The buzz is back around Rio’s big Winu copper find

Barry FitzGerald

Independent Journalist

The new field season in WA’s Paterson province has brought fresh exploration impetus, with Rio firing up 11 rigs while nearby juniors Sipa and Antipa are planning holes of their own. Plus, Sandfire-backed White Rock offers investors two projects for the price of one.

Exploration in Western Australia’s remote Paterson province is heating up as was expected following Rio Tinto’s belated confirmation in February that its Winu copper-gold discovery was indeed something special.

There was a bit of nonsense in late June from a big name broker analyst that Winu, as it stood on the results released by Rio to date, might not be big enough to move the dial for a company with Rio’s monster market cap.

The questioning kind of missed the point that Winu is in its infancy and that it is way too early to be making a call on whether it will be big enough for Rio. It’s big for sure, it is just a question of how big.

Rio now has 11 rigs whirring away trying to find out. And it said in its recent June quarterly that results “continue to indicate wide intersections of vein-style copper mineralisation associated with gold and silver beneath relatively shallow cover.”

More to the point was the confirmation that the mineralisation remains “open at depth and to the east, north and south”.

Latest chatter about the find includes talk that Rio is preparing to start some sterilisation drilling in preparation for the positioning of mine infrastructure. If that is the case, the mining major is giving thought to being around in the Paterson for a long time.

Newcrest, a long-time resident of the Paterson from its ageing Telfer gold-copper mine, added to the Paterson’s hotspot status this week with its reporting of first drill results from its recently entered in to Havieron joint venture with London’s Greatland.

Centred on a deeply-buried magnetic anomaly 45km east of Telfer, a new exploration campaign started in the quarter with two rigs, since increased to three.

The highlight of the limited drilling to date by the joint venture was a hole previously drilled to a depth of 838m by Greatland and extended by Newcrest to 1,216m – the deepest hole ever drilling at Havieron.

The hole successfully identified high-grade mineralisation at depth, with mineralisation now observed over 700m in vertical extent and remaining open at depth, to the north and south. Best assay results included 17 m at 21 g/t Au and 0.39% Cu from 1,153m.

Rounding out today’s Paterson update is the report from Fortescue – its pegging of a big ground position in the Paterson coincided with the first industry rumours last year that Winu was something special – that it was at the early stage of target generation.

Antipa and Sipa:

The affectionately known “IPAs” or Indian pale ales of the Paterson hunt, Antipa (AZY, trading at 1.5c) and Sipa (SRI, 0.8c ahead of its recently approved 1-12 share consolidation) are also getting stuck into their 2019 field seasons in the Paterson.

The two juniors have long been active in the region and given their modest market caps, it stands to reason that their share prices come with extreme leverage to any success in their current exploration programs.

Antipa is the bigger of the two with a market cap of $31m and cash of $7.8m. It’s involved in a big-spending joint venture with Rio as well as exploring in its own right, with 20,000m of drilling being worked through now on its 100% ground.

Of particular interest on the 100% ground is the start to drilling of five priority targets located 8-15km north and along trend from Winu which were defined using the same geophysical methods to see beneath the sand cover that Rio used.

Sipa too has been generating and refining drill targets to test at its Paterson North project area, the western tenement boundary of which is some 10kms from Winu.

Drill testing of the Obelisk and Aranea targets is planned for next month, with a $150,000 drilling grant from the WA government defraying costs.

Sipa is better dressed for a discovery with the share consolidation reducing the number of shares on issue to 142m.

Property and hotel mogul Ervin Vidor is cheering on Sipa. His stake in the company was recently increased to 17.6% from a share placement in support of the Paterson effort.

White Rock Minerals (WRM):

White Rock Minerals (WRM, trading at 0.8c for a market cap of $13m) has moved into classic two for the price one territory.

The hardy group’s market cap is more than covered by its Red Mountain zinc and precious metals project in Alaska, or its Mount Carrington gold/silver project within an easy drive to the Lunatic Hotel at Drake in NSW.

Red Mountain was interesting enough thanks to White Rock’s timely acquisition of the project and its work-to-date which has it ranked as a globally significant inferred mineral resource of 1.1 million tonnes of contained zinc equivalent.

But then Karl Simich from Sandfire came along and entered into a big-spending exploration joint venture on Red Mountain with a view to uncovering more VMS-type deposits to make Red Mountain a big mining camp, or a mining province as we would say here.

More than $8m is being spent in the short May-September 2019 field season by the joint venture, one under which Sandfire could eventually earn a 51% stake by spending $20m, with White Rock the manager of this year’s program.

It is in a part of the world shared with bears. Field geologists pack .44 Magnums, or learn to run fast. Either way, they are busy doing all the things needed to be done to work up new targets in a very lightly explored part of the world.

Given the existence of two known deposits carrying the 1.1mt of zinc equivalent, it is not going to take much in the way of new discoveries for the joint venture to have a development proposition on their hands.

Meanwhile, back in NSW, Mount Carrington has come roaring back in to contention as a development opportunity thanks to the local gold price soaring to more than $2000 an oz.

Based on a December 2017 feasibility study using $1700 an oz, the previously mined Mount Carrington could generate free cash of $36.7m with a payback of 22 months. Plug in $2000 and those figures become $80m and 13 months respectively.

The 2017 study was based on a gold only scenario, meaning if silver continues its march towards $US25 an oz as some suspect it will, there is 21m ozs of silver that can be added to the mine life (plus what near mine and regional exploration comes up with in gold and silver).

A continuation of $2000-plus gold is bound to bring Mount Carrington back in to the frame, with the company in a consider all options frame of mind. As suggested earlier, Mount Carrington alone would seem to more than cover White Rock’s current market cap.

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Barry FitzGerald
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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