The boys of booms past are back in town

8th December 2017
Tim Treadgold

Battery metals returned as the favourite sector for investors in resource stocks this week, but the more interesting feature of the market was the rise of several prominent mining company managers from booms past, including Mark Ashley, Michael Carrick and Yosse Goldberg.

Whether the return of an older generation of executives is a sign of the market heating up, or cooling down, is a question too hard to answer, but it is a curious development in the way it brings new metals and old directors together in what could be a positive pointer for market action 2018.

Ashley, who made his name as one of the key men in successful nickel miner LionOre, and the less successful goldminer Apex Mining, is a director of North American focussed battery metals explorer Marquee Resources which made a move on Tuesday into Canadian cobalt, briefly enjoying a 9c price surge to a 12-month high of 44c before falling back to where it started at 31c.

Carrick, who was once better-known as a senior Perth-based accountant and director of the goldminer CGA Mining, was back in the news as a director of RTG Mining which is trying to finalise a deal to redevelop the mothballed Panguna copper mine on the Pacific island of Bougainville.

While not an easy task, given that Rio Tinto abandoned the mine during a civil war on Bougainville, investors are warming to RTG’s efforts, lifting the stock this week by 12c (80%) to 27c, with sales up to a 12-month high on Tuesday of 34.5c.

Goldberg, once best known as a partner with another Perth businessman, Ron Wise, made his return as chairman of of Ausmex Mining which is working on the Mt Freda copper and cobalt prospect near Cloncurry in central Queensland. Ausmex started the week strongly with a 3.5c (54%) rise to 10c before easing back to 7.1c.

Ashley, Carrick and Goldberg are not the only mining-company executives from an earlier era emerging with prominent roles in the current market with Tony Sage and fellow director of Cape Lambert Resources, Jason Brewer, in the news through a number of battery metals companies, including Force Commodities, Winmar Resources and European Lithium.

Sage’s master company, Cape Lambert, had an excellent week adding 2.3c (80%) to 5.2c, with a handful of trades at a 12-month high of 6c. European Lithium added 4c to 24.5c, Force put on 2.5c to 7.1c, and Winmar put on 1c to 4c.

Other developments in the market last week included a wake-up call for uranium hopefuls with the government of Kazakhstan joining Canada’s leading producer of the nuclear fuel, Cameco, to announce a significant production cutback to try and drain a stockpile of surplus uranium.

Investors showed some interest in the latest uranium news, delivering modest price rises for stocks such as Bannerman, up 1c to 6.3c, Toro, up 0.7c to 3.8c, and Vimy, up 1c to 14.5c.

Nugget gold stocks which dominated trading at the speculative end of the market for several months continued their slow retreat as it became clearer that finding nuggets on the surface is the easy bit, proving that there is a commercial deposit is a lot harder.

Artemis, the stock which started the nugget stampede, shed another 3c to 27c, which means it is now less than half its peak price of 59c reached last month. De Grey also lost 3c to trade around 16.5c, also less than half its peak of 38c reached last month.

A snapshot of other news events and market moves, up or down, included:

  • Liontown Resources enjoyed a sharp re-rating of 1.8c to a 12-month high of 5c on Tuesday after reporting an expansion of the footprint of the Buldania lithium discovery in WA, before easing to trade around 3.5c.
  • Aeon Metals continued to attract strong interest in its Walford Creek copper and cobalt discovery in Queensland, adding 4c to 28c, with trades up to a 12-month high of 35c on Tuesday.
  • Walkabout Resource, which is exploring for lithium in Namibia and graphite in Tanzania, rose quickly early in the week to a 12-month high of 20c before sliding back to end down 4c at 14c after announcing a successful $10.1 million capital raising.
  • Aeris Resources had its best week this year as interest grows in its 70%-owned Torrens copper and gold project on South Australia’s Stuart Shelf, home to a number of major mines. The stock briefly traded up to a high of 12c for a gain of 4c (up 50%) before easing back to roughly where it started at 8.4c.
  • Argonaut Resources, which has a 30% stake in the Torrens project, also moved sharply to a 12-month high of 3.4c, before easing back to 3c, and
  • Most gold stocks had a good week despite the underlying price of the metal slipping a few dollars lower in both US and Australian dollars. St Barbara hit a 12-month high of $3.40, up 14c for the week. Evolution traded consistently around $2.44, up 2c for the week, and Northern Star rose by 12c to a 12-month high of $5.93.


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