Catalyst closing in on juicy bit in hunt for new Bendigo

Barry FitzGerald

Independent Journalist

Plus, newly-listed Maronan born with a polymetallic spoon in its mouth, Alicanto’s stunning silver-lead-zinc hit is almost 1oz-gold equivalent and Calidus set to pour first gold any minute.

Gina Rinehart is set to share in a Eureka! moment of sorts towards the back end of the year when Catalyst (CYL) releases a maiden resource estimate for its virgin Four Eagles gold discovery beneath Murray Basin sediments north of Bendigo.

It is a Eureka! moment because the hunt for new gold deposits beneath cover to the north of where the 22 million ounce Bendigo goldfield “daylighted” has been going on for more than 10 years, without a resource estimate being made by Catalyst, or anyone else.

Ms Rinehart’s involvement is through Hancock Prospecting, which is a 50% joint venture partner with Catalyst, as well as a 12.5% shareholder.

Now it has to be said the maiden estimate will be a modest one, restricted as it will be to a depth of 120m, including the 40m of cover that hid the cluster of deposits that make up Four Eagles from the oldtimers in the Victorian gold rush all those years ago.

But the expectation is that the resource will be of sufficient size to encourage Catalyst to develop an exploration tunnel to provide underground drilling platforms to test the Four Eagles deposits at greater depths, and potentially provide access for future development by linking up the deposits.

The tunnel will fix the difficulties Catalyst has had in drilling down to the 300-400m levels it wants to get to because of the sediment cover which comes with running sands and water issues. It could get deeper using a more costly diamond drilling method but even then there would be challenges in angling the holes correctly.

The upside scenario is that the deeper drilling hits the type of 500,000 ounce/40g/t shoots that made Bendigo special in its day.

There is still lots of work to do but at least it can be said that hidden gold beneath cover to the north of Bendigo is becoming a modern day mining possibility.

Most recent drilling at Four Eagles has continued to provide plenty of encouragement. At the Boyd’s Dam prospect, Catalyst recently reported grades of up to 150g/t, albeit over 1m. But there was also a long list of 6-12g/t hits over decent widths to be included in the resource estimate.

The Catalyst-Hancock partnership has also made another virgin discovery beneath cover at Boort, 100km north-west of Bendigo. Scout drilling picked up a possible 1km trend of gold mineralisation at one of four gravity targets tested with the drill bit.

Assays results from the target included 3m at 18.25g/t and 6m at 0.95g/t on two traverses 1km apart. The high-grade hit was nice but not well understood, with the real excitement coming from the fact that the low-grade hit was in basement rocks.

It is one that the joint venture will return to for sure, but not until after the Boort farmers have brought their crops in.

Catalyst last traded at $1.71 for a market cap of $170m. It wasn’t all that long ago that it traded at much higher levels on the strength of its dominant north-of-Bendigo gold hunt, buoyed as it was by Kirkland Lakes’ discovery of the super high-grade Swan Zone at its Fosterville mine, 20km east of Bendigo.

Fosterville has been around for ever but it was the Swan Zone discovery in 2016 (by following a shoot down to greater depths) that set the Victorian industry alight. While not a virgin discovery, the Swan Zone demonstrated Victoria still had major high-grade gold upside.

Catalyst’s search under cover is for the next Bendigo or Fosterville and its maiden resource estimate late this year will be an important milestone on its journey.

While it makes that journey, the company has added a gold production leg to it story by acquiring the high-grade Henty gold mine in Tassie where a major exploration program is underway to rebuild the resource base to fully utilise the existing treatment plant.

Henty has been washing its face as a small gold producer and thanks to the love it is now receiving from Catalyst, the plan is to scale up production to around 40,000 ounces annually. It will be capable of providing cash for the north-of-Bendigo gold hunt.

And given the Victorian interests alone once gave Catalyst a much higher market cap, it could be suggested that Henty’s upside comes for free in the share price.

MARONAN METALS (MMA):

Not many ASX juniors start out life with a major resource under their belt along with two potential Tier 1 opportunities worth pursuing in the same deposit.

That’s just what the recently listed Maronan Metals (MMA) has on offer at its namesake deposit in north-west Queensland’s base metals/gold rich Carpentaria province (Mt Isa, Cannington, Ernest Henry, Osborne, Eloise, and Century, to name the big ones).

MMA was spun-out of Red Metal (RDM) to give the Maronan the deposit a sharper investor focus, leaving Red to continue to explore to its own account, including a joint venture with OZ Minerals up Winu/Havieron way in the Patterson region of WA which will be worth watching in the back half of the year when some juicy targets are likely to be tested with the drill bit.

