Chalice Mining’s (ASX:CHN) March 2020 discovery of the Julimar PGE-nickel-copper-cobalt deposit near Perth has been one of the most significant finds across Australia in recent years.

The first hole returned a 19m intersection grading 2.59% nickel, 1.04% copper, 8.37 grams per tonne (g/t) palladium and 1.11g/t platinum from a depth of just 48m in a greenfields region – an area that is largely unexplored – and was promptly followed up by a slew of successful results that firmly established its significance.

This proved to be a winner for Chalice, which saw its shares soar from 15c to the current price for about $6.40 per share and a market capitalisation of $2.49 billion.


There are multiple reasons for this meteoric growth.

Firstly, Julimar is a big discovery that would not be out of place in the portfolios of major miners.

While no resources have been declared to date – you likely have to wait until early in the fourth quarter – exploration to date has identified 12 high-grade zones with significant strike lengths at depths of between 25m to about 500m below surface.

The broader 1.8km long, 0.9km wide and 0.8km deep Gonneville Intrusion and 10 of these zones remain open, meaning that further exploration could well increase the size of the already hefty discovery.

Adding interest is the magic mix of commodities, most of which are currently in high demand in the battery metals sector.

Lastly, there is a certain prestige that comes from making a play opening discovery, a distinction that Chalice shares with De Grey Mining (ASX:DEG) and its giant Hemi discovery.

Prior to Chalice joining all the dots and making the Julimar discovery, the West Yilgarn Craton was an exploration desert due to extensive transported cover that impacted on geological mapping.


Nearology and why it may or may not matter

It is this last point that has seen junior companies scramble to pick up ground in the region in the hopes that ‘nearology’, basically being near a big discovery, would work in their favour.

This is a mixed bag at the best of times.

While they have been some successes, there have also been some notable failures as explorers trying to find deposits near DeGrussa or Nova can attest.

Investor response has also been varied with some companies performing better than others. Here’s a look at what they are doing and how they have performed in the past six months.


Julimar nearology plays

Better known for its advanced vanadium project, Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) is also exploring for nickel, base metals and PGEs at its Coates project near Wundowie, about 29km north-northwest of Julimar.

An initial soil survey has highlighted a prospective sequence of nickel, copper and PGE bearing rock that has been untested by recent exploration.

Upcoming work include further soil work and a drill program with EIS co-funding in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Burley Minerals (ASX:BUR) is focused on its Yerecoin project about 60km north of the Julimar discovery that actually has an existing magnetite resource of 247Mt grading 30% iron.

While work is continuing on the development potential of the magnetite deposits, the company is also evaluating the project’s nickel-copper-PGE potential as historical drilling at Yerecoin South had intercepted abundant serpentinised ultramafic rocks over a strike length of about 3km.

Historical assaying had returned anomalous nickel and cobalt values in the variably serpentinised ultramafic units.

In early August, the company completed an airborne electromagnetic survey that identified eight bedrock conductors, two of which are in Yerecoin South where the closest drillhole to the first conductor intercepted ultramafic rock units beneath the banded iron formation units.

Caspin Resources (ASX:CPN) has been exploring its Yarawindah Brook project — about 40km north of Julimar and within the same group of host rocks — before Chalice made the discovery.

Work has identified a potential new PGE discovery at its Yarabrook Hill prospect with the first two holes demonstrating that mineralisation extends to the bedrock.

Assays are currently pending for a 3,000m reverse circulation drill program at Yarabrook Hill.

Interestingly, the company counts Chalice as its single largest shareholder, which could be further support that it is on to something significant.

AVL, BUR and CPN share price charts


About 20km to the southeast, Charger Metals (ASX:CHR) is currently waiting on the results of a SkyTEM survey to detect conductive rocks that may include sulphide minerals containing nickel, copper, cobalt and PGEs at its Coates project.

This is an accepted method of targeting large areas considered prospective for nickel sulphides in an effective and time-efficient manner with similar systems used successfully by other operators in the Julimar district.

