CERVANTES: MARCUS FLIS
“There is a lot of gold in this field waiting for someone to unlock its secrets, and we believe we now have the tools to do that.”
Being an exploration company has many hurdles, but the payoffs can be huge with a highly motivated and experienced team at the helm. This, according to Cervantes Corporation managing director Marcus Flis, is the philosophy behind his company’s interest in the historic Payne’s Find gold field. Q. What is your professional history?
The big end of town was my training ground. Multi-commodity exploration with CRA Exploration. Membership of “task forces” was a highlight of that experience. Later, work with Newmont Australia gave me very specific experience in various styles of gold deposits.
I was called back by Rio Tinto to head up a task force in the Hamersley Basin, following which I was appointed Global Director, New Business for Rio Tinto Iron Ore. That position gave me insight and understanding of how good deals are done and what drives a successful business.
I took those lessons into Royal Resources as managing director, where we gained control of arguably Australia’s largest magnetite resource.
I have degrees in geosciences, am a Fellow of the AusIMM, and have been awarded Best Emergent Company (Diggers and Dealers) and Explorer of the Year (Australian Mining).
Q. Why are you re-visiting the historic Payne’s Find gold field?
The Paynes Gold Field is a historically and geologically fascinating field. It was dominated by small mines extracting high grade gold – up to 150g/t. Since its discovery it has been locked up by prospectors, so little modern exploration had been applied to it.
That changed when Paynes Find Gold (PFG) acquired it in 2010. Unfortunately, rather than pursuing a “big picture” target, they got bogged down in drilling the small, late stage quartz-vein gold that characterises the old mine areas.
Perhaps predictably, they intersected high grade gold, but no real tonnage that could form an economic resource.
Towards the end of their tenure, PFG brought in consultants to reinterpret the geology of the area. With a last hurrah, they tested that reinterpretation, did not get encouraging results, and withdrew.
PFG tested only about 500m of the mineralising Primrose Shear. That shear extends for more than 8km on Cervantes’ ground. It traverses an area that is undercover, has no historic hard rock workings, yet sustained alluvial gold mining.
There is a lot of gold in this field waiting for someone to unlock its secrets, and we believe we now have the tools to do that. Given the focus, Cervantes calls this area the Primrose project.
Q. What are the foreseeable advantages of the project?
First and foremost is the observation that gold occurs as high grade. The old miners worked narrow-vein gold. Where the shear is intersected and shows ancillary features like alteration, the grades are still good, but the mineralised widths are much more attractive.
There is also now a good database to untangle the structure/alteration complexity. The old adage that ‘it’s not often the first explorer that wins the prize’ may very likely be the case here. Understanding grows with new information; Cervantes has a real chance for discovery – there remains a lot of highly prospective, untested ground.
Importantly, the project is close to infrastructure, is free of Native Title, and is located in one of the world’s lowest sovereign risk jurisdictions.
Cervantes means to see a mining operation here. For an emerging company, this field offers the opportunity to bring in short term cash flow while pursuing the ultimate prize of a large tonnage, good gold grade resource.
Q. Tell me about Cervantes’ 2018 exploration campaign, and what you wish to achieve this year.
Cervantes has three exploration areas, of which the Primrose Project is the flagship prospect. A regional sampling of the Primrose Shear by aircore drilling is targeting four areas that show surface gold anomalism over kinks in the Primrose Shear. Additionally, the historic Pansy gold mineralisation will be drill tested with the view to proving up a JORC resource for near-term development.
A programme of infill drilling will be undertaken at Albury Heath to both expand that 390,000t at 2.15g/t gold Inferred Resource and possibly convert it to a higher category for discussions with local mills.
Finally, a surface geochemistry survey has started on Cervantes’ Abbott prospect north-west of Meekatharra. This covers the northerly extension of a gold hosting structure currently being drilled out by Thundelarra.
Q. What makes a good exploration company, and what hurdles does one need to factor in working in today’s mining climate?
Persistence, with technical excellence and agility. We have put together a team that will deliver that excellence and have the flexibility to steer our efforts to success.
The major hurdle that explorationists face is red tape. Unnecessary and unproductive compliance costs are increasing and squeezing out new entrants from the industry.
Cervantes backs the call by the Minerals Council of Australia for a review of the Native Titles Act. But reform must go much further. Assessment and overview of proposed activities must be streamlined. The WA Government has gone some way down this path; Cervantes encourages them to continue.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you have been given in your career?
Love what you do, never stop learning about what you do and apply it.
An old headframe in the Payne’s Find gold field.
Cervantes managing director Marcus Flis.