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The massive $621m Gruyere gold project in Western Australia poured first gold in late June.
Once ramp up is complete, Gruyere – a 50-50 JV between Gold Road Resources (ASX:GOR) and Gold Fields — will produce about 300,000oz a year over its initial 12–year life.
It’s a remarkable accomplishment, because not too long ago the +$1.2bn Gold Road was just another struggling small cap explorer.
To get where it is today the explorer was forced to battle things like weak gold prices and poor junior market sentiment.
The first strategic thing Gold Road – formerly Elektra Mines — did was consolidate the underexplored, highly prospective Yarmana belt back in the mid-2000s, Gold Road managing director Duncan Gibb says.
“It was a down time for the industry – gold prices were low, and no one was doing any exploration, particularly not greenfields-type [unexplored] stuff,” Gibbs told Stockhead, on the sidelines of the Diggers & Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie.
“But it was an amazing patch of dirt.”
Gold Road raised a few million and drilled a small, high grade resource at a project called Central Bore, which caused a spike in the share price.
They even won the Diggers & Dealers “Best Emerging Company Award’ in 2011 (also known as the “kiss of death award” because so many winners subsequently hit the skids).
And it soon became obvious that Central Bore was just too small for a standalone development, Gibbs says.
“So Gold Road went backwards; did a geological targeting exercise and didn’t spend any money for a year or two,” he says.
“Following this, the first roll of the dice was some air core [drilling] lines in 2013.”
The then-$54m market cap Gold Road managed to jag the Gruyere deposit on the last few holes of that program.
They drilled out a substantial multi-million ounce resource, did some quality mining studies — and then reached the point where they had to decide how to develop the thing.
“The company went through the normal options of debt/equity ‘build it yourself’ type route versus a joint venture,” Gibbs says.
“All the majors you would expect to have a look at a world-class asset came and had a look.
“The joint venture was quite hotly contested, and the decision was made to bring in Gold Fields as the joint venture partner.”
That $350m sale really funded Gold Road’s share of the development costs, and Gold Field’s expertise as a mine builder was crucial to derisking development.
Gold Road was back on the Diggers & Dealers awards podium in 2017, this time to accept the coveted ‘Dealer’ Award; and the rest is history.
It’s tough for juniors out there – but the fundamentals haven’t changed, says Gibbs. If you have a really good project, like a Gruyere, you will get the backing.
“You can always raise money on good projects.”