Geologist Adam James has travelled a long way from his roots in northeast Scotland, drawn like so many to West Australia by the allure of its rich Goldfields.

At 32 he could be onto his first major discovery as an exploration manager with Nexus Minerals (ASX:NXM), a slow burning gold exploration stock which has tickled the fancy of investors this year as results from drilling at its Wallbrook project have emerged.

The buzz around Wallbrook and its continuous, 1.6km long Crusader-Templar prospect is its remarkable geological resemblance to the Karari underground mine, the mainstay of Northern Star Resources’ (ASX:NST) ~200,000ozpa Carosue Dam operation a few klicks to the south.

At surface the prospect is an unassuming expanse of red dirt which soaks and radiates the scorching summer heat between the sparse shade of the ragged Kalgoorlie bush.

Underneath is a complex network of altered red, black, white and grey rocks bearing ancient fluids they hope are rivers of gold, hidden on largely untested ground between Northern Star’s Porphyry mining centre to the north and Wallbrook mine to the south.

“All the indicators so far that we’ve seen in the field there have been highly positive,” James said.

“When we’ve talked before about the three things that really make or break a project in my mind are the big alteration footprint, that we have as we’ve demonstrated with diamond hole 4, a big structure, which we have, we’ve got the Keith-Kilkenny fault that punches up through there and then splays that come off there that you see going up through the project.

“And then we’ve got nearology to other economic deposits that you see through Porphyry up to the north, and the Walbrook mine just down to the south of us, and obviously Karari further down to the south as well.

“So those three ingredients to me really make a high calibre project. That’s why for all of us here, we’re really just pleased and grateful to be working on a project that is so good.”


$19 million raised to go as quick as Nexus can

Diamond hole 4 which James referred to was the ballsy 700m deep hole that hit a 30m intersection regarded as a dead ringer for Karari, around 30km south of Nexus’ ground.

A long time penny dreadful, Nexus has shook that label with a stunning run since mid-August, rising by almost 590% since reporting gold hits of 14m at 8.8g/t and 10m at 5.49g/t at the Crusader prospect in the south and 10m at 5.64g/t at Templar.

Suggesting the scale and continuity of the find, those results were 1.2km apart, enough space for eight footy fields.

Nexus has gone from an 8c stock to 55c in three months, prompting a $19 million raising that will enable the company to ratchet up the pace of exploration.

Until now two RC rigs have been turning at Crusader and Templar. With $24m in the bank, that will soon change.

“At the moment we’ve got two RC and a diamond rig starting the first of January,” Nexus MD Andy Tudor said.

“And then we’ll be increasing that to a third and a fourth RC rig and another diamond. So by the end of January, early February, the idea is four RC and two diamonds running, and again we just couldn’t commit to that without having the funding.

“So it was just absolutely integral to the success of the project. And really, our knowledge was such that it was time to go really hard as quick as we can.

“With such a visual orebody, we don’t have to wait for the results luckily, they will come, but at the moment it’s really important to get the drilling done.”

Drilling at the Wallbrook project by Nexus
Drilling will scale up in 2022 after a $19m raising. Pic: Josh Chiat/Stockhead


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The right people for the job

The Wallbrook project comprises seven granted mining leases in the WA outback that were once part of Northern Star predecessor Saracen’s Carosue Dam portfolio.

They were long coveted by Tudor, who had another JV with Saracen south of Carosue Dam called the Pinnacles project.

Back in 2017 Saracen, which had cut back costs when the mining downturn hit, was focused on expanding production and investing in exploration around its existing gold deposits along with the newly acquired Thunderbox mine near Leinster.

It had little interest in grassroots exploration, which created a problem. Saracen spent little cash on the Wallbrook leases and was at risk of violating WA’s “use it or lose it” exploration laws.

Tudor heard about ‘plainters’ coming in from the north.

Plainters raise objections to mining companies who they claim don’t spend enough money on their leases, in the hope that they can tie the company up in the mining warden’s court and cut a deal for some cash or compel the WA Government to force the owner to relinquish the tenements.

Should the Mines Minister think it’s in the State’s interest, the plainter is given preference to peg the reclaimed leases, a sort of finder’s fee for tipping the mines department off to the alleged violation.

Tudor came up with a ‘win-win’ solution.

“I had a good relationship with the Saracen … and I said to them well, if we don’t plaint them, somebody else is going to,” he said.

“So Nexus plainted all of the mining tenements, and then ultimately did a deal with Saracen.

