ASX-listed Tempest Minerals has been established in the Yalgoo region of Western Australia (WA) for several years, formerly operating as a pure play lithium explorer under the name Lithium Consolidated (Li3). However, due to the saturation of the lithium market in 2019, the company’s board decided that a more risk weighted approach was in order. The subsequent acquisition of Warrigal Mining – an outfit founded by Australian mining engineer Owen Burchell and experienced geologist Don Smith – provided access to a suite of precious and base metals exploration projects in the highly prospective Yalgoo greenstone belt, located approximately 400 km Northeast of Perth. Now with exploration interests in gold, copper and lithium, the combined company’s new leadership felt a name change was required to promote its more diversified approach. They came up with Tempest – loosely translated from Latin as ‘the time is now’ – a good slogan for what the firm is trying to achieve, according to managing director Don Smith.
Diving deeper into the culture that has been propagating within Tempest since the end of 2019, Smith describes a data-driven approach that he and the company believe is fundamental for making discoveries in the modern exploration space.
“A lot of companies are talking about the ‘digital revolution’ in mining, but we’re trying to live it,” he says. “We have a paperless office, all our work done in the field is done through apps, some of which we’ve developed in-house.
“All this data goes straight to our own cloud, which we can then review in our various software packages in real time if necessary. I think in that regard we are many steps ahead of our competitors.”
Smith has previously described Yalgoo as ‘unloved’ and ‘underexplored’ in comparison to some of WA’s more established mining hotspots, but during the last 12 months he has noticed a considerable ramp up in prospective activity within close proximity to Tempest’s projects.
“There’s been a number of explorers entering the arena in Yalgoo in the last year – coincidentally since COVID-19 made an appearance – and there’s been some very high-profile successes too.”
These include Firefly Resources making sustained drilling progress in Yalgoo Town, Venture Minerals announcing the re-discovery of volcanogenic massive sulphides (VMS) mineralisation at the Golden Grove North Project and Emu NL recording consistent gold hits at the historic Gnows Nest Gold Mine.
“Everyone has rushed into the area, had great initial success and we’re enjoying having neighbours,” Smith quips. Much of the growing body of exploration work in the region focuses on gold and copper mineralisation, which is also true of Tempest’s portfolio, although the company has retained its lithium assets further South.
Drilling the Messenger
One of Tempest’s most promising copper-gold properties is the Messenger Project, which is located in an area that is known for the discovery of high-grade gold mineralisation in the early 20th century, when operators produced between two and 10 ounces per tonne through a state processing facility.
“Since that time, it’s been a very popular place in the region for individuals to go and hunt for nuggets and do artisanal mining, but nobody has really explored it commercially. There was some initial drilling done in the 1990s when one of those holes intercepted some very high grades, but the area definitely wasn’t tested comprehensively.”
Closely following its data-driven approach, Tempest has spent time collating a huge amount of historic data in the Messenger Project region and cross-referencing the veracity of this existing data with its own mapping work in the field – a process Smith calls ‘proof-truthing’.
After collecting all the existing data and using it to remodel some existing geophysics for the whole region, Tempest has been able to identify two clear anomalies at the Messenger project, with one of those anomalies matching the historic mining location but with a significantly longer strike than previously had been realised.
The next phase of development at the Messenger Project commenced at the start of March 2021 with a 2,500 metres RC drilling campaign at the existing Dally lode-hosted gold target and the Wally VMS target. Tempest hopes that the wide-spaced drilling will confirm a large mineralised system at the project that could support a standalone mine.
While Tempest advances the Messenger drilling campaign over the coming months, this will not come at the expense of progression at the firm’s other projects in the Yalgoo. “We’re a little bit different to some exploration companies that tend to focus on one project at a time,” Smith says.
“We aim to conduct drilling at one project and while that’s happening, we’re reviewing and remodelling the data we’ve drilled at previous projects. So we rotate around our projects and improve them one by one and reprioritise our targets based on the results.”
In the spirit of this multi-project approach, Tempest is currently prioritising drill targets for Q3 at the 332 km² Meleya Project, which could yield copper and gold from a vast tract of VMS mineralisation in the same host rocks that hold the world class Golden Grove copper-zinc mine.
Tempest is also currently planning a resource study at the Euro Project ahead of a confirmation drilling programme. This smaller, predominately gold-mineralised project is strategically located between three operating mines, with nearby processing facilities providing a pathway to production.
And finally in the Yalgoo region, Tempest will look to build on the great recent success at the Warriedar West Project, which has yielded three gold discoveries in recent times.
“At Warriedar West, we’ve proven a geological theory we’ve had for some time. Not many people in WA are looking for intrusive related gold systems, and we now have shown unequivocally that it is precisely that.
“It’s an intrusion that’s come up and flowed very close to the surface and had some interesting alteration happen to it which means that it’s packed with gold. There’s a number of places where these high-grade pods exist and we tapped into one of those in our recent drilling there,” Smith recalls.
Breaking new ground
Looking back over the last two to three years, Smith puts on record his – and the company’s – new-found confidence in the Tempest story having diversified its commodity focus in the increasingly mineralogically attractive Yalgoo region of WA, where it has been operating for several years.
“We’re very confident in our ability to make discoveries and we happen to be in a world class jurisdiction where we’re not subjected to some of the more unfortunate circumstances that other jurisdictions are suffering with at the moment. That has definitely helped us and we look forward to continue doing more good work in the Yalgoo,” he concludes.