This article is a sponsored feature from Mining.com.au partner Torque Metals Ltd. It is not financial advice. Talk to a registered financial expert before making investment decisions.
Things move quickly at Torque Metals (ASX:TOR). When Mining.com.au spoke to Managing Director Cristian Moreno in July, the Perth-based company had one asset — the 300km-square Paris Project south of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia — and was zeroed in on gold as its darling commodity.
Fast forward a few months, and Torque is a completely different beast.
In early September, the company signed an option agreement to acquire 100% of the New Dawn Lithium and Penzance Nickel projects, a package of 14 tenements covering 200km-square in WA’s Goldfields region.
The 3 projects — Paris, New Dawn, and Penzance — now comprise what Moreno calls the Penzance Exploration Camp, which covers roughly 500km-square of land highly prospective for a range of commodities.
“We were presented with a great opportunity, due to our presence in the region, where we were able to build credibility with the vendor. Plenty of people were interested in these tenements, but it came down to the reputation of Torque and our solid exploration activities in the local area,” Moreno says.
“We listed with the intention to simply focus on the excellent gold asset at Paris, but the opportunity to build our tenure and explore for critical minerals was too good to pass up.”
“Plenty of people were interested in these tenements, but it came down to the reputation of Torque and our solid exploration activities in the local area”
Indeed, the Penzance Exploration Camp now represents an enviable landholding, that’s for sure. But it’s Torque’s overall strategy that could prove to be the real change-maker.
Adventures in consolidation
The undeniable transformation is no directionless pursuit of ‘diversification’. Instead, it’s better thought of as consolidation in a region — consistently ranked one of the world’s best for mining investment — with complex mineralisation.
“The geology here is complex, but at the same time beautiful. That allows you to have multiple commodities in the same region,” Moreno says.
“You could have gold, but associated with gold you could have another set of commodities — silver, copper, nickel, lithium, these sorts of things. So don’t think that we are diversifying our portfolio, I don’t want to transmit that message. The message that I want to transmit is that we are doing a regional consolidation.”
The ‘why’ of the matter makes sense when you look at Torque’s neighbours.
Within a stone’s throw of the Penzance Camp are projects operated by some of the world’s biggest miners, including Gold Fields’ (JSW:GFI) St Ives Gold Mine, KCGM’s Super Pit, Karora Resources’ (TSX:KRR) Higginsville Gold Mine, and Mineral Resources’ (ASX:MIN) Mt Marion Lithium Mine, as well as Black Mountain’s Lanfranchi Nickel Mine and Alita Resources’ Bald Hill Lithium and Tantalum Mine, which sits just 600m east of Torque’s New Dawn Project.
It’s for this high-profile population that the region is also dense with infrastructure, with processing facilities, roads — including one from the Paris Project to St Ives — and train lines stretching across the otherwise drab landscape.
Take into account these facts, and Torque’s grand plan seems eminently sensible.
“We are explorers. Torque Metals is an exploration company,” Moreno says.
“What we need to do is drill every single project or potential mineralised zone that we have, come up with a mineral resource, and sell it to someone else. If you’ve got a processing plant less than 5km away, why do you need to spend money building another? You just have to come up with an agreement with this other company to sell the ore. That’s it.”
“If you’ve got a processing plant less than 5km away, why do you need to spend money building another?”
‘This is going to be a world-class gold deposit’
On paper, it’s a cost-effective, streamlined strategy. How it turns out in the real world of fate and happenstance is, as always, just part of the fun.
In any case, Moreno says the hard work seems to be paying off.
“We were trying to get attention from the market, but unfortunately it didn’t understand or didn’t like a gold story that much,” he says.
“Now that we’ve brought in lithium, the market is understanding. And it’s not just lithium. Shareholders are understanding that this company is different. That this is a serious company, with a serious board, with serious management. We are in a different position now.”
For the time being, however, it’s a case of doing the work. Already, drilling at the Paris and Observation prospects — both part of the Paris Project — has delivered some pretty eye-watering results, including 2.49m at 40.6 grams per tonne (g/t) gold, 4.44m at 20.82 g/t gold, and 1.2m at 185 g/t gold.
Metallurgical testing using samples from the 2 prospects also beat Torque’s expectations, with 40% of gold recovered through gravity concentration, and composite gold recoveries of 96.79% and 99.7% at Paris and Observation, respectively.
“I think ‘amazing’ is not the word we should use here. This is spectacular,” Moreno says.
“Gold recoveries of 97% at Paris and 99.7% at Observation — that’s telling us that if we define a significant resource in this particular project, in the Paris Gold Project, we will have a world-class gold deposit. I’m telling you, this is going to be a world-class gold deposit. What we need to do is keep drilling.”
“I’m telling you, this is going to be a world-class gold deposit”
And though the New Dawn and Penzance projects are new additions, it’s not as if Torque is dragging its heels.
The same month the option agreement was signed, the company undertook a first-pass sampling campaign at New Dawn, collecting rock chip samples of up to 6% lithium oxide. Drilling activities shortly thereafter returned 8m at 0.71% lithium oxide from 22.3m, including 3.57m at 1.25% lithium oxide.
In a statement at the end of October announcing the addition of a second rig, Moreno noted the initial results showed positive lithium and tantalum grades similar to those found at the neighbouring Bald Hill Mine in its early days.
“One of the emerging, standout features of the New Dawn Lithium Project is the presence of multiple, vertically stacked pegmatites, these geological formations holding the key to potentially proving up significant pegmatite volumes,” he said at the time.
“Much like the Bald Hill Mine, New Dawn’s vertically stacked pegmatites are potential hosts for spodumene lithium mineralisation.”
The Penzance Nickel Project, on the other hand, is yet to be the subject of meaningful exploration by Torque.
The road ahead
It’s not hard to see how Torque’s lofty ambitions make good commercial sense. But Moreno, a discerning creature by nature, isn’t without a backup plan.
In the perhaps unlikely event that the company’s big-time neighbours turn their noses up at additional resources, Moreno is happy to do the mining himself.
“If no one is interested in selling the project or offering us a good amount of money, or a reasonable amount of money, then we could think about production ourselves.”
Either way, the path to greatness is made somewhat clearer by the fact that New Dawn occupies 2 pre-native title, granted mining licences. Across the wider Penzance Camp, there are another 10 mining licences, plus 4 prospecting licences and 12 exploration licences, 3 of which are currently under application.
“Imagine this — you have mining licences, you have pre-native titles, you have infrastructure,” Moreno says.
“You are one hour away from Kalgoorlie Airport, you are in Western Australia, you are in the safest country for investing money in mining projects. I think it’s simple to understand that this is a really good option for investing, to be honest.”
Asked if any future acquisitions were on the horizon, Moreno was tight-lipped, saying only that his approach to all things going forward would be ‘aggressive’.
“Torque Metals is not is not going to stop here. I’m not going to stop here,” he says.
“We’re not this little company that is waiting for the big boys to come and knock on the door and take them over. No, I’m going to be super aggressive. So let’s see what happens.”
“We’re not this little company that is waiting for the big boys to come and knock on the door and take them over; no, I’m going to be super aggressive”
Of course, even the best-laid plans can fail in the ever-changing, ever-challenging world of mining and exploration. But as far as measured, sensible, realistic and potentially lucrative schemes go, Torque’s is up there as one of the best.
Write to Oliver Gray at Mining.com.au
Images: Torque Metals