SA Mines and Energy Journal : October-November 09
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2009 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL 27 COMPANY PROFILE In contrast to the complexities at Tunkillia, Minotaur's kaolin project at Poochera on the West Coast is a model of mining simplicity. "It's just a sand quarry, " Dr Belperio said. Minotaur has proved up 20 million tonnes of kaolin, which is used in the production of glossy white paper, paint and plastics. "There's probably hundreds of millions of tonnes of the stuff in the Streaky Bay district, "Dr Belperio said. But the present deposit -- once it is shown to be commercial -- should last about 40 years and provide a useful cashflow to underpin other exploration, with high-quality kaolin currently attracting prices around US$500-600 a tonne. Minotaur's bulk sampling has confirmed "very high-quality'' kaolin and the samples are being tested in a pilot plant at Kingaroy in Queensland, which will be relocated to Poochera as the project progresses towards commercialisation. Industrial minerals is a further step in an interesting journey for the company, which was floated as Minotaur Gold in 1995, evolved into Minotaur Resources in 2000 and discovered the Prominent Hill copper-gold deposit, south of Coober Pedy, in 2001. The deposit was sold to Oxiana (now OZ Minerals) under a scheme of arrangement which saw $95 million distributed to Minotaur shareholders. The Adelaide-based company kept the other exploration areas in the portfolio, emerging under its present name of Minotaur Exploration. Along the way, it floated off Mithril Resources, in which it retains an 18.8 per cent stake, geothermal hopeful Petratherm (22.2 per cent) and uranium explorer Toro Energy -- which it recently sold down to only 0.9 per cent, generating $3.7 million for exploration. The company's joint ventures are spending up to $8 million annually on exploration, of which Minotaur's contribution is about $2 million. Mr Carter said that, through the changes, Minotaur had retained its core exploration group and developed new joint ventures. A joint venture arrangement with the Japanese Government's JOGMEC -- which is charged with identifying commercial mineral deposits for Japanese companies -- covers several projects. The association began with a project near Broken Hill, now controlled by Sumitomo, and also has led to joint ventures with Mitsubishi Corporation. These include a project at Cowra in New South Wales, where an airborne electromagnetic survey has revealed 50 copper-gold targets. Drilling was due to start in mid- September on six of the targets. In northern SA, Minotaur has an intriguing option arrangement with Rio Tinto at Douglas Creek, north-east of William Creek. Mr Carter said previous explorers had run into trouble because the prospect was in the Great Artesian Basin, where drilling was technically difficult and expensive. However, the size of the Douglas anomaly -- extending for more than 15km -- encouraged the company to persevere, despite initial drilling failing to find minerals. Meanwhile, south of Olympic Dam, one 800m drillhole at the Aphrodite prospect has found small traces of copper and iron in a setting similar to the BHP Billiton mine. "It indicates we're in the right area, '' Mr Carter said. There's probably hundreds of millions of tonnes of the stuff [kaolin] in the Streaky Bay district Minotaur's kaolin project at Poochera.