Dormant Gateway set for rejuvenation on Gidgee gold exploration campaign

Plus, New Century Resources winning support with zinc production on track for August
16th March 2018
Barry FitzGerald

Northern Star Resources and Dacian Gold are prime examples of the rewards to be had from showering some love and attention on mature gold projects.

Give the geologists the time and funds to go and chase their best ideas and it is a fair bet that mines, and previously mined deposits, that were considered clapped out can quickly start to shine again.

That is particularly so against a gold market backdrop which continues to provide strong support for rejuvenating exploration efforts through the $A700 an ounce margins to be had on the industry’s average cost of production.

Not all companies have headed down the rejuvenation path. And in the case of today’s interest, Gateway Mining (GML), it actually turned its back on its West Australian gold roots last year when it signed up to be a backdoor listing vehicle for some coking coal assets in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

But that deal fell over late last year, prompting Gateway to act on Plan B – a return to its WA gold roots, but with a difference.

The difference has shown up in Gateway overhauling its board and management after a friendly merger with the unlisted Omni Projects, and after raising raise some cash to fund a dive back into its cornerstone Gidgee gold project, about 70km north of Sandstone (and not to be confused with Horizon Gold’s (HRN) abutting Gidgee/Gum Creek gold project).

The Omni acquisition increased Gateway’s Gidgee footprint as well as delivering gold and base metals project elsewhere in WA. It also served up the services of well-regarded geologist Peter Langworthy, initially as a non-executive, but soon as managing director.

Langworthy is a 32-year veteran of the WA exploration and mining scene. He started out way back learning the ropes with WMC and was executive general manager for exploration and geology at Jubilee Mines when the nickel producer got taken over by Xstrata for $3.2 billion in 2008.

Langworthy hit the Eastern states earlier in the week as part of the Resources Rising Stars investor luncheon series and as might have been expected from someone with his experience and insights, his presentations had a comfortable canniness to them.

“It is not a complicated or unusual story,’’ Langworthy said.

“It is about taking a WA gold asset that has seen previous mining, having a look at it in terms of its overall potential using the large-scale data base and then coming up with a very strong geologically driven concept, one we now believe has the potential to deliver a multi-million-ounce mineralised system.”

Gateway’s project area has a history of gold production from a handful of shallow open cuts back in the 1980s and 1990s.

And since then, there hasn’t been much in the way of exploration for high-grade extensions of both oxide and primary mineralisation at depth and along strike.

The lack of exploration since the 1990s is a bit hard to understand given the width and high-grade intersections recorded in the bottom of the pits and off to the side, though there is an off-the-mark perception that region is dogged by refractory ores.

Langworthy intends being aggressive with the drill bit. But unlike some of his peers, he is not interested in getting caught up drilling up a resource in a hurry for the sake of having a resource estimate on the books.

He wants to “rapidly define how big this gold system can be”. On that score, it is worth noting the large-scale gold systems being targeted by Gateway are analogous (shear-hosted gold sitting on the margin of a granitoid intrusion) to the multi-million-ounce systems mined at Granny Smith (Gold Fields) and at Tarmoola-King of the Hills (Red 5).

“This isn’t anything new. This is a well trodden path. Think about a company like Dacian which picked up an old mining camp near Laverton three or four years ago and is now about to become a 200,000ozpa a year producer,” Langworthy said.

The “absolute” priority in the Gidgee program is drilling the Whistler prospect where a high-grade target sits beneath an old and shallow pit. The mineralisation is open in all directions and drill results from what limited exploration beneath the pit there was in the past returned results such as 11m at 7.42g/tonne and 20m at 16.4g/tonne.

Gateway will soon come out of the suspension required while the coking coal deal that never happened was being worked on. When it returns, it will have 836.8 million shares on issue. At the 1.2c price of the $3.8m entitlements issue, its market capitalisation would be $10m.

That’s none too challenging for a gold explorer of any description nowadays, let alone one with the ambition of Langworthy.

NEW CENTURY RESOURCES

Interesting to see the share price of New Century Resources (NCZ) working its way upwards in the past week despite zinc prices and the broader mining market coming under the pump.

Investor presentations last week by managing director Patrick Walta, including one to the Melbourne Mining Club’s Cutting Edge series, and a research note from Credit Suisse’s Michael Slifirski reaffirming his $2.35 price target on the stock, look to have been behind the stock’s one-week gain of 13%.

New Century is now only five months off from starting up its tailings retreatment operation at the Century mine in north Queensland. On the basis that it hits its target recovery rate of 63%, the thing is set to be a cash machine.

At a zinc price of $US1.25/lb and a US75c exchange rate, the tailings retreatment project is forecast to throw off free cash flow of $1.76 billion over an initial 6.3 year mine life. Forecast average life-of-mine EBITDA is $450m at $US1.25/lb zinc.

The zinc price is of course higher than that at $US1.46/lb, even if it is off from its 10-year high of $US1.63/lb back in mid-February. But Walta don’t much care about that.

“We all know that this is a cyclical business. Zinc prices won’t be here forever. Will it last two years, will it last six months? We don’t know. But we know we will be the last man standing,” Walta told the punters at Cutting Edge.

“We obviously want to take advantage of the leverage to high prices at the moment and bring on production as quick as we can. But ultimately we believe we can survive every price cycle.”

The treatment of material grading 3% zinc at an assumed 63% recovery would not excite if the material was in-situ.

But previous owners of Century did the hard yards over its 16 years as a hard-rock miner. They probably spent $15-20 a tonne to mine, crush, and grind the ore getting it ready for flotation. New Century will be spending $2.60 a tonne to do the same thing (reclaim it and slurry it back up for re-flotation).

And it will be doing that after spending all of $50m restarting the $2 billion kit established by the previous owners. It kind of makes the project bomb-proof. Say zinc recovery came in at “only” 50%, the project would still generate an NPV of $1.77 a share on Slifirski’s figures.

Little wonder then that Walta came across as the most confident bloke in the room at the Cutting Edge presentation.

 

Image credit: The West Australian

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