Astral Resources taking universal approach to developing Mandilla Project

For the past 3 years, Perth-based gold and base metal exploration company Astral Resources (ASX:AAR) has focused on building its resource base at the Mandilla Gold Project, located in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia.

In the eyes of Managing Director Marc Ducler, the emphasis that has been placed on growing the resource base has paid off as the project is approaching a scale that will greatly support mine development.

Currently, Mandilla hosts a mineral resource of 32.9 million tonnes @ 1.1g/t Au for 1.15 million ounces of contained gold, as well as a Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) 30 million tonnes @ 1.1g/t Au for 1.03 million ounces which Astral says has increased by an average of 28% every 6 months for the past 18 months.

The most recent MRE also added 250,000 ounces at a discovery cost of $16 per ounce.

Ducler adds: “We have been wanting to grow the Mandilla Gold Project to a scale that will allow us to successfully develop a gold mine, and over those 3 years we’ve gone from I think it was 30,000 ounces when we (ex-Egan Street Resources (ASX:EGA) team) joined the company to 1.3 million ounces now.

“The pitch, in effect, is that we’re getting especially close to that critical mass”

And our sense is, that will continue to grow, given the capital cost escalation that the industry has seen over the last 2 years, especially since COVID. The pitch, in effect, is that we’re getting especially close to that critical mass. We’re continuing to drill at Mandilla.”

In 2022, Astral completed an ‘aggressive’ drilling program of more than 45,000m, which has delivered ‘compelling high-grade’ results.

Standout results recorded in 2022 at the Theia prospect include drillhole MDGT007 with 25m @ 10.57g/t Au from 206m; and MDRCD511 with 32.3m @ 5.44g/t Au from 175.7m and 15.07m @ 2.24g/t Au from 269.93m.

For 2023, Astral reports it is currently progressing with a reverse circulation (RC) drilling program at Mandilla for over 25,000m, with drilling ongoing on the eastern flank of Theia.

This drilling program is testing for continuation of ‘high-grade’ trends, and this will be followed with extensional and infill drilling in the southern portion of Theia.

Results from the first hole drilled as part of this program, hole MDRCD660, intersected multiple zones of quartz, sulphides, and 10 instances of visible gold. The company says this demonstrates the potential for ongoing growth at Theia.

Extensional and infill drilling has also been completed at the Hestia deposit along 1km of identified strike. Results for this drilling are pending.

Running concurrently to the RC program, the company is competing a 2,000m diamond drilling program targeting further extensions to the ‘high-grade’ trends on the western flank of Theia that was tested in the 2022 diamond programs.

Uncovering hidden riches at Feysville

Elsewhere in the Eastern Goldfields, Astral is also conducting an exploration program at the Feysville Gold Project, located 50km from Mandilla.

At Feysville, the company has completed 4,000m of first pass diamond and RC drilling since January.

Feysville is located within the north-north-west trending Norseman – Wiluna Greenstone Belt, within the Kambalda Domain of the Archean Yilgarn Craton. It hosts an MRE of 3Mt at 1.3g/t Au for 116,00oz of contained gold at the Think Big deposit. ‘Significant’ gold and nickel mineralisation occurs throughout the belt, including ‘world-class’ deposits such as Northern Star’s (ASX:NST) Golden Mile Super Pit and Gold Fields’(NYSE:GFI) St Ives Gold Mine south of Kambalda.

Standout results recorded at Feysville include the Rogan Josh deposit with 17m @ 2.98g/t Au from 39m in hole FRC218; the Hyperno deposit with 2m @ 16.09g/t Au from 45m in hole FRC215; and the Ethereal deposit with 4.6m @ 3.25g/t Au from 41.4m and 8.25m @ 3.34/t Au from 58.6m, and 4.2m @ @1.69g/t Au from 128m in hole FRCD202.

The MD says this is the first time the company has pivoted exploration to Feysville to explore the potential there.

“We went and drilled 8 targets, I think we’re really confident to go back and follow-up 5 of those.

“What we’re wanting with Feysville is for a couple of high-grade near surface deposits that can really help to get us that pay-back on the Mandilla project a lot quicker”

We don’t need Feysville to turn up a million ounces. What we’re wanting with Feysville is for a couple of high-grade near surface deposits that can really help to get us that pay-back on the Mandilla project a lot quicker.

That’s the way I’ve been trying to pitch the story, and to be honest, it’s been relatively consistent for a fair period of time now as well.”

Astral expects to release all of the infill drilling results recorded at Feysville sometime this week.

Ducler adds: “We’re really excited with what that drilling at Mandilla has shown us. I think at the end of the day it’s only 12,000 ounces at the moment, but that’ll be an order of magnitude bigger and a lot better grade than what was in that maiden mineral resource.

What we’re trying to achieve at Feysville in terms of generating those 50,000 to 100,000 ounces, it has sort of come in and assist the baseload. What we’ve got at Hestia is exactly that, it’s going to be in the range of 50,000 to 100,000 ounces, well over a gram (per tonne), and be something that can feed into Mandilla.”

We haven’t got any diamond drill results at Mandilla but visually, what we’ve seen there and we put that long projection out in the results from a couple of weeks ago, certainly indicates that we’re going to be able to continue to grow Theia.

Given that at Theia we added 220,000 ounces at $16 an ounce last year and this is the very first drillhole that we put in looks like a cracker, I think there’s an excellent chance that we can try to repeat that same sort of success.”

The steady march towards production

Astral reports RC drilling will continue at Mandilla until the end of the June quarter, and notes it is considering adding another 4 holes for between 1,200m to 1,500m to the ongoing diamond drilling program.

Following this, the company plans to conduct an aircore (AC) drilling program between Mandilla and Feysville for about 60,000m.

“Between Mandilla and Feysville we’d expect to do close to 30,00m into the second half of the year. So 30,000m by the end of June and another 30,000m into the second half of the year.

It’s going to be for us as a company, certainly one of our busier years from a drilling perspective. In terms of resource updates, we would probably like to update Mandilla before the end of this half year, and then look at whether we’ve got the right scale to then push into studies for the second half of the year.

Ideally, if we’re going to push out a study, I want to be really confident that we have enough scale to actually generate a financial study that looks really compelling.” 

Moving forward, Astral plans on conducting further drilling at Mandilla, a Scoping Study, and a Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS), as well as looking at generating the necessary amount of development funding to make a development decision in 2024.

Reflecting on progress made at Mandilla in the past 3 years, Ducler says the company is close to bringing the project into production.

“That’s the story we’ve had all along, and I think we’re 3 years into this journey as a management team, and I suspect that we are certainly closing in on being able to do that and look to put the first of those studies out this year.

And then we would be able to see how we would progress into development or make that development decision during 2024.”

Astral Resources is a Perth-based gold and base metals exploration company focused on its portfolio of projects in the Kalgoorlie-Kambalda region of Western Australia.

The company’s flagship Mandilla Gold Project is located 70km south of Kalgoorlie, and 20km southeast of Kambalda in Western Australia, while Feysville is located 14km south of the Golden Mile deposit at Kalgoorlie.

Astral also holds the Carnilya Hill Gold Project located 20km south-southeast of Feysville covering an area of 2.65km-square.

Images: Astral Resources NL
Written By Harry Mulholland
Hailing from the Central Coast region of NSW, Harry is a passionate journalist with a background in print, radio and ESG news. When not bashing away on his keyboard, he can be found brewing a coffee or playing with his dog.