With the renewable energy revolution picking up steam, copper’s stock price is rising in tandem. A valuable piece of the renewable puzzle, copper’s virtues – infinite recyclability and powerful conductivity – make it highly sought after by mining companies.
Queensland exploration and development firm Carnaby Resources was established in 2019 with copper and gold as its quarry. Founded by geologist Rob Watkins and headed up by a dream team of mining industry veterans, Carnaby’s mission is the exploration of Australia.
"This is our third company," Watkins, Carnaby’s Managing Director, says. "We’re certainly not novices, we’ve been around for quite a while working overseas in Brazil and Indonesia, but Carnaby was created to really focus on Australia."
An independent company, Carnaby has three major sites in its portfolio: a Pilbara tenement package with an emphasis on gold and lithium; Yilgarn Margin, also in Western Australia; and Mount Isa Inlier, which is comprised of the Greater Duchess copper gold project and the Tick Hill gold project.
"We’d always thought there was an opportunity in northwest Queensland," Watkins says. "We’re big believers in the copper industry, the batteries and metals, so while we were originally focused on the gold, we moved into the copper and discovered a fantastic district there."
While exploration continues on Carnaby’s Mount Isa copper discoveries, Watkins says work is moving quickly, and development is soon to follow.
"The thinking is in three-to-five years we could have a very significant copper discovery," he says. "That’s very hard to find these days. A lot of Australia’s copper and gold space has been heavily explored already and there haven’t been many good copper discoveries, but I believe we’ve got one."
In three-to-five years we could have a very significant copper discovery.
A small team
Not bad for a team of only eight employees and a board of directors. It’s a testament to the experience within Carnaby, but it’s also a sign of the times.
"The industry’s changed, and we’ve seen it change since the 90s," Watkins reveals. "Back then a company would have 20-to-30 geologists working on a project. Now, 30 years later, we’re looking at similar workloads being completed by four or five geologists."
Small as the team is, everyone pulls their weight.
"We’ve got very much a hands-on approach," he explains. "Everyone looks out for each other, respects each other, and is focused on a common goal. We don’t have a lot of meetings because everyone’s in tune with what everybody else is doing. We work well."
The size of the team also means Carnaby is more agile than its larger peers.
"We have a very agile board," Watkins says. "They know how to get the job done, and they do it. They’re not averse to taking calculated risks."
But the greatest challenge has nothing to do with quantity of staff; rather, it’s a question of quality.
"Exploration is very difficult, it’s high risk and high reward," Watkins reveals. "The biggest jump is actually discovering an economic deposit, but getting quality people is always hard."
Australia, with its long history of mining, presents a wealth of top talent for companies looking to explore. "Australia is really world class in terms of being able to efficiently complete an exploration," he says.
So far, Carnaby seems set to add another chapter to the country’s mining success story.
"We’ve been very successful, especially in the last 12 months," Watkins says. "Anyone who knows anything about exploration knows success doesn’t happen overnight. Persistence is the key."
It’s a reward in more than one way for Watkins, whose passion for mining and resources goes back to his childhood.
If you don’t like remote places, you shouldn’t be in this line of work.
"My father would take me on holidays to the Victorian goldfields, and we’d go looking for gold nuggets," he recalls. "That’s always fascinated me, so when I started doing a Bachelor of Science, geology was just a natural fit. I relish the challenge of trying to work out the nature of where the minerals are."
Watkins’s first exploration project out of uni saw him in the middle of central New South Wales. Decades later, thanks to his work with Carnaby, he’s still out in the back of beyond. This time, however, it seems that there’s much more than a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
"You have to love working in the Australian bush to do this job, and I like the balance between working in the office and being out in the desert," he says. "If you don’t like remote places, you shouldn’t be in this line of work. We’ve been persisting for the best part of three years now. This year, it’s really paid off."