Leverage To The Hunt For The Next Nova

By Barry Fitzgerald | More Articles by Barry Fitzgerald

Here we are at the start of another exploration field season in Western Australia’s remote Fraser Range, home to the 2012 Nova nickel-copper discovery by Sirius Resources, now a producing mine and part of Independence (ASX:IGO) after its $1 billion cash and shares takeover in 2015.

Because of its similarities to mining camps in Canada, where the rich mix of nickel and copper occur in clusters of deposits, it has long been the expectation that at some point, another Nova (and the Bollinger deposit 200 metres to the east) would be found.

More than 20 companies have drilled 80 or so valid targets in the Fraser Range since the Nova discovery hoping to find the next big one. But no such luck. Plenty of smoke, but nothing to fire up the imagination like the discovery hole at Nova (4 metres of 3.8 per cent nickel and 1.42 per cent copper from 191 metres).

Having said that, there has been some industry speculation that Mark Creasy, the king of the Fraser Range belt and Australia’s richest “prospector”, might just have snagged something interesting on his privately held ground on the western side of the central portion of the belt. Nothing to add there but jeez, wouldn’t it be fun if he has?

What is known is that as time has marched on, the debate among the alumni of WA’s earth scientists on whether the vast stretch of prospective rocks in the Fraser Range is hiding another Nova yield has become polarised. There are as many sitting on one side of the table saying it isn’t as there are sitting on the other side of the table saying it is.

With a bit of luck, and some serious high-tech exploration nous thrown in, the heavy rain-delayed 2017 field season might just prove the doubters wrong, not unlike when Sandfire (ASX:SFR) in 2015, after six years of looking, was able to add the Monty deposit to its DeGrussa inventory in WA’s Bryah Basin.

There are five main players along the Fraser range belt: Independence, Creasy (in both a private capacity, his 18 per cent stake in IGO and other equity positions and carried joint venture interests), Legend Mining (ASX:LEG), in which Creasy is a 28 per cent shareholder and a 30 per cent carried joint venture partner, the

MMG/Segue (ASX:SEG) joint venture, and the increasingly South African zinc-copper focussed Orion Gold (ASX:ORN). Read more.

Silver Lining in Coming Third

It is said that it’s only ever the third owner of a casino that makes the money. That could also apply to the Wonawinta silver mine south of Cobar in NSW.

In recent years the thing has gone bust not once but twice, with the original developer, Cobar Consolidated, once having a market capitalisation of $300m when the silver price was particularly hot.

So much for the history of the place. Wonawinta has since been renamed Manuka and underpins the eventual listing of Manuka Resources after a $10m initial public offering, with the ability to take in $13m.

It is being brought to the market by private equity resources group ResCap Investments, which will also be the biggest shareholder. It is in pre-IPO mode at the moment and the word back is that as the only near-term pure silver producer to be listed on the ASX, the offer is likely to open and close reasonably quickly. Read more.

About Barry Fitzgerald

Barry Fitzgerald has covered the resources industry for 30 years. His column highlights the issues, opportunities and challenges for small and mid-cap resources stocks - most recently penned his column for The Australian newspaper and before that, The Age.

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