Simon Jackson has first-hand experience of how exploration success can turn a penny dreadful explorer in to a billion dollar-plus company.

Jackson was part of the management team that turned the once ASX-listed explorer Red Back Mining in to the African gold specialist that was acquired by Canada’s Kinross for $C9.2 billion in 2010.

It is little wonder then that during a recent corporate break, Jackson decided it was time to jump back in to the junior sector, spurning the advice of all around him that the sector was stuffed.

His return to the junior space is through a little thing called Kopore Metals (ASX: KMT) which is exploring for big time copper on the Kalahari copper belt where it straddles Botswana and Namibia. He got on board two months ago.

And Kopore – it is a local African word for copper – really is a junior. It last traded at the princely price of 1c for a market value of $6.3m and an enterprise value of $4.3m, after taking in to account its $2m cash holding.

Having said that, Jackson is a big believer in the axiom that you can’t find a copper deposit without drilling.

So he has one rig drilling away at the Korong Central prospect in Botswana, and he has ordered up another to drill the Ongava prospect across in Namibia, remembering that mineralised trends like the Kalahari copper belt do not recognise international borders.

A bit of the old nearology

It is early stage stuff which is following up some early encouragement in previous work. Given Kopore’s light market capitalisation, it stands to reason that its share price leverage to it making a decent copper hit in the current programs is extreme.

And as Jackson admits with a laugh, the downside from a lack of exploration success is necessarily limited by Kopore’s current 1c price tag.

The Kalahari copper belt is something of an exploration hotspot. Kopore’s 15,000sq km tenement package is to the south-west of where a couple of others, MOD Resources and Cupric Canyon, have been kicking goals of late.

The ASX-listed MOD is advancing its T3 copper project while the privately held Cupric Canyon is doing the same at its Khoemacau copper project. Both are in the Botswana side of the Kalahari copper belt.

MOD was recently the subject of a rejected conditional bid by ASX-listed copper/gold producer Sandfire. The proposed 38c offer looks good compared with MOD’s current 30c share price but MOD reckons its value creation on the copper belt is just starting.

Apart from its T3 project, Sandfire was attracted to MOD’s exposure to the exploration upside of the copper belt.

The failed approach to MOD was part of Sandfire’s push to find a long-term replacement for its current mainstay, the DeGrussa copper/gold mine in Western Australia which has about five years of remaining reserves.

The big time potential of the Kalahari copper belt was recently highlighted by Cupric Canyon’s ability to raise $US565m to fund the development of Khoemacau.

Craking on in the Kalahari

Kopore is a long way off from having a T3 or a Khoemacau on its hands, if ever. But at least it is having a crack.

It was what shareholders have been agitating for and is why the bustling Jackson was signed up for the gig back in early April.

His enthusiasm for the story went down well with the 800 mainly retail shareholders at this week’s Resources Rising Stars conference on the Gold Coast.

Kopore shares edged up from 0.9c to the current market price of 1c after Jackson’s presentation.

Not a big deal in the scheme of things, but indicative nevertheless that the retail punters at least are on board with the notion that exposure to exploration upside in a lightly valued junior can get interesting when the drill bit is whirring away.