Many have fallen out of love with Australia’s resources sector, but not legendary prospector Mark Creasy. After all, despite his fame and wealth, Creasy is an explorer at heart and true believer that there are blue skies ahead amid some of the darkest clouds the mining and exploration sector has seen. “It is a wonderful time to be exploring, it always is,” Creasy told Paydirt. “This is the sixth market collapse I have been in and, as always, it is the time to do things, the time to get on with things, the time to drill and all the rest of it. There is no pressure on getting contractors, you can get competitive rates from everyone and things can happen faster and cheaper; now is the time to do things.” If there is anyone giving the mining sector a pulse right now it is Creasy with his vow to invest as much money into exploration today than in better days gone by. “I am carrying on exactly as I have always done,” Creasy said. In November, Creasy’s Yandal Investments ploughed $250,000 into South Australia-foucsed Marmota Energy Ltd. Marmota is on the hunt for the next Challenger-style gold deposit. Challenger was found by Dominion Mining when Creasy was a shareholder. Anyone who thought the 70-year-old was preparing to slow down needs to think again. “Not at the moment,” was Creasy’s reply when asked about retirement. “I have been in this business for 50 years and I have not thought about not being in the business, or changing the business or retiring or whatever. I have been in the harness so long, young chap, that I would probably feel uncomfortable out of the harness; I’d be twiddling my thumbs wondering what I am going to do next.”
Many wouldn’t have a problem coming up with ideas of how to spend $558 million – the figure attributed to Creasy, ranking him No. 92 on BRW’s Rich 200 List 2015 – but with the belief there are replicas of what made him famous still to be unearthed, passion for the game remains. Creasy’s rise in Australia started with the discovery of the Jundee gold deposit in the 1980s. The mine has since produced 41.8mt at an average 5.1 g/t gold for 6.4 moz (June 2015), as reported by current owner Northern Star Resources Ltd. To the end of June 30 2015, Jundee reserves totalled 3.5mt @ 5.3 g/t for 596,000oz gold, while current resources are 11.9mt @ 3.5 g/t for 1.4 moz. Production at Jundee, which Creasy sold along with the Bronzewing deposit to Great Central Mines for $130 million in the mid 1990s, started in 1995, with Northern Star mining 1.3mt @ 5.9 g/t for 237,883oz at AISC of $1,008/oz in FY2015. Northern Star paid Newmont Mining Corp $82.5 million for Jundee in 2014. “It is an absolute standout for me,” Creasy said.
“I think it has produced somewhere near 7 moz gold now and it looks like with Northern Star owning it, there are several more years in it. I’d be surprised if it can’t get past the 10 moz mark, which will make it one of the largest gold deposits we have in Western Australia. “Without a shadow of a doubt there are more Jundees out there, the only question is: how well are they hidden? Are they outcropping? I think there is still a chance for major gold deposits outcropping in some way, but do we have more 10 moz plus deposits? Without a shadow of a doubt,” he said. Recent exploration history suggests lassoing Australia’s next elephant will be tough work. It can be assured though that Creasy’s best endeavours will be to put another world-class project on the map. Persistence is key to success and perhaps the best modern day example of Creasy’s sheer persistence is the Nova nickel project in the Fraser Range. The discovery reads like a fairy-tale; battling junior on its last dime, drilling its last hole hits pay dirt. Creasy-backed Sirius Resources was that battler and in 2012 struck hole SFRC0024: 4m @ 3.8% nickel and 1.42% copper. The rest is history. Nova-Bollinger – 13.1mt @ 2.1% nickel, 0.9% copper, .07% cobalt for 273,000t nickel, 112,000t copper and 9,000t cobalt – now belongs to Independence Group NL after the $1.8 billion takeover of Sirius, which delivered Creasy more riches.
Despite enthusiastic companies arriving on the scene since 2012 to find the “next Nova” in the Fraser Range, in boxing terms; a few haymakers have been thrown but noone has landed a killer blow to match Sirius, yet. “Magmatic nickel-copper deposits are one of the toughest you can think of to find, as opposed to the Kambalda-style of nickel where at least once you have identified the horizon, you can then follow the horizon. It [magmatic nickel-copper deposit] is a much more difficult target to define. I am a bit surprised though that someone hasn’t [found another Nova],” Creasy said. However, more drill holes punched into the ground should generate enough hits for something else to eventually materialise in the Fraser Range, which has fast become “Creasy’s Patch”. Just how much ground in the Fraser Range Creasy controls or has an interest in escapes him, but one dares not back against a Creasy-supported venture – the latest being a deal with Legend Mining Ltd covering 2,530sq km of the region – from striking it rich again in WA’s hottest exploration destination. While there are still signs of smoke in the Fraser Range, no doubt Creasy followers will be watching where he blazes his next trail. “A real classic place to look is Lake Cowan [north of Norseman, WA], where S2 are. There is a 20km strike length within the S2 tenements and there has been some gold discovered right at the southern end of that line of country and then there’s the Baloo discovery right at the north,” Creasy said. S2 is formally known as S2 Resources Ltd – the ASX’s newest explorer led by the old band from Sirius Resources. Creasy is a major shareholder of S2 and he was careful not to talk up the company’s credentials too much.
Nevertheless, he is confident S2, which listed on the ASX in October 2015 cashed up with over $20 million, is in the right place to mimic the success of its mother company Sirius Resources.
“Undoubtedly there will be many more major discoveries [in WA], but you may have to adjust your attention to an area where most of it will be under cover. You have to penetrate through the cover to find them, even though there may be ones that are outcropping and still not recognised. I think there is a reasonable chance for that and a classic place to look would be somewhere like Lake Cowan,”Creasy said.
Navigating through cover is one challenge for this generation of hopeful-miners, while overcoming taxation burdens and the regulatory environment will continue to be sticking points for industry, according to Creasy. “They are certainly getting very oppressive,” Creasy said about government regulations. “They have not quite got to the stage where the burden has got so great that people are prepared to collapse, but I do believe there is a lot of room for governments to cease adding burdens on us. At some stage hopefully the [WA] Government will see we are regulated enough and even if they don’t reduce the amount of regulation, at least they won’t increase it. We spend an awful lot of time which we would otherwise be using for active on the ground exploration fulfilling regulatory requirements – filling in bits of paper for the Mines Department. You can’t do a thing without a form being filled in.”
For the time being, Creasy will continue putting pen to paper to get things done in WA, but he is not without interests elsewhere. One such example is the Creasy Group entity – White Rivers Exploration Pty Ltd – JV with South Africa powerhouse Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. While the JV with Harmony is gold focused, White Rivers entered another partnership with Windfall Energy over gas assets in the Witwatersrand Basin. Both JVs cover large areas and Creasy said it was unlikely to expand over and above what they are currently doing. In fact, Creasy said he had no interest in other parts of Africa at the moment, however, improving markets could spur change attitudes towards investment in South Africa, he said. “It is not on the radar for most investors. In general the exploration mining business is of reduced interest to investors for the time being. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens. I suspect that people’s interest in South Africa will only perk up once the commodity market is seen as not going down any further and things are improving.”
– Mark Andrews, Paydirt, December 15 – January 16