Tempest Minerals takes the fight to its targets

Last year was a busy one for the folks at Tempest Minerals (ASX:TEM). Exploration and other operational successes aside, the spotlight in 2023 was trained largely on several significant project acquisitions.

“You can’t just have one egg in the basket. You’ve got to have multiple,” Managing Director Don Smith told Mining.com.au in September.

“If you have lots of targets and you test them all, eventually you’ll find something.”

It’s with this sentiment in mind that Perth-based Tempest owns a suite of precious, base and energy metal assets across Western Australia, and holds several other notable interests in projects further afield.

They include exposure to the Tonopah Lithium Project in Nevada through Argosy Minerals (ASX:AGY), as well as a sizeable stake in Premier African Minerals (AIM:PREM), which owns a number of projects in Africa. In Papua New Guinea, Tempest has a stake in Tolu Minerals (ASX:TOK), which holds the Tolukuma and Mt Penck projects, and began trading on the ASX in November.

Back home in WA, there’s the wholly owned Yalgoo Project, with its Messenger, Meleya, Warriedar West and Euro properties, along with the Range Project near Mt Magnet and the Rocky Hill Lithium Project some 100km east of Perth.

In August, Tempest completed its acquisition of the 266km-square Five Wheels Base Metal Project in WA’s Earaheedy Basin, just 36km from Rumble Resources’ (ASX:RTR) renowned Chinook deposit, which is thought to host 2.2 million tonnes of zinc, 700,000 tonnes of lead, and 12.6 million ounces of silver.

More recently, in January 2024, the company finalised its purchase of an 80% stake in the 194km-square Elephant Project in WA’s Fraser Range, which — according to Smith — bears a striking resemblance to AngloGold Ashanti’s (NYSE:AU) and Regis Resources’ (ASX:RRL) 4.4-million-ounce Tropicana Gold Mine.

“It’s more than enough to keep us going,” Smith says.

“But you’ve got to keep your eyes open, especially when we’re at the bottom of the market, as we are. In fact, I said in my podcast-style video for the Elephant announcement, I said exactly that: we think we’re very close to, if not at the bottom of the market. This is the time that you pick up acquisitions.”

Full-steam ahead at Yalgoo

Now, with its acquisitions complete and eggs aplenty, Tempest’s dominant focus is on the exploration side of things. It’s a story the most interesting elements of which date back to March 2022, when a 709m hole was drilled at the Orion target at Yalgoo’s Meleya property.

In an announcement to the ASX, Tempest noted that “multiple mineralisation horizons (were) observed in core, including geology directly comparable to (the) nearby world-class Golden Grove polymetallic mine” owned by 29Metals (ASX:29M).

“We hit mineralisation in the first hole, which was pretty amazing. It didn’t have spectacular grades or anything, but it proved that it’s a real thing,” Smith says.

Subsequent work, including a down-hole electromagnetic (DHEM) survey, culminated in another announcement a few months later, in which Tempest heralded the “project potential” at Meleya.

But while this work was underway, the focus was spreading to other parts of the Meleya property — which Tempest believes sits in one of the few unexplored greenstone belts remaining in Australia — including what is now known as the Remorse target.

“That one, we just said: Okay, go collect samples there when you haven’t got anything to do. And we kind of forgot about it,” Smith says.

“Six months later, I said to one of our geos at the time: Why don’t you go and check those samples we collected? And they come running back into the room: You have to see this! So I come out and I look, and that’s the big red-blue target that we’ve shown a lot.”

Shortly thereafter, Tempest put its hooks into the similarly compelling Sanity target to the south of Remorse.

“We didn’t have that ground when we sampled the Remorse target, but we realised we wanted to go there, so we went and got that ground and sampled it,” Smith explains.

That surface sampling work yielded new zones of anomalism for gold and other metals, with peak rock chip samples up to 7 grams per tonne (g/t) gold, 0.2% copper, and more than 60% iron. 

Both the Sanity and Remorse targets have been pegged for drilling in 2024 — “ideally, we would do both of them together,” Smith says — as has the Range Project, which sits roughly 100km north of the Yalgoo properties.

Range and ‘the clincher’

“The reason we want to drill Range is because we did a full 3D geological model of the whole region, as we do for every project,” Smith says.

