The Thomson Fold Belt (TFB) is the northern extension of the Lachlan Fold Belt – one of the world’s great provinces for metal exploration. Located in NSW, the Lachlan hosts more than 3,000 mineral deposits and has produced in excess of 200 million dollars’ worth of metals, including gold, copper, lead and zinc. Historically however, the very close TFB has only been lightly explored due to tricky terrain and extensive sedimentary cover. That’s all changing. The TFB is potentially a gold mine – figuratively, and even maybe literally, and Thomson Resources is going to be the company to tap into it.
Thomson Resources origins begin in 2006, when the NSW Government funded aeromagnetic coverage under its New Frontiers program. “PlatSearch NL was one of a small number of companies that pegged the best ground following that coverage,” recounts Eoin Rothery, Managing Director of Thomson Resources. “Minotaur Resources came in a bit later and did a deal with PlatSearch to joint venture those areas.” After looking into the area a bit more, the two companies decided the project was good enough to require its own funds. Thus, Thomson Resources was born as a spinoff of Minotaur and PlatSearch.
That was in 2009, and Thomson Resources has moved forward with its projects and its exploration mission. “Since then we’ve raised some money, and we posted on the ASX in December 2010,” says Rothery.
The project, which is still in the discovery phase, is focused on the TFB and still has a lot of unknowns about it. At the moment, however, those unknowns are not bad things. “We have all of our fingers in the same pie which is the Thomson Fold Belt,” Rothery says. “But it is actually prospective for a range of different deposit types: zinc, lead, gold, silver deposits. It also has porphyry gold-copper potential. We’re pretty encouraged. It’s a completely new area, we don’t know what we’re going to find. What we do know is there is something down there and we’re going to dig it up.”
A convergence of good luck
The Thomson Resources logo is a Wedge-tailed Eagle, the image of the bird was captured in a photo when they first set out to look for drill sites. “The geologist out there thought the eagle might have been looking for mineral deposits as well,” jokes Rothery. “He could see the eagle circling around the drill sites and said to himself ‘Maybe this eagle knows something we don’t. Maybe this is a good place to drill.’”
Rothery says the capital that they have raised will be enough to, indeed, keep them drilling for a couple of years – and that for now, that’s what they’re concentrating on. The rest will come later. “When it comes to what we find, and how big it is, and who’s going to develop it—those are questions for another day down the track. We hope our shareholders will be sufficiently excited by what we find that they’ll pour some money in later on.”
Thomson Resources have drilled two of the best anomalies, and are currently drilling the third one. There is a lot of ground to cover, hardly any of which has been drilled previously. In fact, before Thomson Resources came in, there were less than 50 holes in the more that 300 kilometres of prospected ground. “It is difficult terrain,” Rothery explains. “It’s hidden below a cover of sand and shale rock, which is why nothing has been discovered there before.” On one hand, this poses a challenge to Thomson Resources’ drilling effort. On the other, it is what has kept the land preserved for them until now – when they have the technology.
Meeting the challenges
Besides the difficult terrain, Thomson has had to face another challenge in unseasonable weather. Over the last eighteen months, the area experienced the highest amount of rain on record. The downpour had delayed drilling until only recently.
As for other challenges, Rothery says there is nothing they didn’t expect. In fact, he says they’ve been encountering less resistance than he is used to. “There are things that every company has to do. There’s a regulatory burden, but we’re working through that and there hasn’t been any problems. One of the best things about this area is the reception we’ve had from the land owners up there.” He jokes that it’s a pretty isolated location, and the people who live there are pretty lonely, so Thomson is welcomed when they show up. “That, at least, is in complete contrast to what some other mining companies have to deal with elsewhere.”
At the moment, Thomson Resources have only a small crew which is made up of contractors. “We plan to build up the team when we discover something proper,” Rothery says.
As for paying the crew, Rothery says that Thomson Resources is in good shape. “We have a fairly loyal group of shareholders.” Trading in Thomson hasn’t changed much since September – prices have been steady. People have not been selling their shares, opting instead to patiently wait for them to discover something. “I think the people who are holding our shares at the moment are astute people and they’re probably not going to sell our shares cheaply.”
Like all exploration companies, investing in Thomson poses an initially high risk, but Thomson has several things going for it that reduce that risk. “We’re pretty lucky that the Cobar deposits are kind of a lauded commodity in themselves,” says Rothery. “While they all have significant copper, they all have credits from lead, zinc, silver and gold as well. That all helps. One commodity might be up while one’s down and so forth, so that helps.” Mostly, he hopes that their investors will stay patient. “It takes time to drill holes; it takes time to do geophysics. We just hope people will hang on until we make the big hit.”
Thomson Resources is past that investor hurdle anyway. Rothery says they raised enough money recently, and they are not currently looking for any more. “Obviously, though, if people want to throw money at us we will consider taking it.”
Rothery is originally from Ireland, but he has had a lot of success finding commodities in Australia, and has also recently established a successful copper mine in India, which is still going. After that, he had a number of opportunities available to him, but joined Thomson Resources because it stood out as the best project.
“It is high risk,” he admits. “It is a totally new environment, very little exploration so far. The little exploration that has been done, however, has been very encouraging and that’s what attracted me to the project in the first place. It was so new and so encouraging and that is why I took the job.”
So where does Rothery see the project in the future? “In five years’ time I would hope to have found a resource,” he says simply. “We will have found something, we will have drilled it out to resource status, and by that stage we’d be starting to know how big it is – we might even have started development. It really depends on what we hit and how big it and what grade it is, as to where we go next.” He sees this as a year by year process: this year to discover something, next year to drill it out, and then the years after to study and then develop it. “We’re looking at, optimistically, three to four years to get something in production. Maybe five to six. That’s the time frame we’re looking at. What we think is ‘this area holds a world class deposit and that’s what we’re hoping to find’, and if it is that big and that high grade, then development will be fast tracked. No doubt about it.”
In the meantime, Rothery is happy to enjoy the ride and keep on looking for that gold mine – whether it turns out to be figurative or literal. “It is an adventure, for sure it is,” he says. “That’s what exploration is about, or should be about. It’s an exciting time to be in exploration and in this industry.”