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Soaring gold prices push local exploration global

Business

Local mining exploration companies are going global in their search for gold as prices for the precious metal hit all-time highs.

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Exploration companies Southern Gold and Rex Minerals are among a number of South Australian-based mining businesses scouring the world for the precious metal in places as far apart as South Korea and the United States.

Junior resources company Southern Gold operates an underground operation with Westgold Resources at the Cannon project near Kalgoorlie. The company has also developed a portfolio of high-grade gold projects in South Korea, where it’s searching for epithermal gold deposits.

Similarly, ASX-listed minerals exploration development company Rex Minerals is behind the copper-gold Hillside Project on the Yorke Peninsula as well as Hog Ranch Gold Property in the American state of Nevada.

The world gold price has broken through the US$2000 per ounce barrier this month as investors look to it as a safe haven in uncertain economic times.

University of Adelaide chair of mineral exploration David Giles said Australia’s gold mining history combined with the economic downturn had created the ideal environment for South Australian gold companies exploring overseas.

He said historically an appetite for conducting gold exploration was “closely linked to the gold price”.

“We’ve got a lot of active small to medium size explorers that are cashed up because of this retreat to perceived safe investments and they are trained up and good at what they do,” Giles said.

This year, gold prices have jumped by more than 30 per cent due to heightened uncertainty around the long-term effects of the global health crisis.

Weakness in the dollar and falling yields have encouraged investors to look for alternative store of value-boosting the appeal of gold.

Giles said the share price of gold exploration enabled companies to take Australian developed technology internationally.

“What we have in Australia is a very healthy and experienced exploration community of small and medium size companies that have cut their teeth on exploring for gold for decades – and that’s because we have a lot of gold in this country,” Giles said.

“So those companies have now pegged ground all over the world and they are taking what I would call the best modern exploration techniques to the globe. And they are in front of the curve of these emerging technologies.

“In fact, Australia, Canada and Northern Europe tend to have been ahead of the game and what’s happening now is those techniques with high quality, low scale data can be rolled out in other parts of the planet. And that’s helping with exploration in those areas and those Australian companies are very good at using that.”

He said a recent push to advanced geochemical techniques as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence made Australian mining companies well poised for overseas exploration.

“There’s an increased challenge at the moment, which is as we’ve found the mineral deposits that are close to the surface and easier to find, we are coming into situations where we have to search for deposits that are harder,” Giles said.

“They’re concealed by cover rocks or partially buried, and are harder to find. There’s a whole range of techniques being developed to help find them – including new drilling techniques, new geophysical and geochemical techniques for gathering geological information from those deeply buried rock and application of artificial intelligence to identify targets in complex, multilayered datasets.

“That’s cutting-edge stuff which Australian companies are pretty good at supporting in the R&D phase and then taking advantage of when it comes to market.”

While Australian advanced technology is helping companies explore aboard, gold exploration continues within South Australia.

Earlier this year, Barton Gold took control of three outback South Australian gold assets: the Tarcoola project, the Tunkilla gold deposit and the Challenger gold mine and processing plant.

The company has flagged it plans to raise further funds for drilling this year, an extension of the Tarcoola deposit and the recommencement of the mine.

Adelaide-based Marmota set up a semi-permanent camp at its Aurora Tank site 50km from the former Challenger gold mine last month to begin the next phase of gold drilling.

Meanwhile, a feasibility study from Terramin Australia on its Bird in Hand Gold Project in the Adelaide Hills projected the mine would create about 300 jobs and have an economic impact on the state of $221 million across eight years.

The project has been met with significant community opposition, with Terramin involved in two disputes about land access with neighbouring landholders.

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