THE CONFERENCE CALLER: If all goes to plan, Chalice Mining (ASX: CHN) should unequivocally confirm it is sitting on a potential multi-deposit world class mineral province at its wholly-owned Julimar polymetallic play in Western Australia by the middle of the year. By Mark Fraser
The junior will also be able to say if it has made not only Australia’s first major palladium discovery, but is on the cusp of establishing a very large strategic deposit of critical energy metals.
Located around 70 kilometres north east of Perth, the 26km-long Julimar has so far this year been subjected to a busy field program, with the company employing six rigs (three RC and three diamond) to carry out an initial 160,000 metre step-out and resource definition drill program at the (approximate) 1.6 km by (greater than) 0.8 km Gonneville intrusion.
First pass reconnaissance soil sampling and moving loop electromagnetic programs have also started concurrently in the Julimar State Forest just to the north.
Situated on private farmland and within the forest, the project was staked in 2018 as part of Chalice’s global search for high-potential nickel sulphide exploration opportunities.
The company interpreted the possible presence of a mafic-ultramafic layered intrusive complex (aptly called the Julimar Complex) based on high resolution airborne magnetics.
So far, this structure is interpreted to extend over (around) 26km of strike and is confirmed to be highly prospective for nickel, copper and platinum group elements (PGE).
First mover Chalice started a systematic greenfields exploration program over the Gonneville intrusion in mid-2019.
The initial drilling began in the first quarter of 2020 and resulted in the discovery of shallow high grade PGE-nickel-copper-cobalt mineralisation, with the first drill hole (JRC001) intersecting 19m at 8.4 grams per tonne palladium, 1.1 grams per tonne platinum, 2.6 per cent nickel, 1 per cent copper and 0.14 per cent cobalt from 48m.
According to the company, the Gonneville discovery defined the new West Yilgarn nickel-copper-PGE province, with the intrusion being interpreted to be a layered mafic-ultramafic sill with a moderate westerly dip and gentle northerly plunge.
The potential feeder for the system, a highly prospective area for high grade
mineralisation, is yet to be discovered.
However, PGE-nickel-copper-cobalt plus-minus gold sulphide mineralisation was widespread throughout the intrusion and has been intersected down to around 850m below surface. The intrusion is open to the north in the Julimar State Forest and its depth extent remains unknown.
Speaking during the first day of the RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle, Chalice managing director Alex Dorsch said the company had yet to find the limits of the ore body, with the search so far being confined to the southern end of the tenements.
“One of the challenges we’ve got is that thing just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” he told delegates.
“We had the benefit in September of being able to fly airborne EM over the discovery, as well as over all of other untouched area to the north, and you can see there we have this Hartog EM anomaly that extends over about 6.5km, which has yet to have a drill hole in it.
“So you can see (with this) sort of scale that we are really in the top echelon of minerals potential here.”
Earlier in the day Chalice had told the market it had just completed some initial metallurgical testwork which had shown the deposit had high palladium-nickel-copper recoveries which could yield commercially attractive base metal concentrates using simple flotation techniques.
This, Dorsch said, augured well for Chalice becoming a major player in the critical metals sector, with the electric vehicle market being “very dependent on class one nickel-cobalt-cobalt”, while hybrids “are very much dependent on palladium”.
“What’s most interesting to know about PGEs, and what is just emerging at the moment in the market, is really the criticality of these metals if we move to the hydrogen economy.
“So producing, purifying and then ultimately converting hydrogen into electricity through a fuel cell requires lots of PGEs.
“(And) at the moment the vast majority of PGEs come out of Russia and South Africa so there is obviously a big push, and that makes our discovery even more special being in a Western country.”
Although Chalice’s plan was now to have a maiden mineral resource in place for Gonneville by mid- 2021, this was not – according to Dorsch – “the end of the story”.