The Australian Mining Review - - FRONT PAGE - CAMERON DRUM­MOND

“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.

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