The over-subscribed $15 million IPO of MMA (Red retains a 50% interest) has gone down well, with the 20c shares now trading at 32c for an undiluted market cap of $48m.

The deposit lies 60km southeast of Cloncurry and was discovered by Shell’s long gone minerals arm in the 1980s. Over time it was investigated further by the likes of Phelps Dodge and BHP, among others, with Red arriving on the scene around 2004.

Based on all the work by heavyweights, including a Red joint venture with BHP between 2005-2010, Red reported a maiden inferred resource estimate for the deposit in 2015 which reflects the presence of two separate mineralisation types (bedded lead-silver partially overprinted by structurally controlled copper-gold mineralisation).

For a company with MMA’s market cap, the twin resources (30.8Mt at 6.5% lead and 106g/t silver and 11Mt at 1.6% copper and 0.8g/t gold), mainly from 200m to 1200m and open at depth, is impressive stuff.

It equates to 2Mt of lead, 100m ounces of silver, 170,000t of copper and 300,000 ounces of gold. The soft rock, the deposit’s geometry, and the region’s infrastructure of power, roads, and rail makes the deposit a likely development candidate as it stands, particularly once current metal prices are plugged in.

But MMA is out to prove up a potentially much bigger story at the deposit across two Tier 1 possibilities – the potential for the dominantly iron sulphide mineralisation to transition to richer copper sulphides at depth, and the potential to find the vent source of the bedded lead-zinc-silver mineralisation at depth.

Initially though, there could be an early prize to be had from drilling shallower copper-gold and lead-silver positions. MMA will do that first before moving on to the deeper search for big tonnage/higher grade potential at depth.

ALICANTO (AQI):

Alicanto (AQI) has just announced one of the best silver-lead-zinc assay results that could be hoped for from its historic Sala project in Sweden.

What’s more the result – 4.7m of massive sulphides grading 24.4% zinc, 875g/t silver and 3.7% lead from 120m – points to the potential for several repeats of Sala-style mineralisation.

Now that would be something as Sala was a silver-rich operation that produced 200m ounces of silver from just 5Mt of ore (40 ozs a tonne) in the 500 years to 1908.

The announcement prompted a flurry of trade in the stock but no share price spike, such is the lack of interest in exploration results at the moment as the broader market adjusts for higher interest rates.

There is good news in that. Alicanto’s story has just got a lot better and its share price hasn’t moved, not yet anyway.

On Thursday’s close of 9.6c it has a $37m market cap. While the hunt for Sala repeats heats up, Alicanto is close to putting some meat on the bones by releasing a maiden resource estimate for the project.

The resource estimate will be mainly based on drilling at the unmined Prince Lode which is pretty much adjacent to Sala.

The Prince Lode is different to the classic Sala galena (lead/silver) dominated and structurally controlled mineralisation in that it is stratabound sphalerite dominant (zinc/lead/silver) mineralisation.

The super high-grade Sala-style hit just reported is in a parallel structure to Sala near the Prince Lode and is likely to be included in the maiden resource estimate as a separate lode to Prince Lode. Given it equates to almost one ounce of gold equivalent, why wouldn’t you.

The company is well funded with $6m cash at March 31 to continue to chase down repeats of Sala-type fault and fold structures to the southwest. The company sees it as a potential game-changer.

CALIDUS (CAI):

As mentioned here previously, Calidus (CAI) was bound to be re-rated in the lead up to first production at its Warrawoona gold project in the East Pilbara.

That has happened all right, with the stock moving from 60c at the start of the year to 96c in Thursday’s market without any particular help from the gold price.

What has helped along away has been the regular reports that the project was on time and budget, which is exceptional stuff given industry inflation pressures and skills/materials shortages.

Warrawoona is about to, or already has, produced the so-called commissioning gold bar at the project. So it’s up and running.

Another re-rating for the stock will come as it hits key targets, and as the development of the satellite Blue Spec deposit emerges as a source of high-grade feed for the Warrawoona plant.

Incorporating Blue Spec could lift Warrawoona’s annual output from 105,000 ounces to 139,000 ounces.

Completing the trifecta of re-rates for the company is what comes of the recently formed Pirra lithium exploration joint venture in the East Pilbara with Gary Morgan’s Haoma Mining.

First drilling could happen this quarter, and we all know how much the market likes decent lithium exploration results.


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Barry FitzGerald
Principal
Independent Journalist

One of Australia’s leading business journalists, Barry FitzGerald, highlights the issues, opportunities and challenges for small and mid-cap resources stocks, and most recently penned his column for The Australian newspaper.

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