The red metal has not run with the likes of nickel and lithium, but the strong demand outlook means big inventories are very valuable, while explorers like Sunstone and Stavely are increasingly appealing amid the hunt for the next generation of producers.

It’s quarterly reporting time for the miners and things could get a bit messy due to some serious cost inflation. In some good old-fashioned field research, Goldman Sachs hit up 20 mining companies in Western Australia to gauge the level of cost pressures on the industry. It wasn’t pretty – labour costs 5-20% higher, higher diesel costs adding $US1-$US2 to Pilbara iron ore costs, higher chemical prices and a 10% increase in capex budgets driven by higher steel, labour and concrete costs.

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Battery and technology metals led the way up in another short trading week which saw the Australian stock market bump against an all-time high while a number of potentially interesting discoveries and curious value gaps emerged.

Star of the show was Petratherm, a stock which once made headlines as a geothermal (hot water) energy explorer, but stormed back on Wednesday with a high-grade rare earth discovery which lifted the company’s share price up by 12c (225%) to 17c, before easing to 15c for a 10c gain over three days.

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BHP has joined rival Rio Tinto in citing COVID absenteeism for a 10 per cent drop in quarterly iron ore shipments from its key Pilbara operations (reports The West Australian).

The mining giant produced 66.7 million tonnes in the three months to the end of March, down from 73.9mt in the previous quarter. However, the figure was in line with production in the previous corresponding period and in line with year-to-date output of 211mt.

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A year into its ownership of the Henty gold mine, Catalyst Metals appears to be increasingly confident in its strategy to grow inventory, mine life and production rates, with a further string of high-grade intercepts reported ( MiningNews).

Drilling in the Darwin zone, at the deeper, southern end of the mine, has continued to define mineralisation beyond existing resources, headlined by a bonanza 1.5m at 79 grams per tonne from Darwin North. Of the 90 holes drilled recently, most intersected mineralisation, one third had intervals greater than 20gpt gold metres, and 17 exceeded 50gpt gold metres. Other assays from the recent drilling included 13.7m at 5.3gpt and 9.8 at 11gpt from Darwin North, and 12.5m at 15.5gpt and 8.9m at 24.9gpt from Darwin South. All intercepts were described as being true width.

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The surging iron ore price is fuelling renewed investor interest in junior iron ore stocks, in the process stoking speculation that Rio Tinto may bid for its little Pilbara neighbour CZR Resources (reports Stockhead).

CZR’s Robe Mesa project adjoins the operating Yarraloola mine of Rio Tinto, with only a tenement boundary separating them. Given that geology knows nothing about man’s legal fences, and that Rio and CZR therefore share the same deposit, there is growing talk that the mining giant will do the obvious thing to expand its operation by consuming CZR.

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The rush of junior miners to the ASX continues with Nordic Nickel looking to raise up to $12m to target Lapland’s mineral riches (reports The Australian).

The Perth-based outfit will be headed up by Todd Ross, former BNP Paribas managing director and head of Western Australia, along with resources veterans Marcello Cardaci and Robert Wrixon. Nordic will be targeting nickel sulphide deposits in the Central Lapland Greenstone Belt where it has a 100 per cent interest in the Pulju Nickel Project and can earn up to 75 per cent in the Maaninkijoki 3 Project.

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New World Resources says drilling at its Antler copper deposit in Arizona, has delivered ‘exceptional’ results (reports Stockhead).

Four holes were drilled as part of an ongoing resource-extension drilling program targeting the depth extensions of the Main Shoot. One of these four holes intersected 41.8m at 2.5% copper, 2.8% zinc, 0.8% lead, 37.1 g/t silver and 0.52 g/t gold from 875.9m (41.8 metres at 3.8% Cu-equivalent).

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RockTalk is a Stockhead video series featuring a roundtable of resources experts discussing a new macro topic each week.

RockTalk is a Stockhead video series featuring a roundtable of resources experts discussing a new macro topic each week. In this episode, host Peter Strachan takes at look at the current market interest in low carbon energy future, resulting in a recent focus on the uranium market. Populating the expert panel for this discussion are George Bauk, executive chairman at Valor Resources (ASX:VAL) and Brendan Bradley, managing director at DevEx Resources (ASX:DEV).

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