A young geologist who made several gold discoveries in the Forrestania gold belt 20 years ago has returned to the region at the helm of Classic Minerals to complete some unfinished business. Exciting geological models that went untested years ago because of a 2001 corporate collapse are finally being put to the test and already yielding spectacular results.
A veteran geologist who made multiple gold discoveries 20 years ago on the Forrestania greenstone belt near Southern Cross has returned to the region, this time as CEO of ASX-listed explorer Classic Minerals.
WMC-trained geologist Dean Goodwin took the helm at Classic Minerals in November last year almost two decades after he effectively wrote the book on the greenstone belt that steam trains it way through Classic’s 80% owned Forrestania Gold project, about 150km south of Southern Cross in the Marvel Loch region. Perth company Hannans Ltd own the other 20% of the project.
An RC drilling program under Goodwin’s guidance is already validating his geological model for high-grade gold in the vicinity of the historic Lady Ada mine, which is at the top of a long list of targets.
Like all good exploration yarns, Goodwin’s journey back to the Forrestania belt has many twists and turns.
The southern end of the Forrestania belt was first explored systematically in the 1960s, with nickel the primary target. The region remains synonymous with nickel thanks to the success of Western Areas at Spotted Quoll, Flying Fox and Cosmic Boy, however, Aztec Exploration put gold on the map as well with the discovery of the Bounty gold mine in 1985.
The open pit and underground mine operated between 1988 and 2002, producing 1.1 million ounces of gold from around 6 million tonnes of ore boasting an average grade of 5.7g/t gold. The mine was eventually closed when then-owner Viceroy Australia ran into financial trouble.
Canadian-based Viceroy hedged production in 1999 and was hammered by a steep rise in the gold price, leading administrators to move in and close the Bounty mine.
Whilst Viceroy’s financial judgement was questionable, its commitment to boots-and-hammer exploration was first rate. Soon after it bought Bounty from LionOre in 1999, it gave LionOre’s former senior exploration geologist, Dean Goodwin, the enormous task of conducting a detailed field mapping program over more than 120kms of the southern Forrestania belt.
Goodwin was given the freedom to spend 2.5 years uncovering the potential of the company’s extensive tenements in the region. He used a combination of samples from historic drill holes, surface expressions, geochemical samples and previously flown geophysics to pull together a comprehensive suite of maps in the area that were blistered by a plethora of good looking targets.
Whilst his efforts led to the generation of multiple alluring gold targets in the region, they were never tested because of Viceroy’s collapse…….until now that is.
After acquiring the Forrestania gold project last year, Classic Minerals’ founding managing director, Justin Doutch, could find little in the way of historic information other than some old maps with Goodwin’s name on it.
Goodwin was approached and jumped at the chance to take the helm at Classic Minerals and the opportunity to conclude some unfinished business that took up almost three years of his life.
The new CEO came armed with a treasure trove of old maps, priority targets and geological theories that he identified in the area almost 20 years ago. Of the 322 targets he produced back then, 98 are on Classic Minerals’ tenements, and many of the best targets have still not been drilled, despite the passage of almost two decades.
Lady Ada is at the top of the list of priorities for Classic Minerals. The deposit was brought into production by Sons of Gwalia, with about 95,000 tonnes of ore mined at almost 9 g/t for about 30,000 ounces of gold. Mining ended prematurely with a pit wall slippage.
The other high priority targets are Goodwin’s Lady Lila target area, about 4km east of the old Lady Ada mine and the Lady Magdalene prospect, which is 1km north of Lady Ada.
Goodwin’s return gives him the opportunity to test two principal theories for high-grade gold. First, the Bounty gold mine was notable for its banded iron formations that were cross cut by highly mineralised faults or shear zones. Goodwin has mapped similar banded iron formations at Lady Lila and the first order of business is to uncover a Bounty lookalike within high-grade, cross-cutting shoots of mineralization at Lady Lila.
Secondly, according to Goodwin, the Lady Magdalene prospect exhibits some remarkable similarities to the old Lady Ada mine but drilling to date has been too widely spaced to fully support the theory.
The Lady Ada gold mine had a series of low grade shutes that were all dipping a certain way, however they were cross cut by high grade shutes at a high angle and these cross cutting high grade shutes were the real story behind Lady Ada.
Goodwin says that wide spaced drilling at lady Magdalene appears to have identified a number of similar low grade shutes dipping the same way as those at Lady Ada, however Classic will need to close up the drill spacings to determine if the Lady Ada style high grade cross cutting shutes are also present at Lady Magdalene. According to the company, it is not out of the question that serveral Lady Ada sized deposits could be lurking at Lady Magdalene.
The company already has a mineral resource at the Forrestania gold project of 5.9 million tonnes at 1.25 g/t gold for 240,000 ounces, however the strategy is to locate high-grade shoots that could turbocharge the economics of the project.
Assay results have recently begun flowing in from Classic’s second RC drill program and they appear to be supporting Goodwin’s geological model struck 20 years ago.
Best results from Lady Ada to date include 6 metres at 8.67 g/t from 67 metres, including 1 metre at 38.10 g/t, 3 metres at 10.37 g/t from 117 metres, including 1 metre at 30.50 g/t. The high-grade mineralisation has yet to be closed off.
These results confirm the geological model that the primary Lady Ada ore zone extends southeast of the existing orebody, outside of the current pit design and is relatively shallow. Pre-stripping of the planned cutback may now be able to incorporate some of the newly identified high-grade material, which could dramatically improve the project economics.
With more assays due over the next few weeks, the Classic Minerals story looks like it is just getting started.