When founding member of Rumble Resources Shane Sikora took over as managing director of the Australian explorer in mid-2015, his first remit was to identify a technical leader with the necessary experience to propel the company towards a mineral discovery in Western Australia. When he was introduced to revered WA-based exploration geologist Brett Keillor, he quickly realised that he had found the ideal candidate. Twice AMEC Prospector of the Year, first in 1998 for his central role in the Marymia discovery, and again in 2012 for his involvement in the discovery of the Tropicana Gold Deposit, Keillor was also an early stage founder in Resolute Mining and Independence Group (IGO). Both companies saw their stocks soar due in large part to Keillor’s exploration success and the subsequent delivery of large-scale operating mines.
“What’s really impressive about Brett’s experience is that he is an early stage investigational explorationist who has made multiple major discoveries that have turned into mines. Equally as important, he has been with companies all the way through to mining, which provides a very unique and valuable skillset,” says Sikora. “He came on board at Rumble roughly the same time I did as MD. We formed a team and decided from there to build a unique strategy to utilise our skillsets. My role is to finance and bring in assets, manage public relations and compliance, while Brett focuses on his technical capabilities and making discoveries.”
While this double act is a key component of the Rumble package, Sikora confirms he and Keillor are buttressed by a strong board and equally talented field team that believes in the company’s philosophy. He also believes that together they have cultivated an open and exciting culture that permeates all levels of the business.
Multiple avenues to discovery
A quick glance at Rumble’s current portfolio reveals a distinct strategy, and that is to pursue multiple base and precious metals projects in WA. When asked why the company has favoured this route as opposed to developing a single asset, Sikora explains that making discoveries is difficult.
“From Brett’s experience and the work I’ve done in the industry, giving yourself multiple opportunities is the best way to make discoveries, so we’ve gone for that de-risked approach. What we do is quite unique; low cost optionality up front, a small option fee over several years with a balloon payment at the back end.”
Rather than buy a project upfront, which is cost-dilutive and by no means a guarantee of exploration success, Rumble affords itself the opportunity to generate targets and drill test them in that crucial first year.
“We call this ‘drill to kill’. We drill test the generated targets in the first year and if it kills the project we move on with minimal spend. If the drilling is successful, the projects progress along the development pipeline. Fast forward three and a half years and we have now advanced five assets which we believe are near term discovery.”
The Western Queen
The Western Queen Gold Project is Rumble’s near-term production asset located within the Yalgoo Mineral field, 110 km from Mt Magnet and within a 110 km radius of three operating gold processing mills.
The project contains two historic high-grade gold deposits – the Western Queen Central (WQC) mine and the Western Queen South (WQS) mine – with a combined historic production of 880,000 tonnes at 7.6 g/t gold for 215,000 oz.
WQC was mined around 20 years ago by a company called Equigold, who mined the high-grade gold as an open pit at 9 g/t followed by an underground operation at 10 g/t. The underground operation was closed after intercepting a pegmatite dike which was thought to close off the high-grade gold shoot. Similarly, WQS was kicked down the road after its former owners completed two smaller open pit operations.
“We picked up the project as our initial assessment indicated most of the historic drilling was focused on the pits. We completed some deep due diligence and could clearly see the potential for WQC resource extensions at depth and multiple repetitions of the WQC along strike, as these deposit types typically form multiple gold shoots.
“Throughout the DD process we also identified a chance of monetising the existing open pittable resource, which is 83,000 oz at 3.6 g/t at WQS. With the current gold price and three hungry mills in the area, there is an opportunity to seek a joint venture to mine these resources while we focus on finding high-grade gold resources.”
As part of its systematic exploration approach at the project, drilling was completed over two stages to ascertain the prospectivity and build a geological understanding of the mineralisation.
“The first two stages of drilling identified six compelling high-grade gold shoot targets, extended the high-grade gold at depth at the WQC and, of geological importance, identified the high-grade gold is hosted in tremolite skarn shoots within the mineralised shear zone. We now believe the WQ shear zone could host a series of high-grade gold deposits in tremolite skarn shoots similar to WQC.”
