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Dart Mining set to drill-test historic Victorian gold workings

Updated: Mar 21

With the global lithium price taking a breather, junior ASX-listed gold and lithium explorer Dart Mining has returned to its gold roots.

The company says it is about to drill-test its Rushworth gold project in Victoria where LIDAR survey work last year identified a rash of historic workings that look like they are begging to see some modern-day exploration.

Dart Mining is ramping up its gold hunt in Victoria’s historic goldfields.

Dart began its mining life exploring the historic Victorian goldfields and has now gone back to the future to focus its attention on Rushworth – a town about 160km north of Melbourne and 65km east of the city of Bendigo. It is an area well-known for the enormous quantities of gold discovered over the years.

It has already identified 4600 old reef workings across 72 square kilometres of ground at Rushworth and with the gold price touching on historic highs, it is preparing its company-owned truth-diviner to drill test them. Notably, the old-timers rarely got below 40m at Rushworth as they did not have the ability to get past the water table – something that is not so much of a problem in the modern-day exploration environment.

‘The company is ready to continue exploration on exciting gold targets across the highly-prospective historic Rushworth Goldfield.’ Dart Mining chairman and managing director James Chirnside

One red-hot looking target at Rushworth is the historic Growlers gold mine that pumped out gold at eye-watering grades north of an ounce to the tonne between 1854 and 1918. Dart says the area around Growlers boasts two sets of intersecting gold reefs – one group running east-to-west and the other running north-to-south – a perfect and fertile environment for a decent gold discovery.

And it’s not all just conjecture either as Dart technocrats have been wading knee-deep into old Victorian Mines Department records where they have discovered some gold of their own. The records show the old-timers attempted to sink the shaft at the Growlers mine beyond its 110m extent and the shaft-sinkers noted the presence of visible gold in the walls – something every junior exploration company craves.

Moreover, the Mines Department even drilled two holes at Growlers – just under the old workings – and reports of those old holes also speak of glittering visible gold in the core.

Those two major gold occurrences were never followed up as the water table defeated the miners at the time. These days, a few good fossil fuel-driven pumps will take care of the water.

Dart’s plan is to get some drillholes just under the old workings at Growlers quick-smart and unless the gold has somehow migrated, it just might prove to be a bingo moment. The region has produced more than 22 million ounces of gold historically, making it one of the biggest producers of the shiny yellow metal in the world.

The company has the entire historic Rushworth goldfield as part of its existing 405sq km tenement holdings and has applied for a further 458sq km land grab for which it has priority. Notably, the old Rushworth mine alone produced about 100,000 gold ounces during the halcyon days and in some instances went as high as 100 grams of gold per tonne.

The 14km of structurally-controlled shallow workings are ripe for modern exploration techniques, with multiple priority targets identified and ready to feel the hard edge of the drill bit. The first quarter of this year will see a diamond drilling program of about 2500m begin at Rushworth using the company’s own rig.

The company is ready to continue exploration on a number of exciting gold targets across the highly-prospective historic Rushworth Goldfield. The company expects to be drilling a range of targets, commencing in February 2024, and is looking forward to providing further updates and results as they come to hand. Dart Mining chairman and managing director James Chirnside

There are many intriguing – and historical – aspects to Dart’s existing Rushworth landholdings, one of which involves “saddle reefs”. Saddle reefs, which are mineralised areas associated with the crest of a folded rock package, reportedly occur at the Church Hill/Champion and Nuggetty Hill prospects at Rushworth and this quickened a few pulses among geologists at the Victorian Department of Mines back in the day.

Citing similarities to the 22 million-ounce Bendigo goldfields, they recommended testing back in the 1880s, 1890s and again in the 1920s. This appears to have never happened and Dart will now be the first to do so.

Within the Rushworth Goldfield, mineralised quartz veins have been intersected at depths below 400m in a limited number of historical workings and up to 200m in modern drillholes. A 2021 reverse-circulation (RC) drilling program produced hits of 12m at 1.26g/t gold from surface including 2m at 3.49g/t and 19m at 1.1g/t from surface that included a 5m hit at 2.3g/t.

Solid 1m hits of 7.1g/t, 9.13g/t and 10.8g/t were also recorded from shallow depths and the entire project looks like it is screaming to be drilled. The company interprets gold mineralisation to be of a style like that forming high-grade gold shoots at the nearby Fosterville Mine.

Canada’s Agnico Eagle operates Fosterville, a high-grade, low-cost underground gold mine about 50km south-west of Rushworth. It has a gold reserve of 1.67 million ounces and produced a stellar 300,000-plus ounces of gold last year at an expected cash cost of an incredibly low US$457 (AU$704) per ounce. The current US gold price is about $2020 (AU$3112) per ounce.

The 458sq km of ground under application by Dart is to the west of the company’s existing Rushworth tenements. Management identified the tenement as prospective for gold, antimony and base metals, with a projected strike extension of the historic Rushworth and Whroo Goldfields, in addition to a projected extension of the regional Moormbool Fault.

