Barton Gold: blazing its own trail on quest from explorer to producer

This article is a sponsored feature from Mining.com.au partner Barton Gold Ltd. It is not financial advice. Talk to a registered financial expert before making investment decisions.

“Gold opens all locks, no lock will hold against the power of gold.” – George Herbert

In the vast and promising landscape of the Australian mining industry, where competition is fierce and the pursuit of valuable mineral resources is constant, one company has captured the attention of investors and industry experts alike with its strategic approach to exploration and development.

Barton Gold (ASX:BGD) has been making significant strides in 2023, positioning itself as a rising star in the gold sector. With a relentless commitment to innovation, a unique and meticulously-crafted exploration strategy, and the strategic ownership of the Central Gawler Mill, Barton has set itself on a clear trajectory to transition from explorer to producer.

Barton’s progress throughout the year has been a testament to its unwavering dedication to unlocking the full potential of its assets. The company’s exploration strategy stands as a shining example of its commitment to pushing boundaries and redefining conventional norms.

“2023 is a year of significant transformation for Barton Gold”

While other explorers may adopt a more conventional approach, Barton has boldly embraced a strategy that combines cutting-edge techniques and state-of-the-art technology to refine geological models, optimise targeting and maximise the chances of drilling success. As Managing Director Alexander Scanlon describes, the approach has resulted in a series of “Drill Here Dummy” targets, which have delivered consistent results. 

“2023 is a year of significant transformation for Barton Gold as we move from ‘geological proof of concept’ to a ‘Resources growth and forward planning’ stance.

These types of results have certainly increased investor awareness of Barton’s unique proposition as an advanced asset manager which is able to monetise its assets while also growing Resources in ‘exploration mode.” 

Significant drilling results and resource expansion

Throughout late 2022 and early 2023, Barton has embarked on a comprehensive drilling program at its Tunkillia Gold Project, utilising advanced techniques to test outside of the current Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) block model at the 223 Deposit, including at the recently-discovered Area 51 zone. Barton is also growing the 223 Deposit itself.

The explorer has achieved remarkable milestones in terms of resource expansion and increased gold ounces, with the completion of reverse circulation and diamond drilling at Tunkillia delivering 50 – 150m depth extensions to the previous MRE with multiple high-grade intersections.

This exploration success has contributed to a 20% growth (189,000 ounces Au) in the Tunkillia Project’s Mineral Resource, now standing at an impressive 1.15 million ounces of gold. These encouraging results not only enhance Barton’s resource base but also provide a solid foundation for future production. The cost of defining these new ounces, at only $12 per ounce on an ‘all in’ basis, also reinforces Barton’s efficient use of capital.

“As one [project] becomes bigger or more interesting, so too does the other given the efficiencies of scale and optionality”

Meanwhile at the Tarcoola Project, located only 70km north-northwest from Tunkillia, Barton remains focused on defining the local and geological model in order to zone in on the highest value targets for local ‘repeats’ of the high-grade Tarcoola Perseverance open pit. 

The Perseverance open pit mine was producing ore to Barton’s Central Gawler Mill during 2017 and 2018, and at high grades regularly above 3 g/t Au.

The company is optimistic that as one project grows, so too will the other given the efficiencies of scale and optionality. The opportunity is for Tarcoola to operate not only as a satellite to Tunkillia providing high-grade blending feed, but also to first serve as a source of high-grade ore within trucking distance of the fully licensed Central Gawler Mill.

As stated by Scanlon, We look at the Tarcoola and Tunkillia Projects together as a combined long-term development asset as, given their proximity, they are in reality ‘satellites’ to one another and the same project for the purposes of development. This also means that, as one becomes bigger or more interesting, so too does the other given the efficiencies of scale and optionality.

Central Gawler Mill unlocks additional value

A pivotal factor in Barton’s transition from explorer to producer is its ownership of the strategic Central Gawler Mill. The asset, which was recently valued at over $100 million on an ‘as new’ replacement basis, represents a significant competitive advantage for the company, paves the way for potential Stage 1 operations and provides the company with an accelerated path to production.

The mill possesses the capacity to process large quantities of gold-bearing materials efficiently and effectively and, as stated by Scanlon, is valuable to the company not only in terms of its replacement cost, but also in terms of the metaphorical bridge it provides it to enter operations without incurring a substantial cost.

Crossing the ‘capital moat’ of building a mill and project site is often the biggest challenge, which frequently stops even the best projects.”

With a capacity of 650,000tpa, the company sees a pathway to processing a targeted 40,000 – 60,000 gold ounces per annum through the mill to start ‘Stage 1’ operations.

