Here’s how much cash the best performing ASX resources juniors are spending
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Last month we looked at the top 100 performing ASX resources stocks over the past 12 months.
This week, as the last of the June cashflow statements are filed, we went back to our list to take a look at how much cash they’re spending.
Exploration activity dropped off dramatically in the last downturn, but with commodities markets now on a more positive trajectory, junior explorers are opening their wallets.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics backs that notion — with mineral exploration spend up 11 per cent, or $51.4 million, to $516.7 million in the March quarter.
Two big spenders from the top 100 include the closely watched AVZ Minerals (ASX:AVZ) and Artemis Resources (ASX:ARV).
AVZ, which went into a trading halt this week ahead of the release of a maiden resource for its Manono lithium project in the Congo, spent a tidy $5.6 million on exploration in the June quarter.
That took its exploration spend for the year to $12.1 million.
It’s planning to spend another $6 million of its remaining $16 million this quarter — largely on a 20,000m drilling campaign at its Manono project that’s due to be done by September.
Investor interest in AVZ rocketed after the lithium explorer announced in September that it had discovered one of the “longest pegmatite intercepts ever reported”. Pegmatites are rocks formed from lava or magma that are the primary source of lithium.
Like a lot of lithium miners, AVZ is well down on its 12-month high of 37c at the start of the year. But it’s still ahead by about 77 per cent since this time last year.
The Pilbara beckons
The $105 million Artemis, meanwhile, is also sinking cash into its projects, spending $7.7 million last quarter and a total of $13.7 million for the 2018 financial year.
The company is drilling what is expected to be Australia’s deepest ever diamond drill hole in a bid to unlock the secrets of the Pilbara in Western Australia.
Artemis is aiming for a depth of 3300m — which will cost about $1.4 million.
The company is also preparing to become the first Pilbara explorer to process bulk samples of nuggetty gold after winning the first of three approvals needed to upgrade its local Radio Hill plant.
Artemis plans to spend about $4.9 million on exploration and $4.7 million on development in the September quarter. It’s well-funded with some $27 million in the kitty.
Artemis’s shares have drifted down since our top 100 article — and are well below their 59c peak during last year’s Pilbara gold rush — now trading at about 16c.
Copper explorer Peel Mining (ASX:PEX) — which has gained 170 per cent over the past year for a market cap of $90 million — spent more than $4 million on exploration last quarter.
That brought its exploration spend for the year to $10.1 million — with another $1 million to be spent this quarter. It’s got $2.3 million in the bank.
Peel’s main focus is its 50 per cent-owned Mallee Bull copper deposit in the Cobar Basin of New South Wales.
Battery metals for the win
Australian Mines (ASX:AUZ), which is positioning itself as a battery metals player, was one of our top five resources stocks in June with a 669 per cent 12-month gain.
Aus Mines invested $2.6 million in exploration in the June quarter for a total yearly bill of $8.2 million.
It’s upping its exploration this quarter, spending $3.4 million of its remaining $9 million.
The $220 million miner is planning to spin-off and list its West Australian gold and base metals projects on the ASX so it can focus on its cobalt, nickel and scandium projects in Queensland and New South Wales.
Cobalt explorer Celsius Resources (ASX:CLA) was another outstanding performer in our top 100. It’s lost about half its value since April and May — but at 12c is still triple the price it was fetching this time last year.
Celsius injected about $2.6 million into exploration last quarter for a full-year spend of $7.3 million.
The $86 million explorer recently defined a maiden resource for its Opuwo cobalt project in north-west Namibia.
It’s still got $12 million under the mattress and plans to spend $1.7 million this quarter.
Emerging lithium producer Argosy Minerals (ASX:AGY) — another strong performer in our top 100 — is spending up on the development of its Rincon lithium project in Argentina.
The $175 million explorer spent $2.5 million on development and $128,000 on exploration for a full-year spend of $4.3 million.
It’s still got $8 million burning a hole in its pocket — and plans to splash $2.2 million on development and exploration this quarter.
The incentive for explorers to spend more cash and get cracking on new discoveries has been helped somewhat by the introduction of the Australian government’s new exploration tax credit scheme.
The Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive (JMEI) allows explorers with no mining income to renounce and pass on future tax deductions to Australian resident investors.