The discovery of large-volume Base Metal and Precious Metal orebodies.
The mineral exploration industry is having difficulty keeping up with the increasing demand for new deposits that can be economically mined.
The depletion of mineral reserves is a real concern to the mining industry. It is becoming more and more difficult to replace them as existing ore is gradually mined out. Some of the world’s top mining analysts and executives even postulated the ‘peak gold’ hypothesis back in 2007 and 2008.
This is an offshoot of the ‘peak oil’ concept which was first presented in a paper by Hubbert in 1956. The premise is that there is a point in time where the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached. He correctly predicted that America’s oil production from conventional sources in the continental U.S. would peak between 1965 and 1970. However, thanks to new technologies and extraction techniques the U.S. is now one of, if not the top oil producers in the world.
In the case of ‘peak gold’, industry experts looked at the world’s precious (and base metal) production and reserves, and determined that production had peaked, or would do so around 2015. About 10 years ago, this prediction must have sent alarm bells ringing in C-Suites around the world. Bidding wars for mineral assets by major mining companies around the world led to many overpriced acquisitions. Billions were spent around the world- such as Barrick in Africa, and Kinross’ embarrassing 2010 $7 billion Fruita del Norte gold asset in Ecuador. It was recently acquired by the shrewd Lundin group for pennies on the dollar.
‘$200 Billion Flushed Away By The World’s Biggest Mining Companies’ – This striking headline from the June, 2016 Forbes magazine summarizes well the costly mistakes made during the last commodity boom. The accounting firm PwC published a report on the matter, which Forbes jestingly referred to as an ‘autopsy’. It revealed an industry-wide failure of mining company management by the top- 40 mining firms. Poor investment and capital management decisions squandered any benefits from the commodity price boom.
The damage done to the exploration industry by this acquisition frenzy and subsequent failure is immeasurable. Many companies failed or closed. Instead of exploring for assets and expanding ore reserves, mining companies went into debt to buy them at the top of the commodity cycle. Another consequence of this 'crash' of the mining industry is the closing of many long-established boutique brokerage firms which catered to junior exploration companies. The result is a very challenging environment for these companies to raise capital.
The ‘peak gold’ issue points to the failure of the mineral exploration industry to adequately increase reserves. In some cases, this may result in the substitution of minerals where possible, (as currently in the battery and EV industry) or a repeat of the bidding wars for scarce mineral assets.
That ‘peak gold’ is such a concern in the industry demonstrates that the expensive, slow, gradual and limited nature of current positive exploration results has proven inadequate and that a more effective tool is required in the exploration arsenal.
Stargate II (SGII) is one such tool. Where various iterations of airborne EM and other surveys identify multiple (often dozens or more) anomalies on a company’s mining claims, it is a subjective decision which one to drill, where, and to which coordinates. The method of elimination drilling approach is an ineffective and expensive tactic to test a prospective area.
If a Stargate II air survey is performed on a property and a criteria-meeting (world-class) target is identified, the SGII algorithms provide the vectors for one drill hole to initially test the property. If the predicted mineralization is encountered, then follow up drilling is performed, and a new mineral resource is outlined.
This is a much more cost- effective approach to exploration than the current norm. Since the economic downturn a few years ago, exploration dollars are increasingly scarce, and this new exploration tool is a logical method of supplementing a company’s current exploration program.
Because the SGII system and data is proprietary, some individuals in the industry dismiss it as ‘poor science’.
However, in modern science, ‘Occam’s Razor’, the ancient problem-solving principle is still in use today. It emphasizes that ‘simpler explanations are generally better than complex ones’. In fact, this principle has come to be referred to as the Rule of Simplicity.
Because SGII provides a simple test of its hypothesis - a single drill hole through its outlined anomaly, then this satisfies the scientific 'rule of simplicity'. It is also very economical.
Shareholders in this industry appreciate the cost of capital, and are generally supportive of the economies of using the SGII system. If there has been resistance to using the system, often it was from competing exploration professionals.
Exploration should be results-based. Too often, poor outcomes from an exploration program simply results in 'doubling down', or doing more of the same- ordering another survey or testing another anomaly. This is the ‘conservative’ and ‘acceptable’ approach to exploration. In these times of reduced exploration funding, this is no longer sustainable.
ESSCO’s suggestion to interested companies or property owners is to use a portion of those scarce exploration dollars and put Stargate II to the test.