“7,000 g/t Au is certainly an attention grabbing number”

In a surprise move, a recent cleanout process has resulted in the recovery of an estimated 10+ tonnes of gold-bearing materials. The materials are being cleaned and prepared as saleable concentrates, with recent grades up to 7,000 g/t Au now providing Barton a running total of ~7.4 dry tonnes of materials grading an average of 5,000 g/t Au for contained metal of ~1,190oz with a value of around AUD$3.4 million.

“7,000 g/t Au is certainly an attention grabbing number – of course we do have to remember that this was already high-grade material that was then concentrated in various stages of the gravity circuit at the Central Gawler Mill, so we would expect some impressive numbers…”

The company also expects to extend these figures, with another 3 tonnes of material being prepared during the balance of July.

Strategic partnerships and technological innovation 

Barton has recognized the importance of innovation in the mining industry, actively pursuing strategic partnerships to enhance exploration capabilities.

The company has forged an exclusive research and development collaboration with SensOre, a leader in advanced mineral targeting technologies. Together, they are developing and trialling the Discriminant Predictive Targeting (DPT) module, a cutting-edge technology that employs artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to identify and predict gold and copper mineralisation. Barton has the exclusive right to utilise this technology for gold and copper in the richly mineralised Central Gawler Craton for 10 years.

SensOre technology has been responsible for the identification of lithium-caesium-tantalum pegmatite potential in NSW, along with the discovery of new gold mineralisation within a district that contained no previously-known gold occurrences.

Scanlon believes that the DPT module has the potential to revolutionise Barton’s exploration efforts by identifying high-priority targets for in-field drill testing and validation.

“We are advancing a number of work programs around these opportunities, from seismic programs, to AI and machine-learning applications, and good old fashioned sampling and drilling of promising geology and structure.”

A clear path to production

Barton’s progress throughout 2023, driven by its unique exploration strategy, strategic ownership of the Central Gawler Mill, and innovative partnerships, underscores the company’s quest to transform from a gold explorer to a producer.

The pieces of the puzzle are aligning perfectly, and with the discovery of 4 new gold zones estimated to host about 2.5km of mineralisation, as well as the delivery of $975,000 in grants from the South Australian Government, Barton is well on its way to achieving its goal of entering production and achieving large-scale development within the Gawler Craton. 

“We have already found more than 2.5km of new gold mineralisation at our Tarcoola and Tunkillia Projects during 2021 and 2022, and grown our total Resource endowment to ~1.3 million ounces.

With all of these pieces in play, Barton has set its sights on moving to the next phase of its unique strategy.

Barton’s goal is to be producing 150,000 oz annually in 5 years’ time as a ‘Stage 2’ expansion. The question of ‘Stage 1’ operations startup timing then follows the pace at which Barton can identify 2 – 3 years of shallow, high-grade ore around the Tarcoola Project to ensure a reliable and smooth stage one operation.

Heavyweight backing powers $3.5 million raise

In another surprise move given its already robust treasury, Barton took in $3.5 million from several existing and new institutional investors in Australia, Europe, and North America.

The oversubscribed placement signifies Barton’s efforts to attract fresh institutional investors while bolstering its development strategy. The company aims to use the raised capital to accelerate the definition of resources in its “Stage 1” phase. By doing so, Barton Gold seeks to enhance its operations and unlock further potential within its gold exploration activities.

Following the completion of the placement Barton now has a cash balance in excess of $10 million and, with the anticipated proceeds from a current $1 million Share Purchase Plan and pending gold concentrates sales, Barton will have substantial financial resources to undertake its growth initiatives and pursue its long-term objectives with confidence.

Eyes on the prize

As the mining industry enters the new financial year, Scanlon tells this news service the company is showing no sign of fatigue as it advances both its projects on all fronts.   

“During the balance of 2023 Barton is aiming to provide further Resources updates at both the Tunkillia and Tarcoola Projects, as we will then see 2024 as the beginning of the ‘look forward’ stage of Barton’s life where we will not only keep growing Resource, but also start thinking about the practical elements of Stage 1 and Stage 2 operations (i.e. studies). 

We will also of course continue testing a very long list of priority regional discovery targets on major, but untested, structures that we believe hold considerable potential to drive the scale evolution of Barton Gold. 

As our shareholders know we work hard to deliver positive surprises, and with any luck we might be able to drop a few more wildcards on the table during the coming 12 months.”

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

Images: Barton Gold Ltd
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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.