Previous exploration by Bauxite Resources has provided some hints of Coates’ potential with geochemical analysis returning anomalous and often co-incident values of platinum, palladium and gold.

DevEx Resources (ASX:DEV) recently defined a large-scale, 12km long mafic-ultramafic intrusion at its Sovereign project with aircore drilling providing a window into the more prospective intrusion below the overlying gabbroic rocks.

The company noted that the rocks are likely analogous to the western margin of the Gonneville intrusion.

However, where the intrusion at Julimar is folded onto its side and exposes the Ni-Cu-PGE rich serpentinite at surface, the intrusion at Sovereign is currently interpreted to be flatter-lying with the with the more prospective ultramafic rocks (serpentinite) lying beneath the pyroxenite and mela-gabbronorite.

Lachlan Star (ASX:LSA) recently moved to a 75% interest in the Koojan copper-nickel-PGE project about 80km north of Julimar though this increased stake might be reduced under an agreement with Liontown.

Liontown can earn 51% in the project by spending $4m on exploration within five years.

Koojan is interpreted to be located within the same geophysical setting as the Julimar and Yarawindah prospects.

Geochemical sampling has defined the Mallory PGE-gold anomaly that is coincident with strongly anomalous gold, copper and nickel, which is interpreted to indicate possible sulphide-related mineralisation.

CHR, DEV and LSA share price charts


As previously noted, Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR) has held the Moora project located about 95km south of Julimar since 2018 with exploration delivering promising gold and copper/gold results at a number of prospects.

It is now moving to spin-off the asset into new ASX play Minerals 260, which will see Liontown’s chief executive David Richards taking the helm.

Minerals 260 is raising up to $30m through an initial public offering priced at 50c a share.

Further exploration is expected to come in October.

Mamba Exploration (ASX:M24) holds four exploration licences that make up its Darling Range project near Julimar.

These host a 6km long anomaly, a 6km long ultramafic trend and seven airborne EM conductors at the Black Hills prospect.

Historical rock chipping has returned results up to 1,720 parts per million nickel, 1,500ppm copper and 65 parts per billion 2PGE.

The company plans to carry out ground electromagnetics and drilling.

Mandrake Resources (ASX:MAN) holds the 140sqkm Jimperding project about 30km east of Julimar with exploration focused on the advanced Newleyine prospect, which features a distinct 1.5km diameter bullseye magnetic anomaly.

Initial assays from its recent drilling have been encouraging with the first three holes returning results such as 7.4m at 0.29% nickel from 96m, 8m at 0.21% nickel from 122m and 6.6m at 0.19% nickel and 853ppm copper from 315.4n.

These provide the company with the impetus to carry out further drilling in November to test the EM Conductor C.

LTR, M24 and MAN share price charts


Meanwhile, OAR Resources (ASX:OAR) has been progressing the first phase of field work at its Crown project, which has returned what it described as encouraging initial results.

The company is focused on defining and refining drill targets for a maiden drill program that is expected to start in the last quarter of 2021.

Crown is one of the closest projects to Julimar, sitting just 8km west of the ground-breaking discovery and about 70km northeast of Perth.

It contains numerous magnetic features that are interpreted to represent mafic volcanic rocks considered to be highly prospective for Ni-Cu-PGE and gold mineralisation.

Drilling has also recommenced at Pursuit Minerals’ (ASX:PUR) Warrior project that is about 20km to 50km north of Julimar.

This will redrill Plate 10a where downhole electromagnetic work in the original hole revealed that it had missed drilling into a very strong conductor by about 10m.

Once this is complete, the company will redrill Plate 20a.

Todd River Resources (ASX:TRT) may also be on the right track with the company noting in late August that its final samples had highlighted further encouraging intrusion related base metal and PGE geochemical anomalies at its Berkshire Valley project.

Handheld XRF readings have returned strong anomalous values of up to 41ppb palladium, 36ppb platinum, 375ppm copper and 383ppm nickel with coherent coincident anomalies over 1km in length.

The company adds that moving loop EM survey and aircore drill crews are expected to start work in the second half of October 2021.

OAR, PUR and TRT share price charts


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