Torque Metals: finding success through simplified exploration

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.

If simplicity is the height of sophistication, Torque Metals (ASX:TOR) is decidedly swank.

Based in Perth, the company has 1 asset — the Paris Gold Project, located south of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia — and operates within the confines of a similarly narrow exploration remit.

“A company our size should be focusing on 1 particular thing,” Managing Director Cristian Moreno says.

“We don’t want to pick different commodities. We don’t believe in diversification into every single commodity, exploring for absolutely everything, because that is not connected to the market or to the investor. An investor would like to receive a simple story — gold or copper or nickel or lithium, but just 1 element, 1 commodity. 

And that is Torque Metals: 1 commodity, 100% focus on gold and 100% focus on high gold grades.”

that is Torque Metals — 1 commodity, 100% focus on gold and 100% focus on high gold grades”

A narrow focus

Though it’s been that way since Moreno became CEO in April 2022 — and then Managing Director in October. The strategy more aggressively revealed itself in June 2023, when Torque decided to sell its Bullfinch Gold Project, located 34km north of Southern Cross in Western Australia.

“We consider Bullfinch to be a tier-two, tier-three asset rather than a premium asset like the Paris Project,” Moreno explains.

The deal with Altan Rio Minerals (TSXV:AMO) landed Torque a non-refundable payment of $100,000, with another $650,000 to come should Altan complete its secondary listing on the ASX.

According to that June announcement, the idea was that a slimmer portfolio would provide Torque with the flexibility and financial support to focus on the 300km-square Paris Project, which consists of 9 mining licences, 2 prospecting licences, and 10 exploration licences — 7 of which are currently under application.

The narrower focus has also given Moreno — a geologist, agricultural engineer and data scientist — the freedom to meet exploration processes with a considered sense of creativity.

“Because I’m a data scientist myself and a statistician, I can use a lot of machine learning, a lot of data manipulation,” he says.

“What I’m doing is using the historical data, using these algorithms that you can download from the internet, and sort of playing around with it and trying to visualise or generate additional targets inside the project. That is helping me with the identification of additional mineralised structures.”

Moreno is quick to point out that such a method is not akin to crystal balling your way through an exploration program. Rather, it’s about probability. It’s about improving your odds and finding a competitive edge.

“Drilling is not cheap, drilling is expensive. If you add value to your drilling — analysing your data, understanding your deposit, understanding the geology — the potential to find something is quite good.

I came from the oil and gas industry. You don’t have 10 holes to test your deposit, you have 1. And for 1 hole, the cost is around $10 million or $20 million. That’s expensive. That’s why the oil and gas industry invests a lot in research and development, because you have just 1 chance. 

But because people believe that mining is not expensive, that it’s cheap, they just drill a lot of holes and see what happens. No, you have — and this is my philosophy — you have to take care of the money of the shareholders. This is not my money. This is not the money of the company. This is the money of the shareholders.”

you have to take care of the money of the shareholders”

Indeed, cost savings are a consistent theme at Torque Metals. The company has its own in-house laboratory, where its geological team can analyse and interpret rock chips, alterations and mineralised structures. And with Australia’s mining sector still hampered by ongoing staff shortages, it’s as much about saving time as it is saving money.

“I don’t sort of outsource a lot of things to service providers,” Moreno adds.

“The only thing that I’m not doing here is drilling, of course, because I don’t have a rig. If I had a rig, I would drill myself, believe me.”

Bonanza à Paris

If Moreno’s exploration approach is somewhat non-traditional, he takes comfort in the knowledge that it seems to be working.

At the start of July this year, Torque unveiled its latest batch of assays from drilling at Paris, where 3 key prospects, Paris, HHH, and Observation — all of which sit within a 2.5km-by-1km slice of the overall project — have returned bonanza-grade results.

Among the best was a 35m intercept grading 14.12 grams per tonne (g/t) gold from 157.8m, which included 2.49m at 40.6 g/t gold and 1.2m at — brace yourself — 185 g/t gold.

Those are undeniably impressive results. But for a company focused on a small slice of its only project, some might be tempted to view Torque as a single-basket explorer with a great deal of eggs. The truth, however, is more or less the reverse.

“No, the answer is no,” Moreno explains.

In the 1% of the project we’re exploring, we’ve got something, and we haven’t explored the remaining 99% of the project”

“What we are doing is de-risking this particular area and at the same time exploring around. We’ve got 99% of the project to discover something else. In the 1% of the project we’re exploring, we’ve got something, and we haven’t explored the remaining 99% of the project. The probability of finding something else is quite high.”

That the Paris Project sits within Western Australia’s prolific Boulder-Lefroy Fault — remarkable for the number and importance of gold deposits it hosts — is added encouragement. As far as mining jurisdictions go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-established one.

Roughly 12km to the northwest of Paris is Gold Fields’s (JSE:GFI) 7-million-ounce St Ives Gold Mine. To the southwest is Karora Resources’s (TSX:KRR) Higginsville Mining Operation, which produced 13,250 ounces of gold in the first quarter of 2023.

“On top of that, we’ve got the Lanfranchi Nickel Mine just 1km to the west of our tenements,” Moreno says.

“We’ve also got Liatam Mining — 25 million tonnes of lithium at 1% — just 4km east of our tenements. So, what else could we have? Maybe additional commodities, but at this stage, we’re focusing on gold.”

The bigger picture

Though exploration is the company’s immediate focus, it’s not as if Moreno is missing a bigger picture.

“We don’t have just 1, we’ve got 2 operations near our Paris Project — both of them gold, both of them in the same geology, with a similar kind of alteration. So it would be totally fake to tell you that this company is going to go into production,” he says.

“What we could do in the future is sell this material to these processing plants and generate value for the company. Or some of these companies could knock on the door and say, guys, we want to buy your project.”

Here Moreno has tapped into a truth no one really wants to talk about: Western Australia’s major gold producers — those surrounding Kalgoorlie in particular — are running out of gold. The mammoth deposits that had previously established the region as one of the gold industry’s finest are no longer materialising. Which might be fine if these enormous producers didn’t also have multi-million-tonne processing facilities to run, either at full capacity or at some kind of loss.

“If we want to go to production, okay, we’ve got 9 mining licences. We could extract the ore and sell it to them, and produce a little bit of money for our shareholders,” Moreno says.

“Or these companies might say, okay, why are we paying for the ore if it’s going to be cheaper just to take them over.”

But for anything to happen at all, let alone some kind of takeover, there are still a few boxes that need to be ticked. As far as Moreno is concerned, it’s a matter of making life easier for whoever holds the project further down the track — be it Torque or someone else.

Ticking the first box will come from metallurgical characterisation and gaining a reliable understanding of the potential gold recovery rates that can be achieved at Paris. Tick number 2 will come with the release of an exploration target, which will show the potential extensions of the 3 key deposits. The potential publication of a mineral resource estimate will satisfy the third box, while demonstrated production readiness — like, for example, Paris’s 9 granted mining licences — will see to the fourth.

I think that is a simple story”

“What I’m doing is making the job quite easy, not only for other companies, but also for the industry to understand that this is a serious project with serious potential to grow, with serious geology, similar to the geology of St Ives, and with the potential to be a significant gold deposit,” he says.

“I think that is a simple story.”

Simple stories are indeed the best. That Torque Metals has opted for clarity and restraint over hubristic baloney is perhaps a sign of underlying confidence; a willingness to simply let the project speak for itself, knowing that, in the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Write to Oliver Gray at Mining.com.au

Images: Torque Metals Ltd
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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.