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Nothing like a good Wildcat to get ASX market prowling

Updated: Mar 12

This week’s Bulls N’ Bears top ASX runner is … Wildcat Resources. Credit: File.

Savvy geologists are never shy of taking a punt on a wildcat hole.

This column freely admits that the explorational art of “wildcatting” – generally accepted as the term for popping a drillhole out wide in the hope of a game-changing hit – was not what sent Wildcat Resources prowling its way up the ASX boards last week for a 104 per cent gain.

It grabbed the market’s attention when assays from the first 21 reverse-circulation (RC) holes at its Tabba Tabba lithium-tantalum project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, near Port Hedland, confirmed thick high-grade lithium mineralisation from surface in pegmatite clusters. The find was enough to send its share price up from 24 cents at the previous week’s close to a high of 49c.

But the company’s name got this column wondering just where the origins of the “wildcat” hole came from.

From an exploration perspective, it appears to date back to the oil industry in western Pennsylvania in the mid-1870s, when wells in unproven territory were dubbed “wild cat” wells. The theory leads to a delightful tale from a Pennsylvanian place known as Wildcat Hollow.

There, it was said that a speculator who was having a crack at drilling in the narrow valley actually shot a wildcat, had it stuffed and set it atop his derrick. The mounted feline ultimately gave its name to the hollow.

But even before that, the term wildcat is reported to have been used to describe risky business ventures as far back as 1838. Same theme, different gravy.

Regardless, wildcatting is still seen as a bit dicey in exploration, with Westwood Global Energy’s head of global exploration and appraisal Graeme Bagley saying in 2020 that the success rate for wildcat drilling in the oil and gas industry sat at about 30 per cent, with only one in three wells likely to make money.

But ConocoPhillips Scandinavia AS proved a year earlier that it is sometimes worth the risk when a wildcat it drilled in the Norwegian side of the North Sea rendered between one and 10 million standard cubic meters of recoverable oil equivalent.

All food for thought.

But in the meantime, Wildcat Resources is still sharpening its claws as its results came from drilling in only a small area of a 3.2km trend of more than 50 outcropping pegmatite targets and from just 21 of the 87 holes drilled to date.

I’m confident we are in the early stages of a major discovery at Tabba Tabba and it’s been a welcome surprise to see the size of the system. Given our proximity to major global lithium projects including Pilgangoora and Wodgina, we see plenty of potential to uncover a large-scale lithium deposit across the extensive 3.2km trending pegmatite system. Wildcat Resources managing director Samuel Ekins.

The company says it has received assays for the first four holes drilled in the central pegmatite cluster. The best results include downhole lengths of 85m at 1.1 per cent lithium oxide from surface, with 59m at 1.5 per cent from surface and 218m at 0.8 per cent from 16m, including three higher-grade zones – 22m at 1 per cent from 31m, 23m at 1 per cent from 152m and 51m at 1.5 per cent from 183m to the end of the hole.

Wildcat says it has also received assays for the first 17 holes drilled in its northern pegmatite cluster and the best results include estimated true-width intersections of 21m at 1.1 per cent lithium oxide from 42m, 26m at 0.9 per cent from 76m, 20m at 1.3 per cent from 20m and 16m at 1.1 per cent from 17m.

Management also plans to deploy a diamond drill rig to the site early next month to accelerate its evaluation of the new discovery.

Outcrop at Wildcat Resources’ Tabba Tabba project in the Pilbara. Credit: File

Further south in WA’s Wheatbelt, Codrus Minerals unveiled some eye-watering rare earths air-core (AC) drill hits as high as 29m at 5915 parts per million total rare earth oxides and yttrium oxide (TREYO) at its Karloning project. That drill intersection included a 12m thick lens grading a staggering 12,366ppm TREYO.

The company’s share price responded in turn, climbing 73 per cent from a close of 7.8c the previous week to touch 13.5 cents. Codrus says the results substantially expand the scale and potential of its clay-hosted rare earths project, with 42 of the holes returning significant intersections defined as being greater than 800ppm TREYO, with a maximum of 4m of internal dilution.

Significantly, up to 24 per cent of the rare earths enrichment is contained in the high-value magnetic rare earth oxides (MREO) that are critical for manufacturing electric motor magnets.

With just six per cent of its landholding drilled to date and mineralisation to the north remaining open, the company’s punt to expand its landholding more than 16-fold to cover 246 square kilometres over the highly-perspective tenure appears set to pay off.

Codrus says more AC drilling is planned at Karloning, with land access agreements being sought in addition to statutory approvals for drilling.

Juno Minerals was also making moves, jumping 86 per cent to reach 14c. The company had no new news on the market, but questions are obviously lingering on whether it is sitting on a significant lithium haul near its newly acquired Mount Ida magnetite project.

The company revealed a fortnight ago that results from phase-two soil sampling identified two well-defined geochemical anomalies. Each anomaly is about 1000m long and up to 500m wide, trending north-south, with the southern anomaly remaining open. Interestingly, the geochemical results reveal the enrichment of pathfinder minerals associated with spodumene-bearing pegmatites, a likely target for the company’s upcoming RC drilling program.

Headlines this week that revealed mining giant Rio Tinto was sniffing around the area would not have hurt Juno’s prospects, either.

The Gascoyne region of WA is not known as a home to herds of water buffalo, but it mattered little last week to Bubalus Resources – a company named after the large bovine beast – as it stampeded 93 per cent up the ASX charts to hit 28c after latching onto a new lithium project.

The newly-acquired acreage represents an attractive exploration opportunity for the company, with no previous lithium exploration having taken place on the ground and the “goldilocks” zone – a contact with a series of granitic bodies called the “Thirty Three Supersuite” thought to be the source for lithium mineralisation in the area – just a couple of paddocks to the north-east.

And there is lithium in the area. Delta Lithium’s Malinda prospect returned more drill hits late last month going 15m at 1.5 per cent lithium oxide from 13 m, 11m at 1.1 per cent from 75m and 12m at 1.2 per cent from 183m.

Delta has done some work on its downstream processing, with early first-pass unoptimised metallurgical test results indicating high-grade lithium oxide concentrates can be achieved at high recoveries using Melinda ore. Results from the testing are a 6.3 per cent lithium oxide concentrate at 77 per cent recovery rate and a 6.4 per cent concentrate at a 61 per cent recovery rate.

With the market’s current fascination with anything lithium, this column fully expects to be reporting on more stock jumps relating to the silvery-white metal next week.

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