This article is a sponsored feature from Mining.com.au partner Helix Resources Ltd. It is not financial advice. Talk to a registered financial expert before making investment decisions. This is the first of a two-part series.
“You can talk about as many anomalies as you like, but until you get a drill intercept, you haven’t made a discovery.”
Helix Resources (ASX:HLX) Managing Director Mike Rosenstreich is acutely aware that finding the next major copper discovery is an intrepid pursuit not for the faint-hearted.
Speaking to Mining.com.au, Rosenstreich details how the mineral exploration roadmap for juniors is as complex as it is varied.
As with any endeavour, having a competent team is a strong determiner of success. For junior explorers such as Helix, focusing on the right commodity in a highly prospective mining region is also a step in the right direction.
The MD is very clear when discussing Helix Resources’ strategy to make the next copper discovery. He says the soft, malleable, and ductile metal is the ‘essential’ critical metal in which a major supply deficit is looming.
He notes the energy transition needs copper, regardless of power source or battery chemistry. Only silver and gold are better conductors.
“First of all, copper is the essential metal, so it is the essential critical metal”
“First of all, copper is the essential metal, so it is the essential critical metal. You don’t have copper, you don’t have ways of transporting electrons between your lithium, nickel, whatever is the battery chemistry to the consumer.”
Amid this backdrop, Helix is focused solely on new copper (and gold) discoveries on its 3,000km-square of tenements in the Cobar-Nyngan region of central New South Wales.
Tapping into 150 years of combined geological experience, Helix is now accelerating extensive exploration for the metal. In a major milestone, in the June quarter, it reported a significant increase to the Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) at the Canbelego joint venture with Aeris (ASX:AIS), with a 77% bump in contained metal to about 31,800 tonnes of copper.
On top of this, the company has a nice $5.9 million war chest of cash to help fund its pathway to discovery. In essence, Helix has its eye firmly on the prize.
As Rosenstreich explains: “You can talk about as many anomalies as you like, but until you get a drill intercept, you haven’t made a discovery. And really then the drill intercept needs to be looked at in the context of the scale of the anomaly, the geophysical, geochemical, and the geology as to whether or not it’s a discovery in terms of various activities.
For Helix, it’s all about business as usual. It’s about doing good work around geology, being intellectually invested in the tenure. We have a permanent salaried exploration team based in regional New South Wales. And we’re getting smarter and more efficient on the ground work all the time, and we’re actually walking the ground looking at the geology — that’s often overlooked, but critically important.
This is being spearheaded by employing really smart technology to get the best out of the data. We have geologists on the ground in an area where people said it was too difficult, there’s too much cover, it’s all farmland.
Well, there are opportunities to make geological observations if you walk the ground. And secondly, bringing new technology, gathering multi-element geochemical data, reprocessing geophysical data to merge with the geological observations, to come up with well founded detailed interpretations for ground, which has never had that level of scrutiny before.”
Smart technology leading to new opportunities
As entrepreneurial explorer, technology innovator, and company builder Robert Friedland from Ivanhoe Mines stated in March 2020: “Metals are the new oil, and copper is essential in generation, transmission and end-products, EV’s, phones…”
Rosenstreich tends to agree. It’s why Helix has been working hard and smart to capitalise on the opportunities that lie before it. This also includes the fact that Helix is focused on intense exploration and operates in the copper ‘Powerball Zone’.
Last week, the company completed ground-based ‘fixed-loop’ electromagnetic (FLEM) surveys that confirmed the presence of ‘conductive’ anomalies at both the Quanda and Fiveways high-priority copper targets identified by a VTEM survey flown in early 2021.
The purpose of the ground EM surveys was to confirm the presence of the original VTEM anomalies and also to generate more detailed conductivity data. This data enables each anomaly to be modelled into a shape to assess whether it is geologically ‘reasonable’ and further assists future drill targeting work.
At Quanda-Hermidale, 4 ‘high-priority’ anomalies were identified from the 2021 VTEM survey, extending over some 6km. FLEM surveys confirm basement conductors at 3 of these anomalies, which are modelled as gently easterly-dipping plates, typically from 50m to 75m beneath the surface. The fourth VTEM anomaly was attributed to local conductive cover with no basement sources identified.
