Nov 27, 2017
Reality reared its ugly head on Friday November 24th. For brevity, let’s call it “Black Friday” for the Novopoor as Novo released a press release acknowledging that the idea of measuring grade by using a large diameter drill rig simply didn’t work.
Back in July when Novo showed the first video of people finding gold using a metal detector at Comet Well, I wrote a piece and said,
“It’s going to be a real bugger to get accurate grades due to the nugget effect. Given that the nugget found by the metal detector and pried out of the ground on the video is almost an inch in length it is going to skew any assay results if it is left in or if it is left out. The only way to determine true grade of this project is going to be either average a hundred random samples that represent the real distribution or to mine it.”
I continued in that vein in an interview I did in August just after I got back from Australia.
“My opinion is that you can’t actually measure grade in a system that is this nuggety until you go into production. So what you should do is drill for structure and mine for grade. Pretium had the same problem up in the Yukon . But from a practical point of view does it matter if you have 2 ounces per tonne at surface or 3 ounces per tonne at surface? From a practical point of view it doesn’t matter. It will slightly affect your marginal cash costs but you’re still going to mine the stuff. Coming up with a 43-101 that’s accurate is going to be very difficult but it doesn’t make any difference.”
I seem to have hit my stride in a piece I wrote in late September.
- “This is an unconventional deposit. It has to be explored and tested in an unconventional way.
- The only purpose of drilling core should be to determine structure. There may well be multiple layers of conglomerate. They may or may not be mineralized. If it was I and I know I will be ignored, I wouldn’t even assay for gold. All you need is three or four assays to come back without gold and the ignorant will sell in a panic as the ignorant always do.
- You will never ever know the accurate grade until you mine. The core holes will either miss the gold entirely or hit nuggets and show hundreds of ounces of gold per ton. Neither will be correct. The wide diameter drill will be more accurate but you will need hundreds of samples to even have a SWAG (Stupid-Wild_Assed_Guess) at what the real grade is.
- The difference in total cost to mine one ounce gold compared to three ounce gold is for all practical purposes meaningless. Therefore production should begin as soon as possible even on a small scale. I think the two-ounce material will be a lot more representative than either Quinton or John Kaiser or anyone else believes. The highest value is going to be in the nuggets, not the fine gold and there be a lot more of them spread out over a lot larger area than anyone but me believes. One hundred tons of two-ounce material a day is 72,000 ounces a year. Go back and memorize point 1 above. Think in an unconventional way.
- Rob Humphryson, the CEO of Novo, is a production guy. He and I chatted for a short time during my visit eight weeks ago. Quinton should fart around all he wants perfecting the exploration and developing the theory while Rob and I focus on perfecting the production. This is going to be a giant project and figuring out how to mine and mill is just as important as trying to figure out where the gold is and how it got there. You don’t need to prove up 10 million ounces to make a production decision. Novo has $70 million in cash and a bunch more on call in the form of warrants. They should spend $30 million on a plant. Call it a test plant of a bulk sample. Do it now.”
I continued in October but I really doubt many people understood what I was saying.
“Gauging grade of coarse gold is problematic at best. I wrote a piece that is a little complicated early this year. At Beaton’s Creek Novo used RC drilling and got results, did 50-kilogram bench samples and processed a 30,000 ton bulk sample. The 30,000-ton bulk sample showed a 70% increase in grade over the 43-101 numbers from the RC drilling. As I said in my piece last week, we are never going to know the real grade until we mine. Every form of testing a nuggety system tends to underestimate grade…
Where is the richest gold?
Right! It’s at the very bottom of the gravel right on and in the bedrock.
The richest gold is not at the top of the sand and gravel unless you can think of some way of making gold nuggets float. Nobody’s mentioned that yet.”
Novo’s press release that started the bleeding had a number of interesting issues, some minor and one giant consideration.