“Then we said: Okay, according to our model, if we want to find more of this stuff, we should go here. And so we had some samples there and we went out and had a quick look and collected some more, and that had gold in it. So it was like, bang — again, our theory proven correct just by doing basic stuff, really.”

But what Smith calls “the clincher” is the Range Project’s adjacency to Ramelius Resources’ (ASX:RMS) Britannia Well open pit, which is constrained more by the tenement lease than by anything geological.

“If you keep following that geology, that’s what we’ve just found. So there’s quite a potential for us to drill that out and find more resources.”

Late last year, Tempest announced the discovery of several new gold-bearing structures at the project, with rock chips grading up to 1g/t gold taken along strike from the Britannia Well pit.

“Contrary to previous data, metasedimentary outcrops were mapped corresponding to prominent magnetic features, especially in the northwestern flank of the tenement,” Tempest said in a mid-November update.

“This new data supports the hypothesis that the feature may be a continuation of the Boogardie Formation metasediments found in the mineralised zone of the Britannia Well pit and other mining centres in Mount Magnet.”

The Range Project now hosts two key prospects: the Wrangler target, just 170m along strike from Britannia Well, and the Cherokee target, roughly 1.5k along strike.

Elephant by name, Elephant by nature?

The last area scheduled for drilling in 2024 is Tempest’s latest addition, the Elephant Project, located on the suture between the Yilgarn and Albany-Fraser geological blocks, which is thought to be a regional source of mineralising fluids.

According to the terms of the acquisition finalised in January, Tempest paid $36,000 in cash and issued shares worth $64,000 to acquire an 80% stake in privately-held Lusture Pty Ltd, which holds the Elephant Project. In order to maintain its interest, Tempest must spend $500,000 on exploration activities over the next 3 years.

“We have a JV situation there where we have to spend money to keep our part of the project. It’s not a small project and it’s not going to be a cheap one either, but I guess it’s relatively simple,” Smith says.

“Well, nothing is simple in geology, but it’s relatively simple — compared to Yalgoo, for example. Yalgoo is something brand new. There are literally dozens of things we could drill, maybe even hundreds of things we could drill at Yalgoo, whereas we think Elephant is one or two big targets. Who knows? We might drill Elephant and find out its complex as hell there as well. But relatively speaking, I think that’s a big target.”

Putting the pieces together

At the Five Wheels and Rocky Hill projects, however, things are a little quieter.

Five Wheels, which Tempest brought on board in August, is less developed in terms of field work. As a result, Smith says the project won’t be drilled this year, but will likely be the subject of geophysics and soil sampling over the next 12 months.

The Rocky Hill Lithium Project, on the other hand, just isn’t as compelling as the company’s other assets.

“Lithium is not our priority,” Smith says.

“It’s a good project, but compared to the value that we can get from the others, it’s lower on our priority list.”

In any case, Tempest has — between Yalgoo, Range and Elephant — plenty of work to be getting on with; all of which is designed to propel the company towards its major goal.

“Obviously, we’d like to have a discovery. That’s the Holy Grail,” Smith explains.

“But in six months time, I’d like to think we’ve got two drill programs under our belt, at least, maybe even three, and hopefully we’ve found something.”

It’s a plan of attack given weight by Tempest’s underlying strategy — the philosophy that with “lots of targets” comes a higher chance of discovery.

“In my opinion, many companies which overly focus on one thing are often strongly influenced by the finance industry, which has to be across a lot of things and usually prefers less variables to consider,” Smith says.

“And that’s cool, I respect that and understand. But this also means that if they, for example, don’t hit what they were planning when they drill first up, then they’re often in a dangerous place commercially as their share price drops and they often have to restructure. On the other hand, there are plenty of companies which jump around, have no focus, and don’t get things done. Especially those which are short-term focused on whatever commodity is shiny that week. We’re trying to find a sweet spot between strong focus and having multiple opportunities.”

In any case, the true effectiveness of the exploration strategy will be in the discovery of a worthwhile resource, if and when that happens. But until then, and with so many exploration opportunities in play, Tempest’s is shaping up to be an interesting story to watch.

Write to Oliver Gray at Mining.com.au

Images: Tempest Minerals
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Written By Oliver Gray
Originally from Perth, Oliver has a keen interest long-form journalism. He has written for a number of publications and was most recently Contributing Editor of The Market Herald’s opinion section, Art of the Essay.