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In the lead up to the 2014 Mining the Territory forum, we had the chance to lead an interview with Mr Rob Bills, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Emmerson Resources Pty Ltd. He will be delivering a presentation at the forum. Here he shares with us Emmerson Resources’ latest project developments and his views about the industry.
Emmerson Resources is actively exploring the Tennant Creek Mineral Field and applying new concepts and technologies. What role does new technology play in discovering new deposits? Can you tell us a little bit about the findings so far? What are the next stages to advance the project?
Rob: New technology is critical as it provides new insights into the undercover geology and in the best case scenario it acts as a “direct detection” tool to find new deposits. However, there is an element of technical risk associated with any application of new technology/ideas. From the outset, Emmerson has applied new technology and ideas to our Tennant Creek project – not all have been of direct benefit, but nonetheless have provided some new insights. New and modern electrical geophysics has been one of the greatest breakthroughs – providing in some instances a direct detection tool to the conductive, sulphide bearing mineralisation and leading to the discovery of copper and gold at both Monitor and Goanna in 2012 – the first discoveries in the Tennant Creek Mineral Field for over a decade.
With higher exploration costs and increased difficulty to access funds, it is a challenging period for explorers. How did Emmerson Resources successfully raise funds for its projects in such tough condition?
Rob: Yes this is one of the toughest periods for junior exploration companies to raise capital but is a normal part of the cycle in this industry. The key is to be flexible and evaluate all of the funding options and know which avenue/country is likely to be interested in your particular investment story – for Emmerson, this has included a small rights issue (to avoid dilution) whilst we search for a suitable cornerstone Joint Venture partner. This search was initiated late last year and has included participating in a trade and investment trip to Japan, South Korea and China, as part of a Northern Territory investment delegation. It has also included evaluating the “fit” of potential JV partners as it is easy to get the initial tranche of money but unless carefully screened and evaluated, can create difficulties further down the road.
Emmerson Resources owns an ore processing plant at Warrego. Could you tell us a bit more about the plant capacity and operational status?
Rob: The Warrego processing plant is a 300,000tpa CIP mill which was last operated in 2005, so it will need refurbishment before we can commence production. Nonetheless it is a strategic asset as are our extensive tenement package, proximity to excellent infrastructure (railway line to Darwin, gas pipeline, haul roads, town of Tennant Creek) – all of which lower the hurdles to an eventual return to production.
Emmerson Resources is involved in projects within the community. Why is it important as an explorer to engage with local communities?
Rob: We have engaged with the local community from the outset and is via numerous initiatives, such as sponsoring and supporting the local Clontarf Foundation, Tennant Creek Show, various sporting and school events, plus ensuring we maintain good communication and deliver on “what we say we are going to do” with the traditional owners and CLC.
You will be presenting at the 8th annual Mining the Territory Conference – part of the NT Resources Week. Considering the current state of the resource sector in NT, what discussions would you like to share with your industry peers at the event?
Rob: According to the latest statistics, the junior sector is very important in the discovery of new mineral deposits (up to 70% of discoveries have been attributed to the junior sector), therefore it is critical that impediments to exploration are minimised and the scarce exploration dollar is maximised. In Emmerson, we aim to get around 70% of our funding directly into the ground (through such activities as drilling, geophysics, geology etc.), but this can only be done when bureaucracy and impediments are minimised, thus the key message is to ensure that exploration is clearly distinguished from mining – in that the regulatory regime and hurdles are commensurate with the activities and footprint of exploration.