Garimpeiro knows full well that market values in the exploration sector have been shredded. But he didn’t realise just how bad things had got.

The pain is widespread.

But ever the optimist, he decided to dive in to what has become an over-sized bargain bin of exploration juniors during the week to pluck out a chocolate or two.

One that did get his interest up was Dart Mining (ASX:DTM), a hardy Victorian gold and lithium explorer with big ground positions in centre of the state (gold), and in the northeast (gold and lithium) where Garimpeiro has been known to drop a fishing line now and then.

First up it has got to be mentioned that Jim Mellon, the billionaire stock-trader with a knack of picking trends early, holds 19% of the stock. Some refer to him as the UK’s version of Warren Buffett which he doesn’t enjoy, partly because he lives an upmarket lifestyle and Buffett doesn’t.

Mellon has long been a gold and lithium fan but like all Dart shareholders he has had to watch the stock sink during the junior market, shredding to all of 1.7c a share for a market cap of $3.87 million, would you believe.

Dart has been mentioned here previously on the strength of the lithium hunt in the northeast in a joint venture it manages with Chilean lithium giant SQM, no less, paying the bills. It is early stage stuff but certainly enough to more than cover Dart’s modest market cap.

Dart and SQM continue to advance the project at the technical level but it is parked up for the moment pending the issue of approvals to put in a track and some drill pads to test targets worked up in a busy 2023 with the drill bit.

Lithium sentiment still sucks so there is no angst about the likelihood that it will take three or four months for the approvals to come through.

When the drilling does get going at a site about a 30 minute drive on rough tracks from the Eskdale pub, it will be testing a fractionation zone which is what lithium explorers focus on to have the highest probability of finding high-grade and good tonnage mineralisation.

In the meantime, Dart is going hammer and tongs at its Rushworth gold project in central Victoria, about 40km northeast of the fabled Fosterville gold mine owned by Canada’s Agnico Eagle.

It is a historic high-grade gold field that has been overlooked in the modern era even though it shares the same rock types as Fosterville. Dart is now well into a 10-hole drill program at the wonderfully named Growlers Hill prospect.

It was a historic producer (1890s) from a high-grade northerly striking quartz vein to a depth of more than 100m and an adjacent east-west reef to a similar depth. It is but one of thousands of potential targets.

When Dart conducted a LIDAR survey which strips away the region’s dense canopy it was staggered to see that instead of a line of old working extending 600m or so from a known old gold mine, the line of strike could be traced for another 14km – 4600 historic workings in all.

Dart’s Victorian gold interests also extend to a project in the Buckland Valley, Sandy Creek close to Wodonga, and its namesake project near Corryong, with the latter having had no modern day exploration at all.

As suggested with its lithium interests, it has got to be said that Dart’s gold interests more than cover its $3.87 million market cap. The other way of looking at it is to suggest Dart’s leverage to any exploration success is extreme.

To that Garimpeiro adds his assessment that Dart has to be one of the most honest toilers in the ASX junior explorers’ space.

Its cash burn rate of $1.5 million is the lowest you’ll find yet it is one of the more active thanks to its ownership of its own drilling rig. It can get the task of drilling targets down to $70 a metre all up or less than half the going rate of a contractor.

It means that year in year out Dart can plan to drill 6000-7000m on its 100% owned gold ground.

Dart chairman James Chirnside explained to Garimpeiro that the aim is to be very self-reliant, and to be drilling constantly.

“The idea is that an exploration company is a drilling company. And if you are not drilling, as Paul Keating would say, you’re camping out.’’

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