Mineral Exploration , An Essential process - Why do we do it ?

Mineral Exploration , An Essential process - Why do we do it ?

In 2009, I sought out to list a company on the ASX with the sole determination to discover the next gold mine or the next commodity mine. I looked at the market and decided that the best commodity is gold for the uncertainty and the fact that it has been over sold. The other was Uranium and that was because I believed that the cleanest and most efficient form of future energy is nuclear.

Gold price chart 2006 - 2016
Figure 1: Gold price chart 2006 – 2016 (Source: http://www.indexmundi.com/)

Now, I was correct in predicting that the pricing of gold and uranium (Figure 1 and 2) would rise and the market will be there if you discovered the deposit. Now the fact that we could not find that deposit was the problem…… Although the uranium price did tank after Fukushima so technically, we could have found the deposit but the market was just not interested… :-).

My story is not different to that of many explorers looking for a go, some come and go and some come and become monsters, such as Sirius Resources Limited (ASX:SIR), Sandfire Resources Limited (ASX:SFR; Figure 3), and maybe ………….. well nothing else really…….There are many other success stories but I cannot remember any significant discoveries that would fall into a “blind discovery” story, I am more than happy to accept the ones that have forgotten….. just a sign of old age….. I guess, Great Central Mines with Bronzewing and Jundee could well fall into that category but that is going back to the early 1990s.

Uranium price chart
Figure 2: Uranium price chart 2006 -2016 (source: http://www.indexmundi.com/)
DeGrussa copper mine
Figure 3: Sandfire Resources DeGrussa copper/gold mine.  (source:  The West Australian, May 20 2014)

However, in my opinion, the Nova story is the most impressive and I am sure, every exploration geologist would like to write as his or her own. I for one, would have liked that to be my story, but it belongs to Mark Bennett and the Sirus team.

The Nova boxcut
Figure 4:  The Nova boxcut. (source: The West Australian, December 10, 2015)

The exploration process or sequence is pretty well captured by a article written by Brendan Jephcott in Linkedin. It is a well written article and gives the reader a good understanding of how it went from a grassroot exploration project to a major discovery that is worth every dollar spent in exploration.


Nova Core
Figure 5: A core sample from the Nova nickel project.  (source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-25/sirus-resources-in-wa-set-for-massive-takeover-bid/6495228)
Figure 6: A cross section of the Nova nickel deposit.  (source:  http://www.newexco.com/discoveries/nova-massive-nickel-silphide-deposit)

A couple of YouTube videos of Mark Bennett is excellent for those that are interested. The presentation is made to the Australian Institute of Geoscientists so its a geological presentation. What is a good note is that in the Q and A part, you can pick up that the discovery is primarily a test and see method. His title of WHO DARE WIN is exactly what EXPLORATION is all about and that is why I loved the Nova story.

Presentation of the discovery by Mark Bennett


Q and A with Mark bennett after his presentation


Sandfire has a similar story but my point is that there has not been many major discoveries in recent time that is worth mentioning. There have been success stories where companies have extended mineralisation in old mined deposits or discovery of major deposits within the mineralsied zone.

Probably the best is that of Trident Gold Mine which was discovered by Avoca Resources. It had a resource of over 900,000oz. The company discovered the deposit after near mine exploration.

The other is the Invincible deposit discovered by Gold Fields Australia just south of “Kambalda Goldfields”, (http://diggersndealers.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/GoldfieldsDiggers-Dealers-Invincible-FINAL-for-DD-Presentation-Copy.pdf).

The AUSIMM published a very interesting article in 2015 titled,

” Tackling the crisis in mineral exploration”


This is a very economic article on the merits of exploration and why exploration is very important, complicated and expensive. I would strongly recommend a good read as this will really caputre the real essence of why we need to explore.

It makes a very interesting read and it highlights out the increasing cost of discoveries. I believe that the cost of discoveries are due to many factors such as greater depth, greater difficulties in finding deposits, greater cost of labour…etc However, the lack of discoveries is significant as that means the rate of replenishment is not being met and in many circumstances, the supply is going to be lacking behind demand.

With this in mind, expenditure into exploration will need to increase in the near future and all the neglected advanced exploration projects will eventually demand value and those that sit on the sideline now will be regretting this lack of movement now.

For those who wants to understand who I consider a modern day prospector who has made persistent prospecting a real success, have a look at this ……

Mark was a prospector for almost 20 years before his first major win and that was the Bronzewing Gold deposit which he sold for about AUD150M. It was another 20 years before his next win and that was the Nova Nickel Deposit, and I think he sold his remaining share for a total win with Nova of about AUD600M+.


On a final note, this is what exploration is all about on a small sacle…. just for fun, watch this……….







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Samso has worked primarily in the mineral resources industry, capital markets and corporate finance. Noel Ong is the founder of SAMSO.




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