Special Report: In Barry FitzGerald’s new regular column, True Width, he sits down with Australia’s leading resource and mining CEOs to discuss their current projects and plans for the future.

This week Barry sat down with Rob Smakman, Managing Director of Alvo Minerals (ASX:ALV).


Alvo Minerals’ managing director Rob Smakman has warmed up the market to expect a strong flow of exploration results from Alvo’s high-grade Palma copper-zinc project in central Brazil.

“We hit the ground running, with a 10,000m diamond drilling program kicked off within days of listing on the ASX on October 20 (after a $10 million IPO),’’ Smakman told Stockhead.

Brazil is not experiencing assay lab delays like the Australian exploration scene, meaning first assay results from the Palma program will begin to flow in February.


Upgrading confidence

The first results – and what is to come from the ongoing drilling program – will mark the start of an exciting time for Alvo as it sets about upgrading confidence levels in the known resource at Palma, increasing the scale of the resource, and adding new discoveries.

The Inferred mineral resource at the C3 and C1 deposits at Palma stands at 4.6 million tonnes in the volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) style grading 1% copper, 3.9% zinc, 0.4% lead and 20 grams of silver a tonne, with the project pretty much dormant since a burst of activity in the 1970s and 1980s.


The Brazil juniors

Compared with the crowded Australian exploration scene, Brazil has few active junior explorers. “Remember the country is bigger than Australia yet there is only a half a dozen or so juniors operating there,’’ Smakman said.

It means that an advanced project like Palma can be picked-up without the sort of competition that would be encountered if it were in Australia. In-country knowledge was also behind Alvo’s ability to secure the advanced Palma.

Smakman is no stranger to Brazil, having lived there for 10 years when heading up another Brazil-focused junior on the ASX, Crusader Resources (now Big River Gold which is developing the 2.4 million ounce Borborema gold project in north-east Brazil).

A geologist who is fluent in Portuguese, Smakman first came across the Palma project when he was working in Brazil.

“I came across the asset in 2015 when the Brazilian geological survey (CPRM) was presenting at a conference and I saw the drill core which was quite spectacular,’’ Smakman said.

“It was the first time CPRM had dusted the asset off in 30 years and they were saying they were going to take it to auction, which they finally did four years later.’’

“By the time of the auction in October 2019, base metals prices were depressed. So while there was a lot of people watching carefully, no other bidders actually turned up for the auction.’’



At the sealed bid auction, held at CPRM’s office in Rio de Janeiro, housed in an ornate 17th century building complete with a mining museum, Smakman had both a low and high bid in his back pocket.

“When we looked around the room we realised there weren’t any other genuine bidders there so we basically just submitted our lowest bid,’’ Smakman said.

“It was an interesting process. It was a first for Brazil and the process took a lot of local knowledge to navigate. I had the benefit of working there for years. So it was a combination of experience and opportunity,’’ he said.

Alvo’s first drill hole at Palma was at the bigger C3 deposit. It provided early encouragement by returning a 21.1 metre intersection of massive sulphide mineralisation between 187.5m and 208.6m.


Scratching the surface

While assays are pending, the strongly mineralised zone served as visual confirmation of the historic work at the project by CPRM. Drilling has since been stepped up with the arrival of a second drilling rig.

The drilling focus will shortly shift to the C1 deposit where an electromagnetic survey highlighted a continuous and high-tenor conductive trend along strike, and down-dip of the known mineralisation.

“They are huge conductors. I really think we have just scratched the surface at C1,’’ Smakman said.

A feature of the pending assays results will be what they tell Alvo about the project’s gold potential. CPRM did not assay for gold in historic drill holes although deposits in the VMS-style typically contain some of the revenue-boosting metal.

This article was developed in collaboration with Alvo Minerals, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.