It's All In The Past: Looking At Historical Tungsten Grades And Properties

It's All in the Past: Looking at Historical Tungsten Grades and Properties

As companies look to save money in a tough marketplace, many are turning to projects with a history of mining combined with historical grades.

That's especially true in the tungsten space. After a long period of dormancy due to a market crash, tungsten properties became available for relatively cheap. Now, with global demand for tungsten growing, companies are looking to make their fortune off of historical work.

However, the fallout of the Bre-X mining scandal in the late 1990s radically changed the purpose and form of using historical grades in examining properties. The company had faked samples by salting them with outside gold, effectively ruining the power of unsubstantiated mineral estimate claims.

The NI 43-101 report was created out of the rubble, and now Canadian companies use it to highlight documented and proven resources. Tungsten Investing News spoke with a few companies to see how they're balancing historical grades with the new reporting standards.

The upside

The upshot was that there is still intrinsic value in examining historical grades at projects. It gives junior mining companies a chance to take a deeper look at brownfield sites — so called due to work having already been done on them — without wasting money.

"For us, as a junior company taking over a brownfield site that had been extensively explored by AMAX in the 1980s, it meant we drilled six holes instead of 160 holes," said Russell Clark, managing director of Wolf Minerals (ASX: WLF).

Wolf Minerals operates the Hemerdon project in Southwest England on a site that has a history of tungsten mining dating back to 1897. It was mined during both world wars and was eventually discontinued due to the collapse in the tungsten market. Now it's on pace to achieve production in the third quarter of 2015.

The cost-effective approach also helped Margaux Resources (TSXV:MRL) when it was examining its Jersey-Emerald project in British Columbia.

"We looked at historic production and if it played into what could be there," said Tyler Rice, president of Margaux Resources. "The biggest benefit of a past-producing project is the amount of infrastructure there."

Rice echoed Clark's viewpoint on affordability and added that his company was able to move faster when starting up its project.

Keeping investors knowledgeable

Clark said his company used historical data not for marketing purposes, but to better understand the property and establish whether it was a good use of time to work on it. He said he warns investors that much of the tungsten on the property will stay in the ground due to technological difficulties in accessing the ore.

"It's easy for me to say we've got the third-biggest resource on the planet, and it sounds very good from a marketing perspective, but it's important people understand that most of [the tungsten] will stay there," he said.

Furthermore, in both cases, the companies were able to speak to people who had worked on the property to help gain a better understanding. Rice said Margaux was able to bring Edward Lawrence, who had been involved with the property for more than 20 years, on the board because of his wealth of experience and knowledge.

Flip side

While some have kept historical results internal, other companies have used such results to generate interest. Knick Exploration (TSXV:KNX) released a set of historical assay results to help generate awareness about its project.

Back in October, the company released a set of results done by George H. Dumont, a Canadian mining engineer who surveyed the property in 1951. He found bulk samples of 0.45 percent on the property. The company also highlighted samples from 1941 showing grades ranging from 2.7 percent to 27.5 percent tungsten trioxide.

Speaking at the time, Jacques Brunelle, CEO of Knick, admitted some people may doubt the grades, but invited anyone who doubted them to come visit the property.

A valuable tool

Though the Bre-X scandal is a constant reminder of the dangers of trusting historical data, the above comments show that it can be useful. Investors would thus be wise to remain cautious — but perhaps optimistic — when looking at companies that use it.


Securities Disclosure: I, Nick Wells, hold no direct or indirect investment in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

Related reading:

Knick Exploration Looks to Emulate History

It's All in the Past: Looking at Historical Tungsten Grades and Properties from Tungsten Investing News