Monsters of Rock: WA’s biggest 100 companies add ‘staggering’ 46pc to value in past 12 months
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‘Tis the season as the mining industry’s top table gather for a soiree in Kalgoorlie, the beating heart of the West Australian resources scene.
With Sydneysiders and Melbournians locked out by Covid for the second straight year, the focus is again well and truly on the wild West.
According to Deloitte the value of companies in its annual index of the top 100 WA firms on the ASX has nearly doubled on the back of soaring commodity prices over the past 12 months.
They were up a remarkable 46% to $293 billion on the year to June 30, 2021; around half of that attributable to Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) and Fortescue (ASX:FMG) which was up 68.5% on bull run iron ore prices.
But it also reflects the successes of some early stage explorers who have made or grown significant finds over the part year.
“While local restrictions have placed significant challenges on our local companies in managing rostering, hygiene and distancing protocols and retaining skilled labour, the economic rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic has been powerful,” Deloitte partner Dave Andrews said.
“Most notably, the market capitalisation of WA Index participants has not just bounced back, rather catapulted to record highs in May 2021, and settling at its penultimate best at the end of June 2021.”
Deloitte said the sustainable and battery metals sectors had driven most of the movement at the lower end as base metals and lithium prices rose on the back of growth and positive sentiment in the EV market.
The top three movers by percentage in the top 20 included Piedmont Lithium (ASX:PLL), up 1732% but since impacted by a negative regulatory update out of the US where its flagship lithium mine is based, Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR), up 761%, and Chalice, up 752% on its Julimar nickel-copper-PGE discovery near Perth.
Incredibly, all of Venturex (334th to 49th), Piedmont (103rd to 16th), Vulcan (240th to 28th) and Eagle Mountain (316th to 97th) were outside the WA 100 last year.
Iron ore dropped below US$200/t for the first time since the end of May overnight. Fortescue was heavily sold, losing almost 5% a day after releasing its quarterly results, but BHP drifted higher to new records.
The materials sector was largely unchanged.
We know lithium prices and demand are on the way up and Pilbara Minerals has proven it after selling 10,000t of spodumene at US$1250/t at an online auction.
Conducted on its Battery Metals Exchange platform, the North West miner received 62 bids for the 5.5% Pilgangoora concentrate with the lowest seen at US$700/t.
To put that into context, Pilbara saw market prices of just US$410-423/t as recently as the June Quarter of 2020. While the bulk of its product is sold into long term contracts, the auction shows where demand for lithium products has been heading.
It may have attracted a good response from the market as well had Pilbara not been suspended from trading after applying to courts to forgive a forgotten cleansing notice it should have released with a share issue a month back.
The aforementioned Liontown was up in and around the 10% mark on a good day for the lithium sector.
Liontown owns the Kathleen Valley lithium project a few hundred kms north of Kalgoorlie, and has been one of the brightest mid-cap performers on the ASX in recent times.
The Tim Goyder-chaired company released its quarterly report today. Of note, it confirmed that it plans to have its DFS for Kathleen Valley out by the end of the year.
Liontown capitalised on its rising share price recently to raise $52m to accelerate the pace of the Kathleen Valley development, which it hopes to have ready for market in 2024.
KV boasts a measured, indicated and inferred resource of 156Mt at 1.35% lithium oxide and 129ppm tantalum pentoxide.
Northern Star Resources is Kalgoorlie through and through and, in the first year of its ownership run with the Super Pit, is always likely to reserve a major announcement for the halls of Kalgoorlie’s Goldfields Arts Centre.
Last year the gold miner, having recently announced its friendly merger with partner Saracen, had WA’s popular Premier Mark McGowan on hand to announce a major approval to extend the Super Pit to the south.
This year former NST CEO Stuart Tonkin will present again but this time as the company’s newly minted managing director.
Northern Star has chartered a potential path to 2Mozpa, meaning the one time micro-cap could soon be knocking on the door of Newcrest Mining (ASX:NCM) for the title of Australia’s biggest gold miner.