Prospects to Mines – The Explorationist

The commercial business of gold and base-metal exploration, discovery and mining is complex and these days highly technical but it is also a wonderfully exciting pursuit and at times hugely rewarding for the risk and sacrifice. It is not just about the intoxication of exciting prospects and their potential but also about the visualisation, courage, conviction, knowledge, perseverance and talent of the explorationist. Exploration is these days more about trying to find what is not visible. This blog is about what catches my fancy in the busines of finding new mines, about demystifying the jargon and making what you might need to know about this business simpler and more transparent and indeed more visible. Let us rediscover the emotion, the passion, the drama and excitement of the chase

“Vision is the art of seeing things invisible”  Jonathan Swift

Dean Jonathan Swift will be remembered for the pleasure he gave to generations all over the world through his writings, particularly Gulliver’s Travels.

I live not far from the town of Celbridge in County Kildare, Ireland.  The town has a romantic connection to Dean Swift as, some hundred and seventy years ago, it was for a short period, the scene of a romance which will not be forgotten as long as the names of Swift and Vanessa live in the pages of history.

Like Gulliver’s voyage into the unknown I constantly marvel at the courage and abandon  that the small individual retail investor approaches  the business of exploration and mining.  The capacity for specialisation whether that be within a merchant bank, resource fund, an institution or even the coterie attached to a  high-net-worth investor by affording to retain mining analysts, geologists and engineers – always trumps the small “retail” investor on the “outside” who must indeed be resourceful as a magpie in gathering jewels of information from many different sources and use his ingenuity to navigate the minefield of mining.  This blog is about exploration, discovery and mining which is a wonderfully exciting, hugely rewarding but highly risky business sometimes played out in very remote parts of the world in jungles and deserts and siberian tundra dealing and engaging with all sorts of  regimes.  This blog is an attempt to inform, interpret and demystify,  as much as I can whatever takes my fancy on the day. –  to try and find the essence in simplfying concepts and language and filtering out the jargon for the small investor.

Like any highly specialised and technical pursuit the business of mineral exploration, discovery, mining through mineral processing is a long road bristling with risk and fraught with uncertainty.  Beyond, there be great riches for those with the resilience and fortitude and patience of character and indeed the talent and luck to succeed.  Sometimes I wonder if the investor truly understands how much risk there really is in exploration and the low probability of success.  Failure will be the norm and only mistakes can be reduced with experience.  Exploration is indeed more of an art than a science involving the simultaneous juggling of ideas and concepts and models – the “Multiple Working Hyothesis” approach which was the insight of  T.C. Chamberlin back in 1890 . It is about how to creatively piece and integrate most importantly observation and knowledge and apply the latest concepts and technology to the search for what cannot be seen.  As we continue to explore, the search for new ore deposits is less about targeting exposed at or near the surface minerlised occurrences but increasingly about the search for concealed and ever deeper deposits– the quest for the invisible.  In an age of technology and sitting in front of computer screens it is the young geologists which gets out in the field and looks at the most rocks who has the best chance of making the discoveries which make a difference.  I hope the ruminations which follow will help to demystify, entertain and enlighten.  Market regulators constantly strive t0 try and remove the arbitrage of information so as to create a level playing field for all investors.  The fact is however that there is and always has been an arbitrage of knowledge and such knowledge is power and will always make the small investor an outsider sometimes like a cow looking into an engine.  The big investors can hire specialists but the small  investors are usually on their own or in small groups which help to spread and  ingrain misunderstandings and misinterpretations.  The small investor cannot afford or justify the cost of a  site visit to a project  and only some can afford the proprietary insights of a broker’s mining analyst.

There will be two bundles of despatches, one dedicated to Zinc which is close to my heart as an Irish geologist living on the rim of one of the world’s great zinc-lead districts.  Urbanisation devours zinc and it is projected that some three hundred million Chinese will move to cities over the coming decade.  There is no price stimulus to go out and explore for new zinc mines and it takes seven to ten years from discovery to production.   The other  “blog” strand is based on my general thoughts and comments across all metals and aspects of an industry which is at the core of our civilisation because almost every industry in the world is metal oriented.  I will get the urge to comment as particular topics or news  emerge and things take my fancy  in this broader commercial business of finding and mining metals which are so vital for our way of life on this planet.  I hope that you come on this journey with me.  Your comments on my blogs are very welcome.