Shaun Vokes, CEO of Talisman Mining Limited, discusses seizing opportunities for exploration and the company’s prevailing commitment to creating shareholder value.
Over the past few years, the Australian gold mining industry has undergone a historic moment.
In a country that is estimated to host the world’s largest gold reserves, the last decade has seen Australia become the second largest global gold producer, second only to China. Current gold prices on the Australian market are at a record high, and despite ongoing economic and geopolitical volatility, the outlook is strong after the country managed to maintain a steady stream of production throughout the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Australia’s gold mining industry generally defined by opportunity, thanks to high levels of investment in exploration and a swathe of various projects in the pipeline, the prospective outlook of the country is reflected in the dynamic microcosm of junior Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) listed minerals exploration and development company, Talisman Mining Limited (Talisman).
From the company’s headquarters in Perth, Western Australia (WA), Talisman’s CEO, Shaun Vokes, maintains an astute perspective of the opportunities currently facing the industry, but equally, the challenges that all mining players are forced to navigate.
“The easy deposits have already been found and exploration to find economic deposits is becoming harder, both by having to look deeper or in locations which carry additional risks,” Vokes introduces. “Furthermore, all of the input costs have escalated, applying cost pressures to every facet of the industry from exploration through to production.”
This current state of play makes players such as Talisman key in unlocking new areas of exploration and driving the industry forward.
For Vokes, another prevailing challenge that the entire industry must confront is the promotion of mining’s social value, particularly if it is to maintain relevance and importance in the environmentally and socially sensitive context of the present day, and remain competitive in the face of other potential land uses.
“Although it is possible to draw a clear nexus between the mining of base metals and the topical social themes of decarbonisation and electrification, the social value of mining gold is more difficult to quantify,” he observes. As such, a steadfast commitment to promoting the positive benefits of the mining industry to all stakeholders is crucial in order to sustain social licenses to operate.
Complementing a board of directors boasting extensive experience across all facets of minerals exploration and development, Talisman’s exploration team prides itself on working in close communication with local landowners throughout its areas of operation.
“Wherever possible, we also utilise suppliers and contractors based in regional locations which brings economic benefits for local communities,” adds Vokes.
The company’s entire modus operandi is encapsulated by a value-driven mission, as evidenced by Talisman’s proven track record of generating value for shareholders and its ongoing business development programme.
“Our objective is to maximise value to our shareholders through exploration, discovery and development or commercialisation of opportunities in base and precious metals within Australia,” he emphasises.
In its pursuit of generating value, Talisman stands out from other junior ASX listed exploration companies in terms of funding, since the company benefits from a regular income stream generated by one percent gross revenue royalty from Mineral Resources’ Wonmunna Iron Ore Mine, located in the Pilbara region of WA.
For the past two years, this revenue has been instrumental in enabling Talisman to undertake “substantial and sustained” greenfield exploration programmes in excess of AUD$5 million every year.
“We are constantly on the lookout for potential base and precious metals growth opportunities in Australia (and elsewhere) with the aim of identifying quality assets with the capacity to create long-term shareholder value,” surmises Vokes.
In terms of seizing current opportunities, Talisman’s flagship undertaking and main area of focus is the Central Lachlan Copper-Gold Project. Located within the richly mineralised region of Cobar/Mineral Hill, the site covers an extensive strike along the Gilmore Suture and is considered by Talisman to have significant potential for the discovery of substantial base metals and gold mineralisation.
Last year, the company proved the potential and lack of modern systematic exploration on this land package by collecting evidence of its base and precious metals endowment. To do so, Talisman leveraged its aforementioned income stream to complete two regional-scale airborne geophysical surveys (both electromagnetic and gravity) to “unlock a new generation of discoveries” in the Lachlan Fold Belt by indicating the concealed presence of blind mineralisation.
The investment has been pivotal in allowing Talisman to acquire high-quality datasets that can potentially shorten the discovery timeline on its tenure by several years by directing its exploration efforts to the areas with the highest chance of returning economic discovery.
“These surveys generated over 50 anomalies and, after extensive delays due the extraordinary weather events in New South Wales (NSW) and the East Coast last year, we were finally able to get on the ground in January 2023 and kick off a major drilling programme,” Vokes shares.
The programme entails three key exploration workstreams operating concurrently across the Central Lachlan Project – reverse circulation (RC) drilling, ground geophysical surveys and soil geochemistry utilising auger drilling – which are interlinked and designed to rapidly test priority drill targets while screening areas below cover for further geochemical and geophysical anomalies.
“Together, the workstreams aim to identify, prioritise, and systematically test exploration targets, ensuring that Talisman’s exploration strategy is provided with up-to-date targeting data from multiple sources,” he explains. “At present we are halfway through the programme and results have been encouraging with a number of assays awaited.”
Thanks to the solid progress of Talisman’s ground based moving-loop electromagnetic (MLEM) and Pole-Dipole Induced Polarisation (PDIP) geophysical surveys in identifying prospect areas indicative of base metal sulphide mineralisation, several new targets have been revealed with plans for RC drilling to follow.
MAKING MOVES AT MABEL CREEK
Another significant undertaking for Talisman was announced in January this year, following its acquisition of the Mabel Creek Iron-Oxide-Copper-Gold (IOCG) Project located in the under-explored region of the northern Gawler Craton of South Australia (SA).
Comprising three granted exploration licences covering a contiguous region of 1,048km2, the project area was initially identified as part of the SA Government’s “Gawler Challenge” in 2020 and subsequently recognised as one of the most significantly prospective areas in SA for IOCG and Gawler Craton-style gold mineralisation.
With recent aeromagnetic data published by the Geological Survey of South Australia suggesting the presence of a fluid conduit potentially hosting mineralisation within Mabel Creek’s deep-seated east-west trending fault system, the previously under-explored site has rightfully become an area of significant interest.
“The project is surrounded by exploration licences held by other major mineral companies, including recent tenements granted to Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) and Rio Tinto Exploration, as well as the exploration ground held by Oz Minerals and the BHP Group with its existing Tier 1 mining and development projects,” Vokes tells us. “The regional presence of these significant mining companies highlights the exploration opportunity for additional significant copper-gold discoveries in the Gawler Craton.”
Poised to capitalise on future developments, Talisman’s Mabel Creek Project benefits from a centrally located position with the Prospective IOCG Corridor where the moderate depth of the Moho boundary beneath the continental crust and its significant potential for IOCG discovery awaits.
“We are very excited by the potential of the Mabel Creek project and once the exploration licence transfer process is completed, we will immediately progress discussions with traditional owners to facilitate land access. We are hopeful that we can commence on-ground exploration activities before the end of this year,” shares Vokes excitedly.
A PIPELINE FOR SUCCESS
With extensive exploration programmes underway or in the pipeline at both Mabel Creek and the Lachlan Copper Gold Project in NSW, 2023 is shaping up to be a busy year for Talisman.
“As exploration in NSW progresses, we are constantly improving our understanding of the geological setting and continually refining and improving our targeting methodology.
“Meanwhile, at our Mabel Creek Project, we envisage that we will run some geophysical surveys ahead of planned drilling to refine our existing targets and build on our existing knowledge of the area,” Vokes tells us.
Leading with a strategic approach to exploration and an unrelenting pursuit of delivering value, the untold future potential of Talisman is yet to be unearthed.
“We would like 2023 to be the year that Talisman makes a significant mineral discovery.”