Investigator Resources begins drilling at Molyhil tungsten-molybdenum project

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By Colin Hay - 
Investigator Resources ASX IVR drilling Molyhil tungsten project Northern Territory

Investigator Resources (ASX: IVR) has kicked-off a drilling campaign at the historic Molyhil tungsten-molybdenum project in the Northern Territory in what is shaping as a critical period for the project and the company.

The new drilling campaign will help bolster Investigator’s aims to rejuvenate Molyhil, which has major project status in the NT.

Investigator has an option to earn up to an 80% interest under a 3-stage joint venture agreement with Thor Energy (ASX: THR).

Stage 1 investment

The agreement is currently in stage 1, where Investigator can earn a 25% JV interest in Molyhil with the outlay of $1 million before May 2024.

Along with the right to 25% of Molyhil and surrounding exploration tenure, Investigator will also earn 40% of the adjacent Bonya tenement after the finalisation of the initial $1 million expenditure.

Two further stages of investment of up to $7 million over 6 years will provide the company with the ability to earn an 80% interest in Molyhil.

New MRE release on target

A key component of Investigator’s actions in stage 1 will be to compile an updated mineral resource estimate (MRE) by the end of 2023, which will then be unveiled in early 2024.

Molyhil has a previously reported MRE of 4.38 million tonnes at 0.27% tungsten trioxide (WO3) and 0.10% molybdenum (Mo).

On the back of those numbers and a positive 2018 definitive feasibility study (DFS), Molyhil was granted major project status in July 2021 by the NT Government. This honour will help facilitate the project’s regulatory approvals.

Historic mining success

Located approximately 230km northeast of Alice Springs the project was discovered in 1973, first mined in 1978 and had historic mine production in the 1980’s.

In recent years it has been the subject of substantial project study work by Thor Energy.

Investigator’s managing director Andrew McIlwain said the new drilling campaign follows a successful review of the available data provided by Thor which identified opportunities to improve the existing mineral resource estimate.

“It is really pleasing to be able to get all the necessary approvals in place and a rig on site to ensure that this program can be completed by year end. The Investigator team have done a great job establishing the site and working with the Central Land Council (CLC) and pastoralist to kick this program off,” he said.

“Our view is that there are significant opportunities to improve the Molyhil project and this drill program will allow Investigator to present a revalidated mineral resource estimate in early 2024 and develop a view of Molyhil’s future before the completion of our stage 1 earn-in commitment.”

Targeting specific areas

Planning for the current drilling program has led to Investigator targeting specific areas and objectives, including the addition of diamond drilling holes to “twin” previous RC and diamond drilling to verify historical data.

The company also aims to collect rock density information from new drill holes to support density modelling.

The program will also test zones considered to have been previously “under-explored.

Tungsten as a critical metal

Many countries have listed tungsten as a critical metal.

It has the highest melting point and lowest vapour pressure of all metals, and at temperatures over 1650°C has the highest tensile strength. It also has excellent corrosion resistance.

This has made it historically critical for its use in many high-temperature applications such as arc-welding electrodes and heating elements in high-temperature furnaces.

These days the high-tech metal is considered a critical component of engine valves, turbine blades, LCD panels, TV tubes and electrical switch gear.

It is also used in the vibrating mechanism of mobile phones, used in the manufacture of specific steels for jet engines, medical and dental equipment and high-temperature resistant alloys.

While Australia is well down the list of global tungsten producers, it is estimated to contain the second largest resource of the metal in the world.

The tungsten market was valued at around $8 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8% through 2023 to 2029, before reaching nearly $13.6 billion in that time-frame.