Gold explorer Antipa Minerals (ASX:AZU) will cross its fingers its new joint venture partner Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) will hit the go button on more cash for exploration at their Citadel gold-copper project in the Pilbara region.

Rio has now taken its stake in the project to 51 per cent by spending $11m and Antipa has responded by forming a coveted JV with the miner.

New venture operator Rio has three weeks to decide whether to exclusively fund another $14m of exploration at the 1,330sqkm project over the next three years.

If the big miner serves up the cash, it can take its project stake to 65 per cent.

With a further $35m it can then up its stake to 75 per cent in the period.

Citadel is in Western Australia’s East Pilbara district and hosts a global resource of 63.8 million tonnes grading 0.8 grams per tonne gold and 0.2 per cent copper.

The resource could produce about 1.6 million gold ounces and 127,000 tonnes of copper.

Its located in some pretty desirable Pilbara gold territory, just 5km east of Rio Tinto’s Winu copper‐gold‐silver deposit and 80km north of Newcrest’s Telfer gold‐copper‐silver mine.

READ: Rio Grande: The Winu copper find is real, possibly ‘colossal’ – and these juniors are right next door


In other ASX small cap base metals news today:

Adavale Resources (ASX:ADD) has added 32 per cent to its share price during morning trade after putting in for 411sqkm of high-grade Kabanga North and Kabanga North East tenements once held by BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) near the undeveloped Kabanga nickel sulphide project. Adavale’s project, which sits on the Karagwe-Ankolean system, already has a resource of 58 million tonnes grading 2.62 per cent nickel and has attracted the attention of a top-three lithium-ion battery producer, according to the company.

AusQuest (ASX:AQD) has found gold in three of four holes during 1,800m of drilling at the Cerro de Fierro copper prospect in southern Peru during November and December. The drill program is due to be completed by the end of January, with all drilling results expected by February.