Altan Rio Minerals is tapping a 12 million-ounce WA gold province that time forgot




Altan Rio Minerals works on the simple ethos that ‘the best place to find a gold mine is next to a gold mine’.

Applying this mindset led the Canadian-listed, WA-focused explorer to the Southern Cross Yilgarn Greenstone Belt, where it has become one of the biggest tenement holders after an aggressive round of acquisitions.

Altan Rio’s revamped management team also know that while the best place to fish is where the fish are biting, it also helps that there are few other ‘anglers’ at work on the historically rich province nestled between Perth and Kalgoorlie.

According to Altan chairman Graeme Sloan, Southern Cross has flown under the radar for years, despite producing over 12 million ounces of the lustrous stuff over more than a century.

In contrast, the 15 million-ounce Kambalda belt and the 50 million-ounce Kalgoorlie province – WA’s spiritual home of gold – are well known and well explored.

“I have been involved in mining for more than 30 years and frankly Southern Cross wasn’t an area I was interested in, which all changed after researching current and historic mining and spending time in the area” Sloan says.

“Clearly it has never really felt the love in terms of systematic exploration.”

Altan Rio is seeking to administer some TLC with an extensive exploration campaign, informed by the efforts of previous miners and explorers.

Altan Rio’s Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) listing is a legacy of the company’s past focus on offshore jurisdictions, including Bolivia. Chaired by WA gold legend John Jones, the company turned to the Southern Cross region a decade ago, but initially struggled to gain momentum.

Jones hired Sloan, who clocked in last November as chairman and interim CEO. A highly experienced mining engineer, Sloan has served as managing director of a number of resource plays, most recently at Karora Resources.

The former chairman of Troy Resources and Anglo Australia and earlier North Kalgoorlie Mines, the well-connected Jones continues as an Altan Rio director.

Sloan says Southern Cross has had little modern exploration because of the fragmented nature of its ownership. “There were umpteen little groups owning little pieces of it,” he says.

“From our starting point of less than 100 square kilometres of tenements we have grown to over 900 square kilometres, covering areas of huge potential.”

To date management has identified at least half a dozen high priority targets, with at least 20 secondary targets.

Some of the targets emanate from an historic drill data base, including the results from a drill program that were never recorded.

“We are taking advantage of what had been done in the past and looking at the entire area in a systemic way,” Sloan says.

Historically, most of the drilling – and production – has been less than 50 metres deep.

In keeping with its ‘find a mine near a mine’ philosophy, the company is focusing on and around an old mine called Pilot, operated by Troy Resources up until 1994 and producing over 50,000 ounces.

While the Pilot mine descended to 100 metres, Sloan points to intersections 50 metres further below that which clearly shows it remains open at depth. Grades have included 11 metres at 3.3 grams per tonne gold and 8 metres at a very healthy 9.6 grams per tonne.

Historical drill results revealed a new western lens, highlighted by grades including 13 metres at 4.5 grams per tonne.

“There’s little doubt [Pilot] will extend along its current known strike and go to depth,” Sloan says.

Pilot’s potential was reflected in a gold pour carried out in June and derived from low grade stockpiles at the Pilot mine. With a ‘street value’ of around $4.2 million, the 1500-ounce ingot was processed at the nearby Marvel Loch Process Plant.

Another target area close to Pilot, Parisian has yielded rock chip samples of up to 11 grams per tonnes. Parisian produced 560 ounces up to 1911, at an average 21.56 grams per tonne.

The company also has evidence of nickel prospectivity plus multiple outcropping pegmatites that over time will be mapped and sampled.

In February Altan Rio entered an option to acquire 90 per cent of a 115 square kilometre tenement between Southern Cross and Bullfinch. The tenement is highly prospective for both gold and nickel.

Altan Rio’s rolling program of tenement acquisitions culminated in a deal in late June this year to purchase 100 per cent of Torque Metals’ Bullfinch project, adding an additional 572 square kilometres to the portfolio.

The Bullfinch project hosts the old Withers mine, where previous geochemical and grab-sampling work by Torque identified gold-bearing quartz reefs over a three-kilometre strike length. Around Withers, grades of up to 37.5 grams per tonne have been recorded.

Limited historical drilling also showed “highly encouraging” commercial grades at two other targets, Rutherfords Find and Reynolds Find.

Altan Rio now plans to undertake a soil sampling program to hone its exploration focus and will target a new drill program to commence by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

“This will let us know very quickly which of these targets have the potential to yield further economic quantities of gold from this extraordinary belt,” Sloan says.

The company’s revamp has also been reflected in a healthier financial position, bolstered by the proceeds of the gold pour and a $1.5 million placement in January.

Sloan says a year ago the company had a “very average” balance sheet and just enough cash to limp by.

“By the end of June our creditor list will have been significantly reduced,” he says.

“Our much healthier cash position will fund the dual listing and our working capital needs.”

Meanwhile, the company is looking at ways to generate short-term cash flow, possibly by acquiring ‘starter’ projects in - or close to - production.

“It really has been down to hard work from our executive team, led by our chief operating officer Josh Conner, that we have been able to do what we have done in such a short space of time,” Sloan says.

“Given this, it would not be a surprised to see significant investor interest in the project, given the size of our tenue and the potential for both short term production and brownfields exploration.”

A disclosure document for the ASX dual listing will be made available by Altan Rio Minerals Limited when securities for the dual listing are offered. Anyone who wants to acquire securities as part of the dual listing will need to complete an application form that will be in (or accompany) the disclosure document.


Name Tim Boreham

Tim Boreham edits The New Criterion. Many readers will remember Boreham as author of the Criterion column in The Australian newspaper, for well over a decade. He also has more than three decades' experience of business reporting across three major publications.