Barry FitzGerald: These juniors are benefiting from Fortescue’s accelerating exploration effort
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Andrew “Twiggy’’ Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) has been casting the net far and wide for growth opportunities beyond iron ore in the Pilbara.
The $28 billion Fortescue’s hunt has included a failed $9 billion bid for the northern end of the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea.
Then there is its investigation into whether it can revive the Panguna copper-gold mine on Bougainville island in PNG, the former Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) mine closed in 1989 after attacks by secessionist rebels.
What is not generally appreciated though is that Fortescue has also dramatically stepped up its mineral exploration effort to create new opportunities.
Fortescue spent all of $US39m ($57.2m) on exploration in 2017, increasing that to $US67m in 2018.
This financial year it expects to spend $US140m, which is not all that far off BHP’s (ASX:BHP) $160m minerals exploration expenditure.
The step up this year reflects a vast array of exploration projects moving from early stage work to the critical drilling phase.
The company is notoriously shy about its exploration projects. There is still no names, no pack-drill with its copper-gold push in Ecuador, and the massive ground position it assembled in WA’s Paterson province in the wake of Rio Tinto’s exciting Winu discovery.
But it is a different case with exploration projects where Fortescue has had to partner up with ASX-listed juniors to gain access to prospective tenements its geology team reckons are worth a crack.
So if the idea of partnering up on exploration with one of Australia’s richest men has some appeal to the punters, ‘Garimpeiro’ today lists a couple of ASX juniors that have benefited recently from Fortescue’s stepped up exploration effort.
Fortescue is looking for the next big copper-gold deposit in South Australia’s outback in a recently formalised farm-in agreement with Tasman Resources.
It can earn a 51 per cent interest by sole funding $4m on exploration over three years at Tasman’s Vulcan project, which lies to the north of BHP’s Olympic Dam iron ore copper gold (IOCG) monster.
The Vulcan tenement contains IOCG targets which have been drilled previously (Vulcan, Titan and Marathon South) as well as undrilled targets (Vulcan West and Zeus).
Fortescue must be bringing new ideas and targeting methods to the joint venture, as the Vulcan target was given a good workover by Rio Tinto almost 10 years ago in a nine-hole program that returned interesting IOCG results but no cigar.
In its most recent update, Tasman said Fortescue was reviewing all previous exploration data and re-logging drill holes with a view to developing a tenement wide geological model to aid drill hole targeting.
Tasman last traded at 5.2c a share and it can be said that there is nothing in the share price for the joint venture with Fortescue.
That’s because Tasman owns 36 per cent of ASX-listed Eden Innovations (ASX:EDE), which has been enjoying success in breaking into the big US market with its carbon-strengthened concrete additive EdenCrete.
The stake is worth about $29m or 5.5c a Tasman share.
First mentioned by ‘Garimpeiro’ on August 1 when it was a 14c stock, and again on October 7 at 20c, Carawine has since powered on to 24.5c.
Drilling is about to start at Carawine’s Hill 800 gold-copper porphyry target at Jamieson in north-eastern Victoria.
But the recent move along is due to a $6m joint venture agreement with Fortescue, and an earlier $5.5m agreement with Rio Tinto. Both joint ventures are over Carawine project areas in the Paterson province.
Fortescue can earn a 75 per cent interest in Carawine’s Lamil Hills, Trotman South and Sunday prospects, while Rio can earn a 70 per cent interest in Carawine’s Baton and Red Dog prospects.
Carawine still has four 100 per cent owned tenements in the Paterson, a region considered a hot spot after Rio’s Winu success, and the high-grade gold-copper hits by the Newcrest-Greatland joint venture at Havieron.
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