Management intends to conduct initial field activities as soon as the tenement is granted by the Department of Mines, using mapping and rock chip sampling to build on its understanding of the regional geology.

In addition to its gold ground, Dart was also the first of the modern-day explorers to discover lithium-bearing pegmatites in Victoria back in 2016 at its Dorchap Range project and that little discovery attracted the attention of giant Chilean lithium player Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A, or “SQM”. Dorchap is about 50km from the picturesque town of Mount Beauty in Victoria’s north-eastern Alpine Shire region.

Under an earn-in agreement, SQM can pick up an initial 30 per cent interest in the project by sole-funding exploration expenditure of $3 million. It has the right to increase its shareholding in the project up to 70 per cent by sole funding a total of $12 million in a six-year period.

The agreement began in December 2022 and with the success reported from the initial phase-one diamond drilling program, Dart says it has secured ongoing exploration support from the Chilean lithium behemoth. However, it notes the next phase of drilling might only occur when market sentiment has improved for the battery metal.

A regional sampling program consisting of 826 samples identified a strong fractionation trend across the Dorchap Range, indicating a 20 km-by-12 km zone of strongly-fractionated pegmatites.

Dart has since identified more than 1500 pegmatite dykes in its tenement package with many being the highly sought-after lithium-caesium-tantalum (LCT) type. Containing enriched LCT, beryllium and tin mineralisation, many of the pegmatites have been previously worked for tin.

Interestingly, one grab sample assayed at a mouth-watering 9.98 per cent tin.

The Gosport prospect within Dorchap is one that is highly regarded by Dart, with its central zone containing a high number of prospective pegmatite dykes in proximity to demonstrated high-grade rock chips up to 1.57 per cent lithium oxide, along with channel sampling returning assays going 10m at 1.38 per cent lithium oxide.

The company is currently ground-truthing the area and work is progressing on the permitting process for drilling approval, with management expecting it to be in place by the end of March.

Several notable diamond-drilling results at the Dorchap project have been recorded from its Boones prospect such as 10m at 1.08 per cent lithium oxide from 313m, with 7m going 1.38 per cent lithium oxide from 315m, in addition to 16.8m at 0.21 per cent lithium oxide from 103.98m including 0.81m at 1.20 per cent lithium oxide.

SQM is a bit like the 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to lithium. It has been feverishly farming into lithium projects, buying them or trying to take over their owners. Its interest in the $3 million market-capped Dart and its discovery of lithium-bearing pegmatites in Victoria for the first time cannot be over-stated.

SQM is into district-scale lithium discoveries and while $12 million is a drop in the ocean, it just might unlock a wider lithium discovery for Dart in Victoria.

In addition to the Dorchap lithium project, Dart has full ownership of the historic Walwa tin mine, also in north-east Victoria. Mined for tin until about 1975, the area has been found to contain anomalous lithium among LCT- type pegmatites.

Dart has many other standout options to progress along the exploration pathway, too. However, three that are particularly interesting and located in north-east Victoria, are the Mt Unicorn, Buckland and Granite Flats projects.

Mt Unicorn is set among multiple porphyry targets near the Victoria-New South Wales border about 20km south of the Victorian town of Corryong. It is a molybdenum-copper-silver porphyry project with a total JORC resource of 203 million tonnes at 0.06 per cent molybdenum equivalent, taking the copper and silver grades into account.

Porphyry deposits often develop into large, bulk-scale, low-grade mines that can be easier to mine and have a long life.

The Buckland goldfield project has potential for scale due to a 17.5km strike length identified to date from 7500 surface samples, along with multiple parallel structures identified.

Rotary air-blast (RAB) drilling at the Fairley’s prospect within the project area succeeded in jagging hits such as 13m at 4.82g/t gold from 12m including 2m going 11.6g/t from 20m, along with 11m at 2.64g/t gold from 28m including 3m going 7.49g/t from 29m depth.

Granite Flats is a copper-gold project that has two distinct mineralisation styles identified. It is intrusion-related with long intervals of low-grade material and hydrothermal overprint, a style producing narrow silica-sulphide veins of higher-grade copper-gold, along with additional silver and possible lead-zinc mineralisation.

A big 1.8km-by-2.4km soil mineralised footprint with additional anomalies is open in all directions and significant intervals of copper-gold mineralisation has been intersected up to 180m below surface.

A further project on its books is the Dart Goldfield, where its Mt View target may be diamond-drilled at some stage this year to expand its existing gold resource of about 26,000 ounces.

Under its current business model, Dart now defines itself as a “project-generator” and is actively seeking “farm-in” joint venture partnerships across its full portfolio of highly compelling projects.

Management now believes it is less reliant on shareholder funding and can deploy its own funds into a preferred project such as Rushworth, while allowing a company like SQM to fully-fund a Dorchap-style exploration program.

With a solid lithium project sitting in the incubator until prices improve and a gold project that is littered with targets, Dart has the best of both worlds. Lithium may make a come-back at some stage, however, gold is trading its pants off right now and Rushworth at the very least looks like it has plenty of it.

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