There has been plenty of column space across industry media devoted to the unfortunate tailings dam disaster suffered by Brazilian iron ore giant Vale.
There has also been an equal amount of column space dedicated to how our domestic iron ore titans of BHP, RIO and FMG would be the beneficiaries of the tragedy, given that iron ore customers worldwide would need to tap them to fill the shortfall.
Throw into that mix the affects of a recent cyclone on RIO’s Western Australian operations and the global stockpile just got a touch smaller.
What hasn’t received too much attention, is that there are plenty of junior companies with reserves of iron ore that only need to push a button to get their operations up and running and profitable.
Case in point: Venture Minerals (ASX: VMS) and the company’s Riley DSO iron ore mine in Tasmania.
Venture Minerals launched a review of the Riley mine earlier this year on the back of the recovery in the iron ore price, and after receiving expressions of interest by several third parties in the Riley ore.
Venture has had the Riley iron ore mine on care and maintenance since August 2014, before which the company had completed extensive pre-production work having already put in place all the necessary requirements to commence mining.
This means the Riley was then and, more importantly, is now a ‘quick to market’ opportunity for the company.
The current state of the iron ore market and price metrics are favourable to a start up at Riley and any further increase in the iron ore price and/or a decrease in the AUD/USD exchange rate will only further improve the economics of the project.
A quick, back of the envelope, sketch of the Riley project highlights its potential.
Riley is a fully permitted iron ore mine that is positioned to recommence operations reasonably quickly with approximately 90 per cent of the equipment Venture had previously purchased still on site.
The project hosts Reserves of 1.8 million tonnes at 57 per cent iron with low impurities within a DSO deposit that is situated all at surface and located less than two kilometres from a sealed road that accesses existing rail and port facilities.
“The previous work we carried out at the Riley iron ore mine has placed Venture in a strong position,” Venture Minerals managing director Andrew Radonjic told The Resources Roadhouse.
“Should the market continue to tighten, and the iron ore price continue to improve, that just provides the company the ideal opportunity to commence production with relatively short notice.”
The added benefit of bringing the Riley project on stream is that although it has a short minelife it is anticipated to generate anywhere from $20 million to $40 million, depending how the iron ore price travels.
Such a healthy cash injection will mean that Venture will not need to tap the market for the funds required to conduct development work on its 100 per cent-owned Mount Lindsay tin and tungsten project, also in Tasmania.
Venture rates Lindsay as being one of the world’s largest undeveloped tin projects that is placed to take advantage of the recent rise in both interest and the price of tin.
Tin is a vital element of modern-day technology due to its ability to make lithium-ion batteries last more than three times longer to meet the anticipated demand for better batteries in mobile phones, cameras, iPads and other mobile devices and the feverishly advancing hybrid and all-electric car market.
The 148 square kilometre Mount Lindsay project sits between the world class Renison Bell tin mine, which has produced more than 231,000 tonnes of tin metal since 1968, and the Savage River magnetite mine that has operated for over 50 years and currently produces approximately 2.5 million tonnes per annum of iron pellets.
Since acquiring the project in 2007, Venture has defined high-grade JORC-compliant Measured, Indicated and Inferred Resources of 4.7 million tonnes at 0.4 per cent tin and 0.3 per cent tungsten with over 60 per cent in the Measured and Indicated categories.
Venture Minerals recently engaged UTS Geophysics to conduct a high-resolution Airborne Electromagnetic (EM) survey using its VTEMTM Max system over the entire Mount Lindsay project, with the aim of identifying further high-grade tin targets, especially those with the potential to host Renison Bell style mineralisation.
Venture’s previous exploration at Mount Lindsay has identified potential tin targets located within the carbonate units and potentially the same fault zone (Federal-Basset Fault) that hosts the Renison mine, just 12kms along strike to the southeast.
As Renison is a major Skarn, carbonate replacement, pyrrhotite-cassiterite style deposit, Venture considers the VTEMTM Max system to be the best exploration tool for making discoveries of Renison style tin mineralisation at Mount Lindsay.
The company is hopeful the EM survey will generate drill targets that lead to further tin discoveries.
The company is continuing to advance the recently commissioned Underground Scoping Study at Mount Lindsay.
The study is focusing on the previously reported high-grade Resources of 4.7 million tonnes at 0.4 per cent tin and 0.3 per cent tungsten and will be looking to leverage on the earlier Feasibility Study.
“There has been quite a lot of work carried out to advance the scoping study we have underway at Mount Lindsay,” Radonjic said.
“We could get Mount Lindsay into production reasonably quickly given that much of the work we have used for the scoping study is from the previously completed feasibility study.”
Venture Minerals is considering an underground mining scenario for Mount Lindsay.
The company believes an underground operation would lower its environmental footprint and the associated environmental risk and possibly reduce its capex from around $200 million to closer to $50 million.
The flowsheet changes would include a much smaller and simpler plant, processing a higher-grade primary-source tin ore body.
In other words, a project that is more permittable and more fundable, operating in a more ethical environment than where a large portion of the world’s tin currently comes from.
Although it is currently concentrating on the Tasmanian assets within its portfolio that are more towards near-production, the company’s Thor project is making rumblings as an ideal candidate for a Joint Venture.
The Thor prospect is situated within Venture’s 281 square-kilometre Southwest tenement package in Western Australia.
Venture’s latest drilling at the Thor prospect intersected further massive sulphides with copper and zinc mineralisation.
The company has interpreted results from the last two holes drilled to suggest it is vectoring in towards higher-grade zones within the Thor Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) sequence.
Drilling at Thor remains sparse with only two single drill holes drilled to date targeting two of thirteen priority VMS drill targets delineated around the initial discovery area.
The company hopes further drilling will unlock the potential of Thor’s 20km VMS target zone.
In this second drill campaign, drill hole TOR05 intersected massive sulphide zones of up to 2.4 metres (271.45m to 273.85m) and returned assays of up to 0.8 per cent zinc and 0.5 per cent copper and highly anomalous cobalt of up to 435ppm, confirming the prospect’s VMS style of the mineralisation.
Thor has the same EM and geochemical signature as the adjacent VMS Kingsley discovery of international mining company Teck, which is one of several VMS occurrences in the Archean Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia.
“We have been greatly encouraged by these latest results from our drilling program underway at Thor,” Radonjic said.
“We are really looking forward to unlocking the potential of the VMS project to deliver high-grade mineralisation in the near future.”
Directors: Mel Ashton, Hamish Halliday, Andrew Radonjic, Dr Stuart Owen