“We plainted them, we kept them within ourselves and Saracen at that stage were also buying shares and stock in Nexus, so they could see where we were taking the company and taking the project.

“We were good explorers, so they were happy to sort of let us then take that land.”

Nexus’ Wallbrook tenure is a stone’s throw from Porphyry, a bulk low grade ore body Northern Star is mining with drill and blast techniques.

Pleasingly for Nexus, its drilling is turning up dirt that looks a lot more like the high grade Karari orebody.

“As we keep getting deeper, it looks better and better,” Tudor said. “And the grade seems to be following it as well.

“So, we’re cheating and trying to copy what the Karari orebody looked like. It’s very much like a reverse funnel, it gets wider and better, with a better grade with depth. And that’s what ours is certainly looking like.

“We’ve spent a fair bit of time underground at Karari and this is certainly better in the intensity stakes.

“If you want to scale it from one to 10, if Karari is a seven most of ours are sort of eights and nines, and there’s even a lot that’s getting close to 10.

“It’s particularly intense.

“And that’s what’s interesting, you know, people who’ve worked a lot of time underground at Karari looked at the rocks now and are saying it’s looking better than what Karari did at this point. So that’s certainly what we’re aiming for.”

Red rocks are good for the Wallbrook project
Red rocks are positive signs, but other styles of mineralisation have also delivered higher grades. Pic: Josh Chiat/Stockhead


Exploration success drives value proposition

Having secured the pick of the tenements, nearby Newmont agreed to trade their adjacent leases into Nexus as well.

The whole shebang cost Nexus the equivalent of ~$335,000, mostly in shares.

Its recent success has turned the company from a sub-$30m capped stock to a $150m company with an EV of over $120m.

“At the time when we took the tenements off Saracen (now Northern Star), they were mining. They’re mining very, very well, that’s what they do well, but they accept exploring is not their main task,” Tudor said. “And certainly, that’s mine.

“I’ve been doing it 37 years now. It’s what I love, it’s my passion and it’s my team’s passion. And so it naturally made sense that we would be better custodians of that land than they would, because they weren’t going to explore it anyway.

“That’s what juniors can be particularly good at, is being able to get out there and give these things a good shake.”

With some key diamond drilling results still on the way, including the visible gold bearing diamond hole 5, James said the potential of Wallbrook has excited Nexus’ geologists.

“I think it’s just the scale, the footprint that we’re seeing, and the continuity as well, which you don’t always get in every deposit,” he said.

“There’s a lot (of projects) out there that, you just take a shotgun approach. And fair enough, you get some great intercepts out of it, but do they correlate? Not really.

“So really the continuity and the scale are really what’s saying, yes I think we’ve got something that’s very, very interesting and material on our hands.”

Even more exciting, while many discoveries in recent years have effectively been extensions or add-ons to known orebodies, the success so far has been all the junior’s work.

“There are other deposits in the area, which is obviously incredibly interesting,” James said.

“But there’s very, very few drill holes that were previously drilled in through this area.

“When you look around there’s barely a drill hole in there that’s not Nexus and really the learning curve and the excitement from a geologist’s perspective is really immense.”

Nexus boss Andy Tudor shows media and investors where they are in the Wallbrook project.
Wallbrook’s Crusader-Templar prospect is 1.6km long. Pic: Josh Chiat/Stockhead


Scaling up

Currently Nexus rents out a station house at the Edjudina pastoral lease near its tenements to house drillers, geos and management on their swings.

That quaint abode will be supplemented by a 50-person camp early next year, a sign of Wallbrook and Nexus’ rapid expansion.

Having gotten investors stand up and take notice, Tudor says 2022 is not the time to sit still.

With assay results from this year’s drilling still to come from the labs, Nexus is planning 20,000m of RC and 3000m of deeper diamond holes at both Crusader and Templar between February and April.

Another 16,000m of regional RC drilling will also be completed.

“2022 is going to be starting to pull together some serious numbers and really see what the scale and the size and the grade of this thing is,” Tudor said.

“And then we add some more regional exploration that we’re doing. If we can continue to repeat these things then you just don’t know how big this thing is.

“Then it’s a whole region we’re talking rather than just the 1.6km of strike. So I think that’ll start to become the catalyst is building that 1.6km up and finding repeats of that.

“We’ll have six drill rigs going at the end of January, a 50-man camp in, we’re gonna have eight to 10 geos, field crews, as well as our senior management and exploration teams.

“So it’s going to be a large team and it’s an exciting team enjoying the discovery and taking on the ride.”