Word on the street is that Legend Mining has a cracker of a nickel find in the Fraser Range. With assays expected next week, the race is on to identify the best nearology plays. Plus, Chalice’s record in Victoria will help its bid for highly-demanded blocks next to Kirkland’s rich Fosterville gold mine.

Excitement is building around the expected release on Monday of the eagerly awaited assay results from the third hole drilled at Legend Mining’s (LEG) Area D prospect at its Rockford project in WA’s Fraser Range.

Legend was 4.2c a share ahead of going into a trading halt last week and a trading suspension this week, pending the release of the assay results.

Industry chatter is that Legend has made a significant nickel-copper discovery, with lots of talk about a 16m intersection of massive to semi massive sulphides having been encountered, with 20m of disseminated sulphides on either side.

If the whispers about the intersection being particularly rich – the chatter is for more than 4% nickel – then there will be some fun to be had for the juniors with a presence in the northern reaches of the Fraser.

It was of course the 2012 discovery hole drilled by junior explorer Sirius Resources down south which went on to become the Nova nickel-copper deposit/mine, with Sirius taken over by Independence (IGO) in 2015 for $1.8 billion.

Independence has long believed the Fraser has more than one Nova to give up and has almost blanket coverage of the region’s prospective rocks, including an exposure to Legend’s Area D discovery through its 14.2% Legend shareholding.

Private “prospector” Mark Creasy is the other big player in the Fraser, thanks to his early pegging in the district after being impressed by what he saw from some rock kicking during an expedition for space junk from Skylab’s crash to earth in 1979.

Creasy has the Silver Knight discovery to his name in the Fraser but because it is privately held, no one is sure if it is going to be another Nova or not. And for good measure, Creasy owns 26.8% of Legend.

Like the rest of us, Legend, Independence and Creasy will have to wait for the assays confirming Area D as something special before celebrating with a fancy Barossa Valley shiraz, perhaps a Rockford Basket Press.

In anticipation of the results from Area D confirming a discovery, juniors with Fraser Range exposure have already been enjoying something of a share price celebration.

Galileo Mining (GAL) – Creasy is a 31% shareholder – has shot up from 11c since Legend went into a trading halt on November 28 to 21c, while Boadicea (BOA) has come up from 22c to 26c.

Today’s interest though is in Orion Minerals (ORN) which was trading yesterday at 2.8c to be pretty much were it was before Legend alerted the market to its Area D discovery hole, assays pending.

That’s kind of funny because Orion has a long-standing presence in the Fraser which some time back became the subject of a joint venture with Independence (70%) under which Orion’s 30% interest is free-carried through to a mine feasibility study.

The tenements in the joint venture are to the east of Legend’s Rockford project tenements, getting as close as 3km in parts. More than that though is that Independence – it is a 5.4% Legend shareholder - must like the ground because next quarter it plans to drill-test five targets that have been worked up in the last couple of years.

So if there is spill-over of investor interest in Legend’s discovery next week, Orion stands to be one of the main beneficiaries.

But it is not getting too excited ahead of Legend’s assays results being released. That was reflected in there being just the one slide on its Fraser Range interests in its presentation to the Resources Rising Stars Summer Series of one-day conferences in Sydney and Brisbane during week.

Orion is also much more than the Fraser Range. Its $75m market cap reflects its near-term copper-zinc producer status from its Prieska project in South Africa.

The company is working at bedding down the funding package for the $400m development after first optimising development studies that could result in lower capex, and a shorter development timetable.

All that should come together in the first half of next year. While becoming a 22,000tpa copper and 70,000tpa zinc producer is important enough, the bigger picture is what might come from exploration in the broader Prieska region.

CHALICE:

Chalice Gold Mines (CHN) MD Alex Dorsch mentioned on the sidelines of the RRS conference in Brisbane that the cashed-up explorer would be making a pitch for three of the four exploration blocks now up for tender to the north and south of Kirkland Lake’s Fosterville gold mine near Bendigo in Victoria.

No real surprise in that given just about every gold company in the world is taking a look, with tender bids due by mid-January and the winning tenders to be announced by the State Government later in the March quarter.

The interest is a result of Kirkland’s success in turning around what was a fairly crappy mine at Fosterville into one of the world’s best, with its production for 2019 forecast at up to 610,000oz at a cash cost of $US130-$US150 an ounce.

Chalice will be mixing it with Kirkland itself and other industry big boys but as an already established and committed explorer for the next “Fosterville,” it is in with a shot.

That’s because the big boys can’t just come in and blow everyone else away. The financial merits of the tenders will account for about 25% of the government’s consideration, with stuff like engagement with the community and traditional owners rating highly.

Chalice has been kicking goals on those fronts in its exploration hunt to the north of Bendigo. It has been bold stuff given the prospective rocks dive under cover compared with historic outcropping riches to the south.

Chalice is about mid-way through a second stage drilling program and two virgin targets have been shaping up nicely.

Drilling at the Ironbark target has defined a 500m x 500m gold footprint coincident with a diorite intrusion which, in eastern Victoria at least, have been associated with high-grade deposits like Cohen’s Reef at Walhalla (1.5m oz at 32g/t).

A diamond drilling program is planned to put the target to the test once early in the new year.

At the Karri target, two holes some 7km apart at the northern end returned similar shallow gold anomalism across a 350m wide zone. Infill drilling is underway to further refine the target.

Dorsch finished up his Victorian update with a slide that made the point that discoveries under cover in the north Bendigo can “drive significant value for shareholders”.

He used the rise and rise of Catalyst (CYL) with its Four Eagles discovery with Gina Reinhart, and its Tandarra project with Navarre (NML).

Catalyst is now a $250m company after just about doubling this year alone.

Chalice in contrast is trading at 17c for a $46m market cap, of which about 11c is covered by working capital and investments. But it doesn’t have a Four Eagles-type under-cover discovery on its hands just yet.

Give it six months or so and there should be a fix on whether Ironbark and/or Karri are the real deal. And who knows, it could be exploring hard up against Kirkland by then.