This article is a sponsored feature from Mining.com.au partner Forrestania Resources Limited. It is not financial advice. Talk to a registered financial expert before making investment decisions.
It’s the dream of every exploration geologist to make that one big, company-making discovery. The ‘motherlode’, as it were. It’s a dream many others have hitched their hopeful wagons to, while others still have backed those wagons with money enough to make Mansa Musa cry.
But to what extent is this dream a dream when it plays such a heaving role in the future — the survival — of humanity itself?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, Michael Anderson, Managing Director of Forrestania Resources (ASX:FRS), is in hot pursuit.
Based in Perth and listed on the ASX since September 2021, Forrestania’s portfolio includes the expansive Eastern Goldfields Project near Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, comprising 18 tenements prospective for lithium, copper, gold, nickel and rare earths. Of those, 4 are held under a two-year option agreement signed with privately held Outback Minerals in May 2023.
Earlier that same month, Forrestania signed a strategic joint venture deal with Vancouver-based ALX Resources (TSXV:AL), under which it stood to acquire a 50% stake in the Hydra Lithium Project in northern Quebec, Canada. After forking out C$400,000 (A$462,052) in cash and another C$600,000 (A$693,077) in shares, Forrestania took hold of that interest in early July.
Rounding things out is the company’s flagship Forrestania Project, roughly 80km east of Hyden in Western Australia, which Anderson says is “unquestionably, I think, our most advanced project in terms of demonstrable prospectivity”.
But Anderson is a guy happy to take his wins from wherever they may come, be it Forrestania, Eastern Goldfields, or Hydra.
“It might sound tongue in cheek, but I think we’re one hole away on all of those fronts from creating something that’s genuinely a discovery, and that hopefully would be head-turning for the market,” he adds.
“If we find something that excites, we won’t mind what metal or what commodity it is. But I guess the emphasis is still on lithium here in Australia and in Canada.”
‘Some clear targets, and not just for lithium’
Indeed, one hole could make all the difference. But it’s nevertheless early days at the Eastern Goldfields Project, which — in spite of that — has already been the subject of several sampling and mapping trips, as well as an extensive review of historical data.
“One of the things that attracted us to the Breakaway Dam tenement in particular was the known greenstone geology that runs right through it,” Anderson says.
“One of the things that attracted us to the Breakaway Dam tenement in particular was the known greenstone geology that runs right through it“
“We knew there were pegmatites on the greenstone belt that ran through the northwest extension onto our ground. And sure enough, as we’ve mapped and sampled all through that belt, we’ve found multiple additional pegmatite outcrops. We’ve sampled some of those, released that data, and there were some pretty encouraging results, up to 0.4% lithium oxide.”
The problem, however, is that Forrestania has been unable to get the drill rigs turning.
“Not to focus on it too significantly, but the whole Heritage Act saga was quite unhelpful there,” Anderson says.
“We had to wait weeks for them to bring in the new Heritage Act in WA and then five weeks later, of course, they scrapped it. That led to a hesitancy between the counterparties that you’re dealing with to engage, because they didn’t know what the new act was going to contain.”
The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 was developed to replace the problematic 1972 laws that allowed the legal destruction of Jukaan Gorge by Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) in May 2020. It set out a three-tiered approval system and established administrative bodies to provide Indigenous groups a greater role in heritage protection.
But it drew grave criticism since the final say remained with a government minister, which the United Nations found was not in line with its conventions governing consent. Farmers and mining explorers also weighed in, concerned about extra costs and the lack of certainty about how the complicated new laws would be implemented, and the legislation was ultimately repealed.
“Supposedly, we’re back to where we were. But, of course, we haven’t been able to do any drilling there yet,” Anderson adds.
“We have some clear targets, and not just for lithium. There were some noteworthy copper intersections drilled back in the day, but also some significant geophysical anomalies that were outlined and defined but never drilled. And there are definitely some walk up targets there too. So, all in good time, I think.”
The benefits of collaboration
The situation in Canada, on the other hand, has been similar albeit for different reasons.
“In Canada, we finalised that deal in early July after the general meeting to approve the issue of the shares to ALX. And then, of course, we got going in the field and, unfortunately, it was about 3 or 4 days before the forest fires took hold.”
Located east of James Bay in Quebec, the Hydra Project — and its Python West, Python East, Nike, Echo, Viper, Sprite, Cobra and Volta tenements — covers 293km-square of land. The region has in recent years become a major lithium hotspot, thanks partly to recent discoveries like Allkem’s (ASX:AKE) James Bay Project, Patriot Battery Metals’ (ASX:PMT) Corvette Project, and Winsome Resources’ (ASX:WR1) Cancet and Adina projects.
Prospective though it might be, the remoteness of the area also meant it was a virtual tinder box, and many operations — both exploration and mining — were forced to evacuate. But it’s Forrestania’s relationship with ALX which proved to be the saving grace.
“I’ll be honest, we would have been really struggling to manage that situation had we not been in the joint venture,” Anderson says.