- The small gold is pretty much around the gold nuggets and not distributed throughout the conglomerate. While this may have shocked John Kaiser’s followers, my readers knew better because I told them in September. And while my readers were buying below $1 all the way back to 2012, Kaiser talking about a 20 billion ounce deposit (Did he really say that? There have only been about 6 billion ounces produced in all of history) managed to get a lot of weak hands buying above $5. They puked up their shares on Friday last. My readers didn’t.
- The large diameter reverse circulation drill doesn’t provide accurate samples. This is both a technical and a practical issue. Getting a QP to sign off on a resource is going to be a real bugger. That has nothing to do at all with if the RC rig works or not, it goes to the heart of JORC and 43-101. The Romans didn’t bother subscribing to JORC and the Spanish pretty much ignored 43-101. They found ore and mined it. When they ran out of ore, they stopped. It seemed to have worked well for both of them.
- Nagrom has been slow to set up their Steinert sorting machine and assays won’t be available from the many trench samples already submitted until January. Now this was a giant shock even to me and I’m hard to surprise. Assay results are going to take longer than anticipated to come back from the lab. I know, this is a first in the mining business but Quinton and crew are just going to have to man up and bite the bullet. I have no doubt changes will be made promptly and assay results will never be late again, ever.
When I read the press release, first of all I thought about cutting my wrists, then I went and puked for an hour and then I sat in a dark corner and cried all afternoon. Basically there is not any gold in the Pilbara, first assay results not withstanding. Novo is fucked, Artemis is fucked, De Grey is totally out of the picture. We are all going to have to get a real job or go on welfare. Listening to John Kaiser talk about how bad the news was made me even more depressed.
Except for the very most important part of the news release. I quote, “Novo wishes to advise that the company has recently been notified by Artemis that the Western Australian government’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) has granted a 20,000-tonne excess tonnage permit for the extraction of a bulk sample from the Purdy’s Reward tenement.”
I spent the entire night tossing and turning thinking about the problem. What would the Romans do if they couldn’t fall back on JORC? What would the Spanish do if they couldn’t translate 43-101 into Spanish so they would have someone to blame for not making money?
I know exactly what the Romans and Spanish would do. They would go down to Home Depot and buy 200-300 man portable crushing machines. They would round up some wetback labor and issue each of them one of the man portable crushing machines. They would crush the conglomerate that already comes to surface to ¼ inch minus and they would run it through a sluice box with some 65# expanded metal over miner’s moss.
I figure if Novo/Artemis hired a portable crushing machine and had someone spend two days building a nice man size sluice box they could be in production in a week for under $1 million for the yellow gear and plant. You would lose some gold but who gives a rat’s ass when you are doing 2 ounce plus material. Your all in costs would probably be in the $60 an ounce range.
Doing 500 tons a day (that’s 200 yards for those who think alluvial or placer mining) would take you 40 days to generate about $58 million USD or call it maybe $50 million profit all in split evenly between Artemis and Novo. If you got permits twice a year to do 20,000 tons each time you could justify the market cap of each stock even now and wouldn’t have to work very hard at all. You don’t need a big plant and while Artemis glosses over it, their Radio Hill plant is for sulfide ore, not nuggety gold. While they say they are putting in a gravity circuit, this gold is perfect for nothing more complicated than a sluice box. You don’t need a 30 year old rusted out plant.
What everybody in WA needs to do is pull their heads out of their asses and stop being stupid. Let me remind my readers of what I said in September, “This is an unconventional deposit. It has to be explored and tested in an unconventional way.”
There is no better way to test grade of any deposit than to produce. This is an unconventional deposit. Just because no one has ever run into this style of gold before doesn’t mean you have to measure it to produce. It’s so cheap to produce that that’s exactly what should happen.
Sure, the institutions are going to have to wrap their heads around the concept of a mining company that makes money and the mines department will have to realize that neither JORC nor 43-101 came down the mountain carried by Moses. In California during the gold rush, the prospectors used gold pans to measure gold. When they found it, they went into production. We were lucky enough in the Pilbara to have the prospectors stumbling through the desert waving metal detectors. What is the difference? If a gold pan finds gold and a metal detector finds gold, isn’t that enough?
But what do I know when there are so many experts around all of whom have the answer to every question?
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