Barton laying strong foundations for large-scale gold development in South Australia's Central Gawler Craton

Barton laying strong foundations for large-scale gold development in South Australia’s Central Gawler Craton

South Australia focused gold explorer Barton Gold (ASX:BGD) has entered 2023 on the cusp of an exciting new chapter as it continues its evolution toward becoming an active gold producer.

With a sharp focus on building a platform around its current resources and continuing its exploration efforts, the company reports that it is poised for ‘significant’ growth in 2023.

Following a successful 2022, the gold explorer is looking to maintain focus on exploration activities, while moving towards production at its 2 ‘large-scale’ mineral systems at the Tarcoola and Tunkillia projects.

In the past 16 months we have found more than 2km of new gold mineralisation, nearly doubling our known gold strike around our core ~1Moz Resource

The projects, which are strategically located in South Australia’s historical Tarcoola Goldfield and the neighbouring Yerda and Yarlbrinda Shear Zones (respectively), have been the centre of the company’s exploration activities throughout 2022 and into 2023.

Speaking to Mining.com.au, Barton Gold Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director Alex Scanlon says: “We have just finished a very exciting 2022, with a long list of exploration and corporate successes, and are looking forward to a very busy 2023.

In the past 16 months we have found more than 2km of new gold mineralisation, nearly doubling our known gold strike around our core ~1Moz Resource, and we are now focused on converting some of that to new Mineral Resources while advancing a parallel strategy of additional regional discoveries.”

Strong footing provides springboard for 2023 success

Meanwhile, the company also has proven operational and leadership teams, and is reported to have about $8.85 million cash in the bank as at 31 December 2022, which it will use to drive its ambition of becoming South Australia’s largest independent gold producer within 5 years’ time. The company’s ambition is to produce 150,000+ ounces per annum from an initial +2Moz Au resource base.

A substantial majority of cash is also expected to be used for direct in/on ground exploration, along with over 30,000m of drilling across key targets. Since the company’s IPO, Barton’s team have generated approximately $4.7m in net additional cash from careful monetisation of its asset platform, including gold sales, surplus asset sales, and camp rentals. This has further boosted the proportion of net cash expenditure going directly into project exploration and engineering in a way that is not possible for most asset developers.

Barton Gold’s Central Gawler Craton projects, divided into Stage 1 and Stage 2 operations

Barton aims to achieve its goals in 2023 through the continued application of new technologies to rapidly accelerate regional discovery and development. The company has so far identified 4 new gold zones and sees this strategy as a cost efficient regional competitive advantages.

Exploration at Tunkillia continues to deliver the goods

Barton’s Tunkillia project has been ground zero for the majority of exploration activity since entering the new calendar year, with a stated goal of delivering an updated Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) for the 223 Deposit during Q4 (April – June) of this year.

Since November 2021, 3 new gold zones have been identified within the project, delivering an additional 2km of new gold mineralisation in the vicinity of the 223 Deposit.

Following this success, additional reverse circulation (RC) drilling commenced at both the 223 Deposit and a key regional target known as ‘Area 51’, with a 12,000m RC program recently completed in February.

our new gold zones also clearly demonstrate the shear zone’s gold endowment to be much broader than previously recognised”

The company also completed a 2,201m diamond drilling (DD) program at the 223 Deposit and Area 51, to reinforce structural interpretation ahead potential Mineral Resource updates.

Notably, drilling on the 223 Deposit has succeeded in identifying nearly 800m of total strike between 2 key depth extension targets at the northern and southern ends of the 223 Deposit, with multiple broad gold intersections located 25-150m below the current defined MRE.

Scanlon adds: “We are very pleased with the recent continued validation of our thesis for likely extensions of existing known mineralisation, and identification of new gold zones in previously untested areas, at the 223 Deposit.

Importantly, our new gold zones also clearly demonstrate the shear zone’s gold endowment to be much broader than previously recognised. These are just the tip of the iceberg, with another 20km+ of this shear as yet untested.”

Tarcoola lends heavyweight support to production strategy

At its flagship Tarcoola project, which represents the “home of South Australian gold” given its status as the site of South Australia’s original ‘high-grade’ gold rush in 1893, Barton is targeting multiple repeats of ‘high-grade’ mineralisation within a 14km long corridor of newly identified structures analogous to that which hosts its ‘high-grade’ Perseverance Mine.

The identification of these structures correlates to and validates historical data returned from historical Anglogold’s drilling at Warburton during 1997, which returned an intercept of 16m @ 3.4g/t Au from 4m.