“The collaboration, I think off the back of all those issues in Canada, has proven a very pragmatic and effective way for us to operate. Trying to manage the logistics in Quebec from Perth as forest fires are raging — we were booking and unbooking and rebooking rooms, booking choppers and unbooking choppers, and the team had to be on high alert, to be active one day and down tools the next. So we’re very grateful for the fact that ALX is the operator of this joint venture.”
Given its remoteness, terrain and climate, the Hydra Project is one which fiercely demands work in exchange for reward. But it’s the high percentage of pegmatite outcrops on the property that are a major source of motivation, and which Anderson says help to determine areas of priority. While that will help inform the artificial intelligence-based exploration techniques going forward, there’s no substitute for boots on the ground.
Although Anderson says 5 or 6 of the 8 properties have already been covered during initial site visits, the prevailing consensus is that the surface has barely been scratched.
“We’re close to some recent and quite high-profile discoveries, but I guess the jury’s still out for us in terms of what potential could be there,” he says.
“We’re confident and optimistic that based on the criteria for staking the ground and the geology we know exists, we’ve got as good a chance as anyone. This is highly-prospective terrain, there have been multiple discoveries. But in terms of maturity and the stage of work, it’s embryonic, really.”
Forrestania’s ‘fractionated’ potential
Though the Eastern Goldfields and Hydra projects are promising on their own, it’s the company’s namesake Forrestania Project which appears best placed to deliver the ‘motherlode’.
To date, a number of stacked pegmatite systems have been drilled, but offered little in the way of contained lithium. In contrast, other areas — including those drilled by previous operators — have returned anomalous grades in excess of 3%.
“We absolutely believe we’re in the right areas doing the right things, but we do need, I suppose, those ingredients to come together to constitute what you’d describe as a proper discovery,” Anderson says.
“We’re finding all the hallmarks of a lithium-bearing system but haven’t hit the motherlode just yet.”
“We absolutely believe we’re in the right areas doing the right things, but we do need, I suppose, those ingredients to come together to constitute what you’d describe as a proper discovery“
At the Calypso prospect, Forrestania has found the pegmatite geometry it’s looking for. Likewise at Giant, where it’s “more of the same”. The issue, however, is that the mineralised systems are what Anderson calls “fractionated”, meaning the underlying association between these zones has not yet been fully understood.
“At the end of the day, we’ll be judged on what we ultimately find. We’re confident there is real discovery potential across this Forrestania belt,” he explains.
“Whether it’s Calypso, South Iron Cap, Giant or elsewhere, there’s demonstrably significant lithium in the pegmatised systems around this area. And our systematic approach is, we believe, going to give us the highest probability of success and I can’t fault the team for everything they’re doing.
“We’re definitely doing the right things for the right reasons in what we think are the right areas. The results are continuing to encourage us, but we’ve just got to stick at it and keep making those decisions based on what we see and the results we’re getting.”
Luck and complementary acquisitions
Asked whether any additional acquisitions are on the horizon, Anderson was reluctant to rule anything out. Forrestania has “ample ground” in which to sink its teeth, but the opportunities coming across his desk — particularly in Canada — have been “relentless”.
“We continue to look at how our package sits with the geology, with the things we’re finding, and whether there are any sort of strategic acquisitions,” Anderson says.
“I don’t think we need another greenfields project package, if you know what I mean, but anything that could be complementary to what we have. That was very much the logic and the rationale for the Outback option and potential acquisition.
“There are some things like that we’re currently reviewing which would be, I guess, complementary and an incremental addition to the optionality and the prospectivity we have at our current projects“
“There are some things like that we’re currently reviewing which would be, I guess, complementary and an incremental addition to the optionality and the prospectivity we have at our current projects.”
However that shakes down, Anderson hasn’t taken his eye off the dream: making and developing for Forrestania a discovery of real meaning.
“Exploration is a game of chance,” he explains.
“You make all your educated decisions based on the knowledge and the experience you have, but you still need a little bit of luck. I think having the three projects and, within them, multiple prospects, it’s all just designed to maximise your opportunity, maximise the probability of success.
“We wouldn’t care where it came from. I think there are plenty of things for us to still be doing, but every time we review the portfolio, we’re looking at what we consider to be the highest priority, the highest probability of success.”
Exploration is indeed a game of chance, of probability. It makes sense that those companies with the largest landholdings in the most prospective regions will, of course, be the most successful. But then there is the matter of doing all those projects justice — a notorious hurdle among cash-strapped junior explorers.
Forrestania, however, seems to have struck an impeccable balance. Its joint venture partner ALX has things under wraps in Canada, leaving Anderson and his team to focus largely on the Eastern Goldfields and Forrestania projects.
“We’re exploring and we’re predominantly focusing on lithium for sure, but we’ll take our wins where we get them — whether it’s lithium, copper, gold, nickel or rare earths. There is genuine prospectivity for all those things across our Australian packages and we can’t afford to ignore any of that.”
Whether or not those efforts unveil a discovery is, as Anderson says, just part of the game.
Write to Oliver Gray at Mining.com.au