MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A hive of mine exploration activity is underway in a remote corner of Western Australia’s Great Sandy Desert, led by Rio Tinto Ltd, which has boosted its holdings 10-fold in the little explored Paterson province in the past year.
Rio’s interest in the area – flagged by its application for nearly 30 exploration licenses – has sparked a stampede into adjacent lots by other explorers, who see Rio’s aggressive activity as an indicator of a highly promising find.
Interest was further intensified by the global mining giant’s recent application to build an airstrip in Paterson – roughly halfway between Perth and Darwin, indicating it’s in for the long haul.
“The smoke signals are all telling us they have made a discovery but it remains to be seen … whether they will consider it significant enough to go and release to the market,” said analyst James Wilson of broker Argonaut Securities in Perth.
Aerial photographs circulated in local media this month showed signs of a camp being set up and analysts said drill rigs they could identify suggested the miner was preparing for some very deep and expensive holes.