Armed with this new geological understanding and high-grade gold drill results to date, the company is confident it is now zeroing in on the high-grade gold shoot discoveries. In June, Rumble commenced a 12,000 metres drill programme, the largest in the company’s history, with the aim to start defining high-grade resource extensions at depth by stepping down the shoot beneath the WQC deposit, and targeting multiple high-grade shoot discoveries along strike.
In addition, the company felt that the ground to the North and South had not been properly tested before, based on Rumbles new interpretation of the location of WQ Shear Zone. This informed Rumble’s decision to significantly increase its landholding by 500%, which was confirmed in July.
“The original Western Queen main project area had a 5.5 km North-South trending mineralised shear zone which hosts the WQC & WQS deposits. We secured the highly prospective contiguous North and South mineralised WQ shear zone extensions of the main project area, expanding the strike to 35 km. No previous drilling has tested the newly inferred position of WQ shear zone North and South providing an expansive new area for targeting high-grade gold discoveries.”
Sharing the load
Forming JVs is something the company has successfully executed at other assets in the portfolio, not least at its projects in the highly prospective Fraser Range region of WA. Rumble has partnered with Keillor’s former employer IGO, who have earned a 70% interest in Rumble’s Fraser Range tenements, with Rumble free carried to completion of a pre-feasibility study.
“We’ve got two projects with IGO – one called the Thunderdome, where IGO has already generated 12 km of copper-zinc anomalies with multiple conductors beneath them. There are also multiple magnetic gravity feature targets which have similar features to that shown in the pre-discovery at the nearby Mawson discovery by Legend Mining. IGO are scheduled in the September quarter to drill test those Tier 1 targets.”
Further South at Fraser Range is the Thunderstorm project, which has also received early stage drilling from IGO. In their first stage of drilling, IGO found 13 km of paleochannel and basement gold, which is also subject to this round of drilling in the September quarter.
Rumble’s other JV project in WA is hugely exciting, and Sikora admits that it does keep him up at night due to the potential scale and the ultimate prize. It is called the Lamil project in Paterson Province, an area which is long thought to be rife for new discoveries.
The province is a globally recognised mineralised belt hosting the 32 Moz Telfer copper-gold deposit and the 2Mt Nifty copper mine. More recently, Rio Tinto made the Winu discovery and Greatland Gold discovered Haveiron, which was recently acquired by Newcrest.
“In the Paterson Province you’ve got four Tier 1 projects, two of which are new discoveries, and our Lamil project is located between the Nifty and Telfer mines. With Brett’s exploration nous, he identified that there was a chance to have shallow Tier 1 targets on our project.
“To scope the potential of the project, we completed an airborne magnetics programme which identified what we think is the best undrilled target in the Paterson Province called the Lamil Dome, which has similar dome size, trend and host rocks to the Telfer deposit.”
Experienced Australian explorer AIC Mines soon signed a JV deal which will see them spend $6 million to earn 50% in the Lamil project, at which point Rumble has the ability to co-contribute and retain 50% of the project– a rare outcome in the industry according to Sikora.
“Our JV partner AIC indicated they would put together a highly credentialled team of discovery specialists with a wide range of technical expertise to give us the best chance of making a significant discovery and they’ve gone ahead and assembled a formidable exploration team.
“They’ve completed passive seismic, gravity and micro soils and reworked the regional seismic data and airborne magnetics. Every single test along the way has been a tick to suggest there is an intrusion at that Lamil dome, all while generating a multitude of new targets with the potential for Tier 1 discoveries.”
AIC recently announced they are scheduled to complete the exciting maiden drill programme at the Lamil Project in September.
Discovery ready in WA
Over the last three and a half years, Rumble has executed its strategy of generating a packed pipeline capable of world class discoveries, advancing a series of projects which are now near term to discovery.
“We have near term leverage to exploration success with three major drilling programmes commenced or planned, targeting high grade gold at the Western Queen, Tier 1 nickel-copper and gold targets in the Fraser Range and Tier 1 gold and copper targets at the Lamil Project in the Paterson Province,” Sikora summarises.
The company’s de-risked exploration strategy is paving the way for multiple avenues to discovery in WA – a jurisdiction with world-class resources, facilities and service providers, with major discoveries continuing to be made. Following a $6 million capital raise in June, Rumble is well-cashed up to continue drilling at Western Queen, while its JV partners do the heavy lifting at the Fraser Range and Lamil projects.