“It’s the commodity of choice.”
Hard to argue with that statement when gold has outperformed almost every asset class over the past year, putting in a solid 30% gain in US dollar terms since May 2019, and an even more encouraging 40% or so in Aussie dollar terms.
The Great Southern Mining share price beats both of those however, having risen by more than 60% over the past 12 months. At one point at the end of last year it was trading at nearly four times the value it was trading at in May.
So, even if volumes are light, this is a stock that the market clearly likes. The choice of commodity, as Mark Major mentions, is one reason.
But there are others too, in particular, the quality of the company’s assets in Western Australia and Queensland, and the quality of the company’s management team.
The company’s executive chairman is John Terpu, the man behind Conquest Mining, one of the two companies that merged in 2011 to form one of Australia’s most prominent mid-tier companies, Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN).
Major himself has 25 years of experience in the junior and mid-tier resources spaces, and has operated both in Australia and internationally. What’s more, it seems likely that he will eventually graduate from his current position as chief operating officer into a fully-fledged chief executive role, becoming thereby one of the main driving forces of the company in the years ahead.
He’s already exuding a palpable sense of enthusiasm for the projects on offer inside the Great Southern Mining portfolio, in particular Cox’s Find in the Laverton district of Western Australia, where historic production that ran till the late 1940s delivered ore at a head grade of 21 grams per tonne.
That material was in itself mined at a 12 gram per tonne cut-off so it comes as no surprise to discover that there’s considerable potential at Cox’s Find from waste dumps and secondary ore that’s still sitting at surface and remnant in the ground.
Major is firmly of the view that serious exploration at Cox’s Find could pay big dividends, and in the near term. The company thinking is that the five targets that have so far been generated could each yield up to 150,000 ounces of gold. And there’s also the potential to go deeper into the original mine itself, where production only ever went down to 150 metres.
Accordingly, the rigs are now being lined up.
“We’re about to embark on the first major drilling campaign for over 30 years,” says Major.
“We’ll drill 9,000 metres, or maybe even close to 10,000 metres, where the old timers developed, targeting the extension of the orebody as it plunges down near the mine.”
The drilling will also confirm if the structural model the company has put together is correct and, if an attractive zone of mineralisation is intersected, it will be drilled out as a matter of course.
“The opportunity’s there,” says Major.
“It’s got high grade ounces, and you can go anywhere with high grade ounces – we wouldn’t have to build our own mill. Our neighbours will be crying out for high grade ore.”
And investors meanwhile, will be sitting back in satisfaction and watching as Great Southern embarks on the next stage of its journey.
First will be the nearby Mon Ami project, just to the south of Cox’s Find. This project already boasts a resource of 59,000 ounces grading 1.7 grams per tonne.
“That prospect has the potential to be mined tomorrow,” says Major.
“It has free digging at surface and is open in all directions. The north extension has targets and to the south there are old historical adits and shafts. The oxide layer goes to 120 metres, and we’ll be looking at trying to get it to 200,000 and 300,000 ounces inferred, of which significant measured and indicated resource would make us ready to go mining.”
The plan would be to start mining at Mon Ami with contract miners and toll treat the ore, although it’s altogether possible that the project might have been sold on to an interested party before Great Southern actually gets to that stage. An outcome like that wouldn’t just be wishful thinking – when he was putting the company together John Terpu deliberately selected assets that were close to other major projects and companies.
But, when all is said and done, says Major, neither Cox’s Find nor Mon Ami is going to be a multi-million ounce deposit. Rather, these two projects are just a means to an end.
They will be great highly profitable mines, something a junior explorer can use to become a miner and monetize without undertaking a huge debt.
“I believe our elephant is sitting in Queensland,” says Major.
“All the projects that have been found in that area have been large. The Mount Carlton project owned by Evolution Mining is just 20 kilometres away from us.”
And guess who was one of the principal discoverers of Mount Carlton, now a key asset in the Evolution gold production portfolio? – that’s right, John Terpu
And Terpu’s relations with his former company remain on a solid enough footing that Evolution ran a hyperspectral survey over Great Southern’s Johnnycake and Edinburgh Park projects, which sit respectively to the north and south of Mount Carlton.
That’s helped Great Southern speed up its exploration by identifying the geological alteration signatures of various deposit types within the area. Now they have priority targets to focus on during the next stage, which is to ground truth the identified potential epithermal and porphyry systems on foot. Something that would have taken years to do by ground exploring is now focused on major targets.
“It puts the company 2 year ahead so the next step,” says Major, “is to get on the ground and map this out, sampling and identifying which areas to focus on and advance further for drilling hopefully later in the year.”
So, the offerings in Queensland represent an enticing longer-term prospect to be supported in the more immediate future by what could become a lucrative cash cow in Western Australia.
To execute on all these plans the company has just raised A$3.15 million and now looks well set up for what should prove to be a very interesting year.