Shares in ECR Minerals PLC (LON:ECR) moved up by almost 10% to 0.8p at the end of the first week of the year, following the application for licences over 1,600 square kilometres of new ground in the Yilgarn in Western Australia.
The ground has been identified as having significant potential for hosting Archean greenstone belts of the kind that host many of Western Australia’s and the world’s richest gold deposits.
“It looks like very prospective territory,” says Craig Brown, ECR’s chief executive.
“Everybody regards Western Australia as a very promising area to work in.”
The opportunity on the new ground is enhanced because it comes with pre-existing data.
“There was some work completed in the 1980s and 1990s,” says Brown.
“But they were looking for nickel at the time, and they also found molybdenum. So one of the first things we’re going to do is go over that old information. Because nobody’s ever looked for gold here.”
One reason for that is that the rocks that may be mineralised lie under cover, so opportunities for geochemistry are limited.
But ECR is hopeful that the cover may be fairly shallow, and that exploration work will be relatively straightforward.
“The best way to test it is to do aircore drilling,” says Brown.
“It’s very cheap at around A$40 or A$50 per metre, including assaying costs, so our plan is to do an aircore programme once we’ve reviewed the existing data.”
ECR is unlikely to move on that until the licences have actually been granted, although Brown doesn’t see any real issue with that.
After all, the deal that’s wrapped around them is pretty attractive: for 19 licences the company must pay A$1,400 each, plus an annual rent, that takes the total cost up to only A$88,000.
“Hopefully they’ll be granted in the next quarter,” says Brown, “and we’ll move pretty quickly after that.”
In the meantime, work is continuing on ECR’s other Australian gold projects, in particular, Bailieston and Creswick.
“At Bailieston we want to go back and have a look at Blue Moon, Black Cat and Byron targets,” says Brown.
“We’re planning on conducting a small programme of drilling at Blue Moon in the current quarter of this year. We’re just budgeting the whole thing out. We drilled at Blue Moon in May 2018 and we came across a zone of mineralisation where all the rocks were weathered and you could see that the mineralisation had already been leached out of the rock.”
What was really interesting though, was that the mineralisation in question showed considerable similarity to Mandalay’s Costerfield mine, 25 kilometres away.
“They mine between 150 and 200 metres below the surface,” explains Brown.
“We believe we can hit fresh rock and sulphides beneath the leached material that we’ve already intersected.”
So that’s one intriguing aspect of the project. Another is that Newmont picked up ground adjacent to Bailieston in December. So we’re not just talking about small companies operating on the edge of geological speculation here. The big players are coming in too.
Then there’s the Avoca licence, which is likely to be the subject of a 1,500-metre rotary air blast (RAB) programme shortly, and Creswick over in Victoria which will also be investigated.
Creswick, in particular, holds significant potential, according to Brown.
“We’re quite optimistic there’s something down there,” he says.
So lots to look forward to over the coming months, especially since ECR Minerals already has the money in the bank to pay for all this work.
There’s £1.2mln currently in the treasury, according to Brown, following two fundraising exercises undertaken last year: a £650,000 raise in July, and a £700,000 raise in December.
And that means that shareholders will be able to enjoy the full benefits of any positive newsflow without having to look over their shoulders to worry about dilution any time soon.
ECR has, in any case, a very supportive cornerstone investor in Shenyang Xinliaoan Machinery, a connection Brown brought with him when he joined ECR, acquired during his days operating in Central Asia.
All told, ECR looks to be on a secure footing going into 2019, with plenty of exciting newsflow to come, and the nice backdrop of a rising gold price to put it all into context.