Minotaur Exploration Ltd

Digging deeper and delivering results

Minotaur Exploration Ltd has the edge on exploration

As Australia’s backbone industry, it is fair to say that mining activity comes with the territory, but the question of who has the best territory is one everyone seeks to discover. Some companies, of course, have the upper hand, and when it comes to applying leading edge techniques in exploration for previously unidentified economic minerals deposits, Minotaur Exploration Limited (ASX: MEP) of Dulwich, South Australia, is able to dig
a little deeper than many others.

“We primarily operate in Australia and of course its geology is very old—we have among the oldest rocks in the world—some of them are almost 4 billion years old. Over time, the continent has been eroded down to its present day land form,” Andrew Woskett, Managing Director, says.

“And so, the rocks that hold the minerals are often not visible at the surface, in other words they’re under deep cover and that’s common here.”

Throughout Minotaur’s exploration and development portfolio, with a particular emphasis on its iron-oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) targets in South Australia and Queensland, the team has a lot of work underway. In 2011, it aims to drill and complete a scoping study at its large and robust Mutooroo iron project in South Australia, making its various IOCG targets at Cloncurry and in the Maitland area its priority focus with various work programs, taking its South Australian Poochera kaolin project through feasibility to commence project development in 2012.

Prioritising the IOCG projects

Just 35 kilometres southeast of the prolific Olympic Dam mine in South Australia is Minotaur’s Aphrodite IOCG target. The geophysical target is in basement rocks, some 650 metres below the actual ground surface, and Woskett says the Minotaur team is using remote sensing techniques to identify mineralization at this substantial depth.

“We apply geophysics—be it gravity surveys or magnetic surveys or resistivity surveys—to give us indications of where we should be looking in a more focused way in the basement rocks which can be from 100 to more than 500 metres below surface,” he says.

“These [Aphrodite and the nearby Acropolis target] are typical magnetic-only or magnetic plus gravity or gravity-only type anomalies. We’re looking for hints of where the original volcanic plumes were, when the basement rocks were exposed, bringing up all of the minerals within the fluids.”

Due to the hydrothermal events dating back some 1,580 million years ago, the area is prospective for copper-gold-uranium mineralization—just like Olympic Dam and Prominent Hill. Like these landmark mines, Aphrodite and Acropolis are part of the Gawler Craton—the significant geological feature that extends to the York Peninsula, home to Minotaur’s Maitland project. Woskett says that Maitland, in the historic Moonta copper mining district, is part of the Olympic Dam sub-domain of the Gawler Craton.

“At Maitland, unlike Aphrodite where the cover is 650 metres, the cover in the Mutooroo project is only about 35 metres so it’s quite shallow and the drilling will be cheaper,” Woskett says.

On March 17, Minotaur announced that it had identified thick magnetite-bearing sediments at Mutooroo, part of a joint venture project with Sumitomo, and Woskett says that the company has just completed seven diamond and RC holes at Muster Dam, testing one of the very significant magnetic horizons the team has picked up from our aerial geophysical surveys.

“We’ve been very happy with the results that we’re getting. The assay results are still being generated from the labs but we know we’ve got very wide intersections and we’re confident that the mineralized package of magnetic sediments is going to be at least 300 metres wide,” he says.

“The strike distance of the Muster Dam anomaly is about five kilometres so it’s pretty easy to come up with a billion tonnes on the back of an envelope calculation. More work needs to be done to precisely quantify that but we’re pretty confident that we’ll get there.”

Combined with the Muster Catch target a little further north, which Minotaur has also tested, and it appears that both parts of mineralization may be joined. Woskett says that given the success of other explorers in the vicinity, Minotaur is confident it will reach at least one billion tonnes of magnetite-bearing iron ore. The company’s next step will be to estimate the size of the exploration target, before going back and doing the necessary drilling to generate a JORC resource—likely towards the end of this year.

At the Poochera kaolin project, also in South Australia, a JORC resource is already in place, totalling 20 million tonnes of very pure kaolin, often known as China Clay.

“It’s moved beyond an exploration project, going into pre-development planning—we’re currently working through a pre-feasibility process,” Woskett says.

“We’re processing samples at a research facility in the coastal town of Streaky Bay and sending product samples out to potential end-user
customers around the world. We’re confident that those samples will be well-received and we should be looking at offtake agreements with a number of potential customers by the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, the company’s work on copper-gold targets in Queensland continues to take shape.

Work continues in Cloncurry

Of Queensland’s Cloncurry region, Woskett says the area plays host to Australia’s premier copper belt. The many mines that have prospered in the region over the last few decades certainly suggest this to be the case, and of Minotaur’s ground, he says it is highly prospective for new IOCG systems buried under cover, but only to an overburden depth of 125 to 150 metres—not as deep as the Aphrodite project in South Australia.

“We’ve got a significant landholding around Cloncurry—about 3,150 square kilometres of ground under tenements. We cover quite a lot of ground around the well known Ernest Henry mine and the Osborne mine developed by Barrick and recently sold to Ivanhoe,” he explains.

“We’re looking for repetitions of the Ernest Henry or Osborne-style mine systems. We do that in joint venture with our partner JOGMEC (Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation) which covers 14 tenements over 550 square kilometres. They fund all of that and we do the work and manage it.”

Minotaur also has around another 10 tenements within its wholly owned exploration licenses covering 2,600 square kilometres, and having been left champing at the bit to get back on the ground following the flooding and severe wet season Queensland suffered of late, Woskett says it is a good position to be in for this copper-gold area and there are plenty of activities planned.

“We’ve got a number of targets that are ready to be drilled—all about 125 to 150 metres below surface so shallow and quick to drill—and they’re all very interesting geophysical targets,” he says.

“A lot of background science goes into selecting our targets—enormous amounts of geophysical data and 3D geophysical interpretation.”
Given the company’s release to the market in November 2010, which announced good indications of copper in drill holes, it won’t be long before Minotaur can get back on the ground and commence this next stage of work.

Minotaur marks the spot

There are three focus platforms for Minotaur today, and Woskett says that the company’s plans begin with its more shallow IOCG targets—in Maitland and Cloncurry—where plenty of companies are busily working away to good results and Minotaur expects to do the same. At Mutooroo, along with its joint venture partner Sumitomo Metal Mining Oceania Pty Ltd., the company will spend $5 million drilling out the project and getting a scoping study done. Simultaneously, the Poochera kaolin project will be taken through feasibility towards project development next year, on course to become a high quality 50-plus mine life kaolin operation providing the market with a substantial new supply. There are various other exploration activities underway too, but Woskett explains that it is these targets which really demonstrate what Minotaur has in store and why it has elected to choose its ground around Australia.

“It is a very safe and stable place to invest exploration dollars. We favour South Australia because it has an excellent regulatory and geosciences bureau. We get fantastic information and support from the world class government databases,” he says.

“We need that because a lot of our geology is undercover and not visible at the surface, and we have a firm belief that a lot of the mineral wealth that exists hasn’t been found.”

What has been found—surface or near surface mineralization—has of course been duly targeted by generations of miners over many years. As these easily accessible points of mineralization continue to deplete, companies who know the ground and have the capability will continue to dig deeper and in doing so, like Minotaur, may turn up some impressive results. The company’s exploration spread—in terms of kilometres and resources—is nothing less than extensive.

The team’s knowledge and success rate is equally large, and with all manner of activities planned to take its multiple projects down the development track in 2011, you can bet if Minotaur is there, it is the appropriate territory for making the next significant mineral discovery. 


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