Further technological innovation is being utilised to reprocess other geophysical data sets to overlay with regional-scale geological mapping to identify geological features related to mineralisation. These features are generally obscured due to the thick monotonous rock sequences with little ‘geophysical contrast’ and scarcity of outcrop in the region to be able to map different rock types and structures – essential for effective exploration.
Rosenstreich notes this work has added vital detail to the interpretation of the regional geology. This includes the sequences and structures associated with mineralisation throughout the recognised copper-bearing trend. Specific ‘signatures’ were recognised within the prospective host sequence to the copper deposits, including the recently acquired Yangunyah licence — north of the ground currently being mined by Aeris at Tritton and covering the same prospective rock sequences which extend south to Helix’s Collerina project.
Understanding the regional scale geological controls on mineralisation through mapping the different rock units (or lithologies) and the structural relationships (lithostratigraphic mapping) are important components of Helix’s ongoing multi-faceted regional exploration program, designed to make new copper discoveries.
The MD says this work has generally not been undertaken before and certainly not at this scale utilising recent geophysical processing and experienced geologists to map and integrate the data.
“That’s what being invested in a discovery company is all about”
“It’s a major commitment but essential to providing context for interpretation of regional-scale VTEM and geochemical datasets, as well as reprocessed aeromagnetic and gravity data. So, the result of all this is we’ve been able to make a new tenement application because we’ve identified a piece of ground that’s prospective that perhaps other people haven’t recognised. Also, we’re able to enhance our targeting on our own tenements because we’re able to draw a lot more geological elements to use to rank and prioritise our targets.”
The lithostratigraphic map represents a compilation of all these elements, old and new, to facilitate new copper, base metal, or gold discoveries.
“That’s what being invested in a discovery company is all about.”
A platform for development
Rosenstreich says Helix is very much focused on copper and finding new deposits. The new Mineral Resource estimate (MRE) released in mid June is a robust start.
“A solid, realistic MRE provides a platform from which to assess any development opportunities possibly with a partner — which enables us to maintain our focus on discovery activities.
It is critical that we now leverage our improved geological understanding of this deposit to find new deposits, and we are certainly generating some interesting new targets.”
The Canbelego Copper Project lies along the regional-scale Rochford Copper Trend. Looking outward from this resource, the company sees additional potential with the Western Lodes, which are just 200m to the west of the Main Lode, as well as other nearby prospects where the MD says Helix still has unfinished business.
“It is critical that we now leverage our improved geological understanding of this deposit to find new deposits, and we are certainly generating some interesting new targets”
The Main Lode has a strike extent of 350m, a true thickness averaging about 5m, and a true depth of some 600m. Shallow drilling indicates shallow, wider, higher-grade zones though overall the mineralisation pinches and swells and, although continuous, can be highly variable in width. Smaller lodes occur parallel and adjacent to the Main Lode.
The MRE for the Canbelego Main Lode was completed by MEC Mining. This was the first update of the resource since the 2010 resource estimate.
Helix restarted work at Canbelego in early 2021 — the first exploration work undertaken at the project since 2013. The company completed 68 drill holes at the Main Lode and surrounding prospects for 16,666m. The drilling was targeted at depth extensions of the copper shoots and to better define copper grades and mineralised widths at shallow levels broadly above the base of the 2010 MRE.
As previously mentioned, Helix has just under $6 million cash to get onto a pathway to discovery. It also opens the door to a possible production pathway given the range of local processing options it has being strategically located in close proximity to 6 suitable processing plants, as well as towns, sealed roads, rail, and power infrastructure.
Helix Resources is ‘all-in on copper’ exploration in the prolific copper-producing region of Cobar in New South Wales. The company possesses a sizable ground position across 3 tenement groups which are largely untested despite being located within 50km of significant copper-producing operations.
In part two of this series, Rosenstreich talks to Mining.com.au about access to capital, company liquidity, and the fact that Helix is getting on with the job with a singular focus on discovery, which is what he considers will generate exciting shareholder returns.
Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au
Images: Helix Resources Ltd