MAN WHO SPARKED PIL­BARA RUSH DOES THE DEAL OF A LIFE­TIME

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - TONY BARRASS

MEET Johnathon Camp­bell — the ac­ci­den­tal rock-kicker who in­ad­ver­tently kick-started a gold rush.

The ex-FIFO worker and mus­terer, whose dis­cov­ery of so-called “wa­ter­melon-seed” gold nuggets has sparked an un­prece­dented run on the ASX, has done the deal of a life­time to sell his leases to Cana­dian miner Novo.

But the fa­ther of six said he would be “just as happy if I’d never found the f. . . thing”.

Af­ter yet an­other week of sky-rock­et­ing ju­nior gold stocks — De Grey up 27 per cent, Artemis 39 per cent and Kairos 30 per cent — Mr Camp­bell con­firmed the deal in­cluded:

$250,000 cash (al­ready paid). 450,000 Novo shares once the leases are granted — at to­day’s price equates to more than $3.6 mil­lion.

$1 MIL­LION dis­cov­ery bonus in Novo shares or cash if drilling re­sults show 250,000 ounces of gold on site.

1 PER CENT a year roy­alty if the op­er­a­tion goes into pro­duc­tion.

Toronto-listed Novo is in a joint ven­ture with Artemis Re­sources whose big­gest share­hold­ers are the globe-trot­ting WA en­tre­pre­neur David Leni­gas and Dubai-based Mick “Many Names” Sheme­sian, a wealthy in­vestor and for­mer Kar­ratha prospec­tor.

Mr Camp­bell, 41, first flew over the leases in a mate’s he­li­copter when they were count­ing cat­tle in a re­mote area south of Kar­ratha. Af­ter spot­ting a humpy, they landed the chop­per and even­tu­ally found some man-made holes in rock.

“Ini­tially we thought some­one was run­ning from the po­lice . . . we couldn’t think why some­one else was out so far, even prospec­tors,” he told

The Sun­day Times.

Af­ter team­ing up through a Face­book page with a lo­cal man armed with metal de­tec­tors, he re­turned to the site and, “hard as it is to be­lieve, we just turned the metal de­tec­tor on and it was just all go”.

“I just went out there for a day and re­alised this place was stink­ing hot with rocks, we just kept go­ing there ev­ery week­end . . . we’d go down there with the four-wheel mo­tor­bikes and go for it,” he said.

Mr Camp­bell said he and his part­ners took any­thing be­tween $5000 and $20,000 off the leases on “any given week­end” over a cou­ple of months.

He said he put down Spe­cial Prospect­ing Li­censes, which al­lowed prospec­tors to work big­ger ten­e­ments owned by com­pa­nies who were not do­ing any­thing with them, and pegged as much land as he could around the area.

Mr Camp­bell said the red-ridged spinifex ground had been pegged by two big­ger miners, one of whom was Fox Re­sources which was in the process of hav­ing to sur­ren­der its ground due to lack of ex­plo­ration. He swooped on the Fox Re­sources leases when they be­came avail­able.

A cou­ple of months later, when he met Artemis ge­ol­o­gist Ed Mead — again af­ter put­ting down the chop­per in the back blocks of the Pil­bara — he told him there was plenty of gold on Artemis land as the ASX-listed ju­nior had the ad­ja­cent leases.

“I don’t think he be­lieved me. That changed when he had an­other look,” he said.

While he wouldn’t go into de­tails, Mr Camp­bell said he and his part­ners fell out over who owned what when “greed came into it”. Un­der the threat of le­gal ac­tion, he dis­cov­ered that he could lose his house if the other two de­cided to sue him.

Even now, af­ter shak­ing hands with Novo’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Quin­ton Hen­nigh to hand over the li­cences, the pres­sure on him to do “side deals” with oth­ers con­tin­ues.

“This is why I hate it . . . they all seem to think they can get some­thing out of each other. It is like the big­gest game of chess I’ve ever seen in my life . . . you sign this, and we’ll buy that. Peo­ple are still of­fer­ing me mil­lions,” he said.

While tech­ni­cally the leases were still in his name un­til Na­tive Ti­tle ap­proval, he said he couldn’t wait un­til the deal was com­plete.

“Hand on heart, I would have been just as happy if I’d never found the f. . . thing,” he said. “I just want to buy some bait and go fish­ing.”

Set for life: Johnathon Camp­bell is the ac­ci­den­tal miner who in­ad­ver­tently started a gold rush and sold his leases to Cana­dian miner Novo. Pic­ture: Sarah Jayne Im­agery

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