JUNIOR explorer Platypus Minerals is focused on prospective copper-gold and base metals projects in the East Pilbara and Peru’s San Mateo mining district. Managing director Tom Dukovcic spoke to Jane Goldsmith about the company’s success.
Q. What is your educational background?
I’m a geologist, having gained my BSc (Hons) degree from the University of Melbourne.
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne where my Croatian parents, brother and I settled after emigrating from the old Yugoslavia in 1969.
I initially studied computer science at university, very much a ‘sunrise’ industry in 1979, and only took a few units in geology through general interest.
I soon grew bored and disenchanted with computer science whereas I readily took to geology.
The staff and students were friendly, open, relaxed; we went on field excursions; and the Earth Science building was next door to the Clyde Hotel.
I even got to touch moon rocks, as Professor John Lovering had worked with NASA on the moon program. Loved it.
In second year, I took all the geology units I could and even topped it up with some units in mining engineering. I graduated with my honours degree in 1982.
Q. What steps did you take to reach your current role at Platypus?
I got my first job in the boom times of 1987, in Yalgoo, WA, with one of Joe Gutnick’s companies.
I entered the workforce a little later in age than average, but it didn’t take me long to progress through the ranks.
I had a bit of maturity behind me which helped me break into senior roles.
When working in Leonora I realised that I could probably have stayed there exploring for the next 10 to 20 years, just making piecemeal discoveries to supplement mine feed, but I found that job too routine and lacking in excitement.
In 1996, with a small group of varied associates, I started a public company, Ashburton Gold Mines, with the aim of listing on the ASX.
We focused on WA’s Ashburton region, the state’s second gazetted goldfield, but one that I felt was underexplored.
It was a challenging time to float a gold company – the gold price had dropped to something like US$250 per ounce, and even the Australian Reserve Bank started selling off gold.
However, the seed capital we brought it gave us some time to seek out a solution.
In 1999, we merged with struggling ASX-listed Zephyr Minerals, which we transformed into Ashburton Minerals and over the subsequent decade or so we worked on gold projects in WA, Queensland, Brazil and Indonesia.
We also had a brief association with a technology development company in Singapore which enabled us to raise sufficient cash in tough times to continue our exploration activities.
About 18 months ago, after a period in the doldrums, two excellent opportunities in the copper-porphyry space came our way, one in Peru and the other in the Pilbara.
We acquired unlisted explorer Platypus Resources and then changed the company name to Platypus Minerals.
The name Platypus is not only uniquely Australian but reflects an industrious and hardworking marsupial always searching with perseverance and tenacity for its next fulfilling meal.
Q. What is the role of Platypus today?
As an explorer, Platypus always looks for ground that is demonstrably mineralised, underexplored and with the potential to generate large deposits and discoveries that could provide significant returns to shareholders.
Our two projects at Gobbos in the East Pilbara and in Peru both have the potential for multibillion-dollar value deposits – we just need to prove their existence.
Both these projects are advanced because they are in historically mineralised areas; they’re underexplored but with existing targets.
If we make a discovery, we don’t expect to be able to take a porphyry deposit to development because of the time and costs involved.
Our forte is as an explorer and we have a solid track record of exploration success.
Our ideal business strategy is to make discoveries, value-add, and then either sell or bring in a joint venture partner to get the project to the next level of development.
Q. What are the most challenging aspects of your role?
A major challenge is to make sure we have enough funding in place to effectively explore our ground.
I firmly believe that, even in tough times, a good project with an experienced and respected management team will attract investment.
We love the challenge of finding new deposits. It taps into your inner strength, unleashes your creativity and also has a scientific basis. This is a challenge I love.
Q. Considering the cyclical nature of the economy and Australia’s current industrial environment, what do you believe the next 12 to 18 months will hold for Platypus?
No one can deny it’s tough going at the moment.
But it can also be seen as an opportunity. At present, I have observed a gradual but noticeable change in investor sentiment towards the exploration sector.
Coupled with the proven quality and value of Gobbos, and the promise of similar success once we get on the ground in Peru, we’ll have a very positive story to tell in this moment of changing investor sentiment.
The exploration license in the Pilbara has two main prospects – the Gobbos copper-porphyry prospect and the Cyclops massive sulphide prospect.
Cyclops is marked by four strong electromagnetic [EM] anomalies within ultramafic rocks.
Having coherent, distinct airborne EM anomalies in ultramafic rocks strongly suggests the potential for either nickel or copper sulphides, perhaps similar to the Sirius Resources Nova deposit, which is really very exciting.
At this stage, we’re looking to do a ground-based EM program over these anomalies around mid this year, and then thereafter, we’ll drill.
Also, our goal is to get on the ground in Peru – it’s a historical gold, copper, lead, zinc, silver district, mined for near surface, low tonnage but high grade vein deposits.
The potential for large, high-value porphyry deposits has been recently confirmed in the immediate area, so we’re itching to do work over our ground and generate our own discoveries.
We are looking forward to great news flow that will have the potential to impact materially on the share price and I believe we will be able to deliver a series of positive results in the next 12 to 18 months.
Q. What is the best advice you have been given?
Focus, belief and intent. If you’re going to spend money on exploration, don’t explore meaninglessly; explore quality ground.
If you see an opportunity, take hold of it and act quickly.
When you gain investor funds, don’t sit on them; spend as much as possible of the investor dollars in the ground, on exploration; the more dollars put in the ground, the greater the likelihood of exploration success, which will then be fed back to investors.