The Riches Way Out West: Pilbara Iron Ore Riches
‘Way out west where the rain don’t fall…’
Every time I think of the Pilbara, I sing those lyrics to myself. Sometimes there are people unlucky enough to be around and hear me sing them under my breath…
It’s my parents fault really.
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My mum had a thing for disco and Aussie pub music. My old man, rock and folk songs (and everything in between). Throw me a song title from the 60s and/or 70s and I’ll be able to badly sing the first half of the song for you.
Pretty much the only time this skill has come in handy has been the bonus round in pub trivia.
So, why the digression into my parents’ questionable parenting?
‘Cause there’s a whole lot of things happening way out west.
Bad taste in music helps with geography
Of course, depending on where you sit and read this, the Pilbara might not be west for you. If you’re in Perth, the Pilbara is actually northeast. So, my bad taste in music won’t help you there.
However, if you’re in Melbourne and are unable to cross borders, then the lyrics ring true.
So, why on Earth did I wake up singing about the Pilbara this morning?
Not long after I wrapped yesterday’s Daily Reckoning Australia, someone asked me where my favourite gold hotspots are right now.
‘Way out west,’ I said.
‘Ah, Eastern goldfields?’ said my mate.
‘Nope. Higher. The Pilbara.’
‘But that’s iron ore.’
And he’s right. That’s exactly what most people think.
For a very long time the Pilbara was solely known for its iron ore riches.
In fact, it’s the discovery of the Hammersley Basin in the 1960s that ended Australia’s embargo on iron ore. (From the 1930s to the 1960s it was deemed a critical mineral because we thought it was in short supply — we’ll delve into the history lesson another time.)
And for decades almost everyone thought the Pilbara was only rich for iron ore and other bulk minerals.
That’s not for a lack of trying, however.
After all, the multimillion-ounce gold giant Telfer mine rests right on the eastern edge of the Pilbara.
Surely there’d be another like it…
Since the discovery of Telfer there’s been many attempts at trying to find gold in these parts. The Pilbara’s got the sort of rocks as old as time itself.
But nothing stuck.
That’s until a mob of cattle went a little off track and a farmer struck gold…
The cows strike it rich
Four years ago, a bloke named Jonathon Campbell was doing an aerial search for a stray mob of cattle and found a hidden prospectors camp.
He landed. Couldn’t find the prospector but spotted his cattle and went home.
A couple of days later, he came back with some mates and a metal detector and went hunting. With the ABC reporting at the time:
‘“When I first got out there I found an enormous amount of gold; there was gold littered across the ground for literally eight kilometres,” Mr Campbell said.
‘Over the next eight weeks, Mr Campbell continued prospecting in the area, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold.
‘“We could pick up anywhere from $10,000 a day to $20,000,” he said.’
With minimal effort Campbell was pulling out of the ground what many geologists had spent decades looking for.
And the cows striking it rich created a new gold rush.
In the short few years since then, this area is seeing a handful of ASX-listed exploration stocks flock to it, hoping to find something.
18 months ago Rio Tinto Ltd [ASX:RIO] had a 70 person strong mining camp in the area…but didn’t tell anyone about it until satellite photos picked up on the activity.
In a few short years De Grey Mining Ltd [ASX:DEG] has established a 2.2 million ounce resource. They reckon they’ll be about to bump that up to three million ounces soon too.
I can tell you stories a of diamond driller located in Marble Bar a year or two ago, doing exploration for a company he’ll never know the name of.
He was responsible for pulling the samples out of the drill rig and said to me they were ‘almost all gold’.
Then of course, there’s the Havieron site owned by Greatland Gold plc [LON:GGP] out there, that has rock nerds losing their mind. Newcrest Mining Ltd [ASX:NCM] were smart when they got wind of the discovery and quickly entered into a joint venture with the British penny stock.
If you’re looking for the next big gold find, chances are it’s way out west.
Until next time,
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