Junior explorer Caeneus Minerals (ASX: CAD), after a few years of distractions, is now poised to emerge from the pack in the race to turn the Pilbara into a gold-producing province.
But this is a Pilbara gold story with a twist: the ground now held by Caeneus was surrendered many years ago by De Grey Mining (ASX: DEG), discoverer of the now famed Hemi gold deposit in late 2019 in the same region.
De Grey, to reduce its ground holding costs, divested the tenements to concentrate on what it considered its main target.
The other factor that may have influenced De Grey is that Roberts Hill, now Caeneus’ priority target, is under more transported cover (up to 40m thick) than other parts of the ground it held in the Pilbara.
Caeneus, looking for a new direction from lithium, snapped them up — and its three-year wait now seems to be paying off.
Projects share boundary with Hemi ground
De Grey’s Mallina project, which includes Hemi, contains the highly gold-mineralised Mallina Shear Zone and shares a boundary with two of the Caeneus’ projects, Roberts Hill and Mt Berghaus (a third project, Yule River lies 40 kilometres to the west along the unexplored Sholl Shear Zone and closer to the Indian Ocean coast).
Roberts Hill is located just 6km from Hemi.
Moreover, De Grey, with its Shaggy prospect just 200m from its boundary with Caeneus, is now drilling close to that boundary as it seeks to extend its Mallina resource.
To advance these new projects, Caeneus has brought in veteran Rob Mosig to run the company.
Mr Mosig, now chief executive officer, has a track record with juniors.
He was managing director in the 1980s of Helix Resources (ASX: HLX) and later of Platina Resources (ASX: PGM), in both cases presiding over substantial increases in the share prices of those companies.
Airborne surveys identify Roberts Hill targets
In its most recent work report, Caeneus reported in October that it had conducted airborne magnetic and radiometric surveys over all three projects.
At Roberts Hill, surveys showed features that indicated a link of structures to the Mallina and Berghaus shear zones 4km to the south.
The aeromagnetic anomalies outlined at Roberts Hill are considered the priority targets which will initially be tested by aircore drilling.
That program is expected to be between 20,000m and 25,000m.
Caeneus is still awaiting the relevant Western Australian Government and heritage clearances; these have been delayed due to the high level of pegging and drilling activity in the Pilbara and other parts of the state in recent months.
The company’s ground covers a total of 475 square kilometres.
Greenfield exploration territory
Caeneus has emerged from a period of little activity, which included an ASX suspension over compliance issues, but those days now seem well and truly behind it.
In addition, the present investor interest in Pilbara gold seems to be proving more sustainable than the 2017 market run following the discovery of gold nuggets.
There has been no recorded mining and very limited exploration over the Roberts Hill and Mr Berghaus tenements, thought to be due largely to the thickness of the unconsolidated sands covering much of the tenement areas, along with sparse highly weathered outcrop.
However, as Caeneus noted, within 10km of the tenement boundaries are several small historic mining centres.
One of those, Mallina, saw gold discovered in 1888 and was mined up until 1918, while the Toweranna deposit produced a recorded 5,680oz.
From the early 1970s, there have been several sporadic exploration efforts.
These included exploration for platinum group elements and nickel, while between 1981 and 1983 the major Western Mining Corporation explored for gold, but no drilling was undertaken.
There were further unsuccessful efforts in the 1990s.
Pilbara gold rush long time coming
Perth’s then afternoon newspaper, The Daily News, on 15 June 1935 ran a single-column item under the fashionable (at that time) three-deck headline: Pilbara Gold Field —Worth Further Investigation — Engineer’s View
The state mining engineer, a Mr R Wilson, stated that “the Pilbara goldfields would probably repay further investigation”. This came after the state conducted a geological survey.
Wilson made the point that the Pilbara was very isolated with a small and scattered population, so that the region had not received the exploration attention it should have.
Most of the gold mines worked pre-1935 had been pretty well been all one-man shows.
There was some activity, nevertheless.
In 1937 the Mullewa Mail carried the Pilbara goldfields report for July that year showing 1,377oz produced in that month, the top producer being Halley’s Comet at Marble Bar, with others including the Bamboo Creek and Tassy Queen mines.