catchment areas
(ancient river valleys) which extend for over 500km and are underlain by potassium-bearing source rocks (namely granites, sandstones and salt diapirs).

Here, brine solutions carrying potassium mineralisation have been concentrating in
the palaeovalleys and salt lakes (evaporite systems) for millions of years.

Trigg’s flagship project, the high-grade Lake Throssell, covers 1,085sqkm and has around 70km of interpreted palaeovalley extent.

So far the highest SOP grade discovered in this tenure has been 14,800 milligrams per litre, while the initial results for the current air core drilling program – drilled to a depth of up to 130 metres – returned an average grade of 9,772 milligrams per litre.

Furthermore, 92% of all samples taken to date have revealed grades exceeding 9,000 milligrams per litre, while 64% are over 10,000 milligrams per litre.

Meanwhile, the junior’s second project – Lake Rason – is currently being seen as a potential satellite ore body.

It covers 500sqkm and includes 194sqkm of playa lake and 64km of interpreted palaeovalley.

Importantly, it already has an inferred mineral resource of 6 million tonnes at 5,080 milligrams per litre SOP and the potential to increase volume and grade to the west, with the western-most hole drilled (LRTAC001) returning results of up to 6,645 milligrams per litre.

Just before appearing at the RIU Explorers Conference in WA, the company announced that recent exploration success had enabled a sizeable initial high grade exploration target to be estimated at Lake Throssell, with outstanding growth potential.

This target was approximately 7.5 to 27 million tonnes at a grade ranging between 9,000 and 10,000 milligrams litre SOP equivalent and covered a strike length of around 70km of the interpreted palaeovalley within a total strike length of about 112km under tenure – including adjacent tenements under application.

Trigg said high grades and multiple potential aquifers were encountered throughout the profile, meaning that trenching and the establishment of deep production bores were possible.

Earlier this month the company also announced that 2021 air core drilling at Lake Throssell, where field work completed in 2020 within the northern half of the project area (16 holes for 1806m representing some 40 per cent of the program), confirmed the presence of a broad palaeovalley at least 1km wide, with some areas potentially broadening up to 3-4km wide.

Assay results were positive, returning high grades of up to 11,519 milligrams per litre SOP (or 11.5 kilograms per cubic metre) with an average grade of 9,772 milligrams per litre SOP.

During her appearance at the RIU conference, Trigg managing director and chief executive Keren Peterson said the company was looking to establish a maiden JORC resource in the second quarter of 2002.

“So that (February 16) announcement – that exploration target – has us very excited because it is substantial,” she noted.

“This is a project that has never had any drilling done until we got out there (last) July.

“And it’s taken a fair bit of innovation … because it is of substantial scale.

“It’s going to be big. It’s going to have a long life when we bring it into production, and it’s got the grade to do that.”

Petersen said SOP was an essential fertiliser for high value, chloride sensitive crops like fruit, vegetables, avocados, coffee beans, grapes, tree nuts, cocoa and anything grown under glass and in arid and acidic soils.

In addition, with the natural endowment of the minerals dissolved in brine and the ability to harvest solar evaporation to produce SOP, brine producers were generally low cost ones.



Azure Minerals Drills Andover, Andover Again

THE CONFERENCE CALLER: If Azure Minerals (ASX: AZS) and Joint Venture partner the Creasy Group continue to tackle 2021 at the same cracking pace they found themselves moving in the field during the second half of 2020, they could find themselves nominated for the Craig Oliver Award at next year’s RIU Explorers Conference. By Mark Fraser

Just eight days before his appearance at the 2021 RIU show, Azure managing director Tony Rovira told the market that an ongoing drilling campaign at the emerging Andover base metals project in Western Australia’s Pilbara had revealed new zones of nickel-copper sulphide mineralisation to the east of the highly prospective VC-23 prospect.

In particular, four new drill holes (ANDD0012, 0013, 0016 and 0017) intersected shallow sulphide mineralisation associated with electromagnetic (EM) conductors at VC-23.

These latest holes followed on from multiple mineralised intersections in the first three ones announced during the second half of January, ultimately resulting in the impressive discovery of mineralisation in seven VC-23 holes.

ANDD0012 intersected 4.6 metres of continuous massive and semi-massive nickel-copper sulphides within a 19.4m-wide mineralised envelope coincident with a previously undrilled EM conductor.

Meanwhile, ANDD0013, 0016 and 0017 demonstrated continuity of sulphide mineralisation over 150m of strike, which remained open both along strike and down-dip.

High nickel and copper grades were subsequently confirmed by pXRF and verified by Azure’s on-site geologists. Two other rigs are now set to continue drilling the VC-7 conductor plate.

During his appearance at the RIU conference, Rovira said the JV partners had – after joining forces in August last year – initially identified 10 targets which indicated bedrock-hosted sulphide accumulations after conducting a number of fix looped surface EM surveys.

The project area, which covers 7,000 square kilometres and sits just south of the small town of Roebourne, had been in the hands of legendary WA prospector Mark Creasy, whose company had carried out a small amount of RC drilling in 2018, intersecting a small amount of nickel and copper mineralisation in the areas which are now known as VC-23 and VC-07.

“In addition to that there are numerous other EM conductors throughout the project and all of them are just waiting there to be drilled – they have never been drill tested, so there are a lot of opportunities on the property for finding bedrock-hosted sulphide mineralisation and potential nickel and copper-rich mineralisation,” Rovira explained.

Rovira said to date a total of 10 diamond holes had been drilled at Andover for 4,200m, with every one of them intersecting nickel and copper sulphide mineralisation.

“One of the holes has drilled over the top of the magnetic conductor and only intersected minor mineralisation, but the other nine all went through the modelled locations and all nine of those hit significant quantities of massive, and semi massive, and other styles of nickel and copper sulphide mineralisation,” he noted.

“So, to date we have tested the eastern 200m strike length of that VC-07 conductor (and) there’s at least another 800m further to the west for us to test, and we are expanding our drilling out along strike and to the west as we go.

“And the drilling is continuing – and at this stage we consider this to be: we’ve identified the body; we have a great understanding of the shape and the potential size of the body. So the diamond drilling we are doing now is with the intention of being able to produce a mineral resource at the completion of the drilling program.

“And importantly where we have drilled into EM conductors we have hit nickel and copper sulphide mineralisation – it is actually a 100 per cent hit rate.”

Azure holds a 60 per cent stake in Andover, while the Creasy Group has the remaining 40 per cent.