Dragon season all year round for St George, as it goes hunting nickel, copper and lithium

Dragon season all year round for St George, as it goes hunting nickel, copper and lithium

The list of targets for St George Mining is long – and growing longer – as it steps up its quest to become a $1bn market cap miner. Picture: Getty Images.

Nickel, copper and lithium are mainstays of a greener future, with their respective properties making them central for battery and electrification efforts.

Nickel – traditionally used to make alloys – has been finding increased use in batteries, while copper’s use in wires as an electrical conductor is poised to explode as electric vehicles become more common and electrification more widespread.

Given how essential the two metals are for the world’s decarbonisation efforts, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both are in the sights of St George Mining (ASX:SGQ) at its flagship Mt Alexander project, where exploration has already discovered some of the highest-grade nickel, copper and platinum group elements (PGEs) in Western Australia.

Standout results from its drilling to date include a thick 17.45m intersection grading 3% nickel, 1.3% copper, 0.13% cobalt and 1.68g/t PGE from a depth of just 37.5m with a high-grade zone of just over 2m at 5.1% copper, 2% copper, 0.21% cobalt and 3.31g/t PGEs from 50.6m at the Stricklands prospect.

Other prospects yielded quality hits such as a 6.39m interval at 6.5% nickel, 2.8% copper, 0.21% cobalt and 3.68g/t PGEs from 184.4m at the Investigators prospect and 7.5m at 3.9% nickel, 1.7% copper, 0.12% cobalt and 3.32g/t PGEs at Cathedrals.

These and other results have resulted in the discovery of four shallow, high-grade prospects (the last remaining being Radar) over a 5.5km strike of the prospective Cathedrals Belt, which have underscored the value of electromagnetic surveys in finding shallow mineralisation.

Hunting for the motherlode at Mt Alexander

Speaking to Stockhead, SGQ executive chairman John Prineas noted that the company kept getting “fantastic conductors” that were the go to exploration target for nickel-copper sulphides and had found some very high-quality shallow mineralisation, starting from just 30m from surface.

Despite this string of successes, he added that the company had yet to find the motherlode.

“We want to find the bigger deposit there, the one that will take us to a $1bn market cap,” he added.

As part of this effort, the company brought on board former Western Areas managing director Julian Hanna as its general manager of growth and development earlier this year.

The Mt Alexander project. Picture: Supplied
The Mt Alexander project. Picture: Supplied

“Julian was their MD when they made their fantastic discoveries at Forrestania and took that company to be the number one independent nickel producer in Australia,” Prineas noted.

“He has an intuitive knack of making discoveries, and we are now looking at all our exploration data again with Julian, with some very exciting targets already identified for drilling.”

Mt Alexander also stands out due to high-grades of its nickel, copper and PGEs, which Prineas contrasts with the highly significant, yet lower grade, Julimar.

He adds that while the project is located in the middle of the Yilgarn Craton, it differs from mineralisation elsewhere in the region, which tends to just be nickel without the high grades of copper and PGEs.

The project is also close to established projects with BHP’s flagship Leinster complex located about 100km to the north with IGO’s Cosmos project another 20km in that direction.

“We are in the major’s backyard and I’m sure they are looking at us very closely waiting to see if we can deliver that big discovery that will be of interest to them,” Prineas added.

Did somebody say The L Word?

And if this potential wasn’t enough, recent activity to the south has also revealed another potential commodity, with Red Dirt Metals discovering lithium-caesium-tantalum (LCT) pegmatites at its Sparrow North project.

This has been further supported by Hawthorn Resources, whose ground sits between Mt Alexander and Sparrow North, forming a joint venture with Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting for lithium exploration.

“We believe our ground also has lithium potential, as initial rock chip sampling of the extensive outcropping pegmatites has confirmed a geochemistry favourable for lithium mineralisation,” Prineas said.

“We think it could all just be one big system of pegmatites that are prospective for lithium, a potential new lithium district.

“That’s very exciting, and with further rock chip sampling and field mapping underway we aim to finalise some targets for drilling as soon as practicable this year.”

Location of St George’s projects. Pic: Supplied

Even more projects

St George has also been very active at its Paterson project in the world-class Paterson Province, which has some 35km strike of stratigraphy that is prospective for copper-gold mineralisation with geological characteristics similar to Rio’s giant Winu discovery about 40km to the west.

Additionally, Sipa Resources – whose project is right next to Mt Alexander – has also formed a joint venture with Rio.

While assays are still pending for diamond drilling carried out from May to July, visual observation of the drill core has shown the right kind of rocks to host mineralisation with the presence of hydrothermal fluids, brecciation and sulphides.

“We know we are in the right place though we still have to deliver the goods. But so far, it is emerging as a very exciting project,” Prineas explained.

“Even if we don’t get high-grade mineralisation, it is still a compelling area to continue drilling to try and find that mineralisation.”

The company also holds the Ajana project in an overlooked part of the Northampton Mineral Field near Geraldton, which historically contains plenty of base metals such as copper and lead.

“The old timers found those mines through outcrop, but our ground is sitting in the middle of a mineral field with about 20m to 30m of sand on top,” Prineas explained.

“They never explored there because it was simply too difficult.”

The company carried out an aeromagnetic survey over the project which highlighted a very strong magnetic feature there which the company believes is a mafic intrusion, similar to the Gonneville intrusion that hosts the Julimar discovery.

“The real advantage is that it is already known for being a mineralised field, there is mineralisation in that area and the intrusion is exactly what you want to see for a potential nickel-copper-PGE deposit,” Prineas said.

“It is still early days but it is ticking all the boxes so we are very excited by the potential there.”

St George also holds the Broadview project, which hosts two large magnetic features that are interpreted to be intrusions similar to Gonneville, about 100km south of Julimar in what is believed to be an extension of the same belt.

This is prospective for nickel-copper-PGE’s with soil sampling returning elevated levels of nickel and copper.

Technical capabilities

St George’s range of projects is underpinned by its strong technical team, with Hanna being a very successful nickel and copper explorer and producer.

His efforts are supported by technical consultant Charles Wilkinson, who was the chief geologist at Western Areas when it became Australia’s top nickel producer.

Wilkinson was also head of nickel exploration for Western Mining Corporation, which discovered most of Western Australia’s nickel mines.

Rounding out the company’s Western Areas alumni is its exploration manager Dave Mahon, providing the company with a quality, experienced nickel team.

Prineas describes himself as the “safe pair of hands” in the executive team.

“I have a banking and legal background, making me the corporate guy holding them all together.”

Upcoming activity

Recent seismic and electromagnetic work at Mt Alexander has generated multiple targets which warrant further exploration.

This includes a target at the granite/greenstone contact of the Mt Alexander Belt – the same geological setting where Western Areas discovered the Flying Fox nickel deposit.

St George plans to carry out a FLEM survey over the new EM anomalies to provide data that will enable final modelling of the targets.

It will follow this with drilling as early as the fourth quarter of 2022, together with the maiden drilling of lithium targets.

Results are also being awaited for the diamond drilling at the Paterson project while the company is hoping to drill at Ajana and Broadview in the fourth quarter.