As the global COVID-inspired fiscal fog of early 2020 gradually dissipates, a resource sector-led share market surge has underpinned a 1,900-point rally on the ASX’s All Ordinaries index since May 2020. Riding the wave, ASX-listed Venture Minerals’ share price has tripled in the past 12 months as the company has steadily built a portfolio of in-demand commodity assets including lithium, copper, tin and nickel prospects as it seeks to take advantage of the globe’s burgeoning electric vehicle, or “EV” and tech markets in 2021 and beyond.
Venture’s timing into the iron ore market would also appear to be well judged with the company on track to commence production early in the new year at its Riley Hematite project in north-western Tasmania. Just this week, the NYMEX-traded 62 per cent iron ore price into China hit 9-year highs smashing through the US$160 per metric tonne barrier. The benchmark iron ore price effectively doubled in the latter half of last year on the back of surging demand for the red dust.
According to Wikipedia, there are 38 iron ore producing countries, with most looking to cash in on strong demand for steel in China as Australia’s big three, BHP, Rio Tinto and FMG deliver big returns to their shareholders.
Whilst BHP and Rio locked in solid share price uplifts of 11.7 and 14.7 per cent respectively during 2020, Twiggy Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group delivered a whopping 135 per cent increase in market capitalisation on the back of China’s steel-fuelled economic recovery.
For Aussie investors however, local iron ore hopeful Venture Minerals eclipsed all three of those mega miners with a stellar 175 per cent increase in 2020 from a January low of $0.02 to $0.055 in December. The first trading days of the new year has seen its stock price continue to march higher, trading above $0.07 per share in opening trades today, giving it a market cap in excess of A$60 million.
Although Rio, BHP and FMG accounted for around 90 per cent of Australia’s iron ore exports during the last decade, China has been rather vocal recently in its desire to diversify supply chains beyond those big three pumping their iron ore out of WA’s Pilbara region.
This muscle-flexing by China’s central government could well be good news for Venture as it looks to monetise its Tasmanian iron ore prospect, transitioning to producer from developer early this year.
Venture Minerals said it was looking to ship its first load of iron ore from its Tasmania-based Riley Hematite project in the current quarter as construction of its wet screening plant nears completion.
The company’s Riley iron ore project has an immediately accessible, direct shipping ore reserve of 1.6 million tonnes at 57 per cent iron, with low impurities. Venture has already completed the initial stage of mining and dry screening operations with an expectation that successful haulage tenderer, Qube, will manage ore export logistics.
Whilst transport infrastructure in the north-west of Tasmania includes around 100km of existing rail network extending northward from the old mining town of Renison Bell, Qube will likely truck the ore from the mine gate to the export shipping point at the port of Burnie on Tasmania’s north coast.
With current iron ore prices exceeding the positive feasibility study numbers tabled back in August 2019, Venture’s management is now finalising financing plans for the wet screening plant.
Just up the road from Riley, Venture’s Tasmanian ground also holds the Livingstone Hematite deposit and the Mount Lindsay tin-tungsten project. According to the company’s management, tin is an important part of the fourth industrial revolution through solder that binds everything which is electronic in the internet of things, or “IoT”.
Energy storage, solar power and electric vehicles all rely to some degree on tin in the manufacture of the various components that wire everything together. As such, Venture is looking into how to quickly monetise Mount Lindsay, given the project contains one of the largest undeveloped tin deposits in the world, with more than 80,000 tonnes of contained tin confirmed.
The company is also considering the value-added benefits of the same body of mineralisation containing a globally significant tungsten resource, tipping the scales at 3.2Mt of tungsten oxide, from a total resource of 4.7Mt grading 0.4 per cent tin and 0.3 per cent tungsten.
Recently, Venture Minerals increased the resource volumes in the measured and indicated categories at Mount Lindsay by a massive 60 per cent after cutting 83km of diamond drill core.
Prospector George Renison Bell discovered alluvial tin, or cassiterite, way back in 1890 and commenced production shortly afterwards. Mount Lyell Mining had control of the Renison mine during the 1950s and Metals X has had operations ticking over in some form or other since 2006.
Venture Minerals is an active mineral explorer and developer with good ground on both coasts of Australia, having a gaggle of projects also dotting the landscape across both the Yilgarn and Pilbara Cratons in Western Australia.
In WA’s South West region, Venture holds the Kulin gold and PGE-nickel-copper project, the Thor Copper-lead-zinc prospect and the nearby Odin nickel-copper prospect.
In the State’s mid-west, Venture likes its Golden Grove North project where it is targeting historical gold drill intercepts of 8m grading 2.1 g/t from a very shallow 8m and 6m grading 2.3 g/t gold from just 6m downhole. Historical rock chips in the area have also been assayed, with one returning 7.4 g/t gold and another giving up 7.6 per cent copper and 27g/t silver.
The company’s Golden Grove North ground covers 25km of strike length of largely untested VMS-style mineral exploration targets, located just 10km north of EMR Capital’s Golden Grove mining camp which boasts a resource of over 5Mt of a mixture of primary zinc and copper ore.
Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide, or “VMS” deposits have been found on most continents and are often dominated by copper and zinc minerals but can also include nickel, cobalt, gold and silver.
VMS-style mineralisation has its origins in hydrothermal vents on the seafloor, spewing out black clouds of sulphide-rich hot water which ultimately form hard-rock mineral deposits. Much of Canada’s copper, zinc and even lead production come from its VMS mineral deposits.
Just last month, Venture tabled some solid VMS-style mineralisation numbers from three reconnaissance drill holes at its Orcus prospect, with up to 7 per cent zinc being assayed from depths between 59 and 152m downhole.
One of the best intercepts was 5m at 1.3 per cent, including 1m at a robust 6.1 per cent zinc, 1.3 per cent copper, 0.8 g/t gold and 22g/t silver from an open-pit-mineable 59m downhole. Another strong 1m intercept returned 7.6 per cent zinc, 1.0 per cent copper, 0.17 g/t gold and 20 g/t silver from 101m.
The confirmation of a VMS System with assays of high-grade Zinc and Copper, Gold and Silver returned from the first drill holes at Orcus suggests that the Golden Grove North Project has the potential to host a significant body of VMS mineralisation.
This early success at Orcus combined with numerous strong EM conductors identified throughout the project delivers the Company an excellent opportunity to deliver on-going exploration success targeting what appears to be a significant VMS system.
The Orcus prospect already boasts a VMS-style drill intersection of 22m at 0.76 g/t gold, 0.64 per cent copper and 1.3 per cent zinc from 38m, including 10m at 1.0g/t gold, 0.74 per cent copper and 2.1 per cent zinc from 50m to bottom of hole. Orcus sits on trend between the two recently delineated high priority VMS drill targets of Vulcan North and Vulcan West, according to Venture.
With a bevy of 21st-century mineral targets strewn across the country and the rotary diviner set to return to Orcus any day now, Venture will be looking to 2021 as a year when its chickens hopefully come home to roost.
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