The project is one of the key focal points for Barton as it investigates the possibility of developing a ‘large-scale’, bulk open pit operation at Tunkillia focused on efficiencies of scale, which could then incorporate ‘higher-grade’ mineralisation from various targets at Tarcoola including Warburton and others, along with its existing Perseverance Mine which produced an average open pit grade of 3.8 g/t Au to Barton’s Central Gawler Mill during 2018.

Tarcoola is also provides critical leverage for Barton Gold’s strategy to commence operations, with ‘high-grade’ ore being a clear candidate to start ‘Stage 1’ operations using its fully permitted Mining Leases and infrastructure, while designing a larger-scale ‘Stage 2’ expansion with the development of Tunkillia.

“As we continue to identify large-scale mineralisation at Tunkillia, which we think may be amenable to high efficiency bulk open pit operations, we are naturally interested in higher grade sources of ore which can very effectively average up the Tunkillia feed grade.

“As we continue to identify large-scale mineralisation at Tunkillia, which we think may be amenable to high efficiency bulk open pit operations, we are naturally interested in higher grade sources of ore…”

Tarcoola provides a perfect supplement for Tunkillia given its proximity – and a perfect bridge to a ‘Stage 1’ operations restart given it’s prior successful operation in combination with our mill.”

Gawler Craton Mill – a strategic asset in prime gold territory

The Central Gawler mill, the only mill in the region, provides a critical financial platform, and operational backstop, for Barton. The mill was last operating during September 2018 and has been kept on a program of care and maintenance by Barton who plan to use the mill to transition into initial operations without having to permit and build a whole new plant.

The value has also been underscored by Barton’s careful extraction of value from the mill. Last year, during June 2022, Barton sold $1 million worth (379 ounces) of gold recovered from the mill, and more recently (during December 2022) recovered about 10 tonnes of additional gold-bearing materials during a clean-out and preservation program.

The program was undertaken as part of Barton’s ongoing review of options for optimisation and recommissioning of the plant, and saw the gold room and gravity circuit fully disassembled and cleaned out, with floors and sumps stripped, and all structural equipment stored for later re-installation. The ball mills were also stripped and cleaned thoroughly.

No word yet on the amount of gold expected to be recovered from this work program, however the company has stated publicly that the materials are being processed and that gold sales from this parcel of materials are expected throughout the next 3 – 6 months.

It is also worth noting that the mill provides Barton – and its many gold exploration neighbours – the opportunity to utilise the mill for toll milling. This would doubtless be of ‘significant’ benefit to both sides of the equation, unlocking regionally ‘trapped’ gold Resources and providing Barton a valuable low-risk income stream to continue advancing its large-scale projects with far less equity dilution than is typical of its listed peers.

2023 sees a balance of exploration and steps toward production analysis

As Barton continues riding its golden wave towards production, the company has indicated that its immediate focus includes extensional and follow-up drilling at the Tunkillia Project.

Over at Tarcoola, additional structural interpretation work is underway, with a regional 2D seismic survey planned, ahead of drilling targeting its highest priority targets for repeats of the ‘high-grade’ Perseverance open pit mine.

2023 is about starting the next phase of Mineral Resources growth”

Barton’s objective is therefore to grow the Tunkillia JORC Mineral Resources not only once, but potentially 2 or 3 times more during 2023 (side note – Barton has already grown them 70% to their current 965,000oz Au scale during October 2020, before undertaking its IPO). This Mineral Resource is already fairly robust, with 68% reported in the ‘Indicated’ category.

The goal is to continue building critical mass to support a ‘large-scale’ Prefeasibility Study.

“For us, 2022 was about demonstrating ‘proof of geological concept’ via the confirmation of multiple new gold zones and identification of previously unknown structures.

“2023 is about starting the next phase of Mineral Resources growth so that, as we enter 2024, we can start to think about the specifics of how we are going to restart and expand operations…”

2023 is about starting the next phase of Mineral Resources growth so that, as we enter 2024, we can start to think about the specifics of how we are going to restart and expand operations in a staged, lower-cost-and-risk approach to developing the region’s leading gold producer.”

Barton Gold is an ASX-listed exploration company which currently holds a pipeline of advanced exploration projects and brownfield mines, as well as a total attributable 1.1 million ounce (Moz) JORC (2012) compliant mineral resource endowment.

The company’s Tunkillia, Tarcoola and Central Gawler Mill are located in South Australia and are host to an existing brownfield open pit mine and ‘district-scale’ structures with advanced targets in the vicinity of current JORC (2012) Mineral Resources and other known mineralisation.

Tunkillia is host to a current 965,000oz gold (Au) mineral resources (26.1Mt @ 1.15g/t Au).

Images: Barton Gold Holdings 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.