Mining may be moving into space, but there are still plenty of minerals to discover here on earth.
However, the new big deposits are likely to be under cover and this is where geophysicists like Nick Sheard come into their own.
Despite a successful 38-year career in the global mining industry, the current executive chairman of Carpentaria Exploration has no intention of abandoning the search for the next big find.
With two discoveries in the first three years as a public company, including the $3.2 billion Hawsons Iron Project near Broken Hill, Nick and his team at Brisbane-based Carpentaria have demonstrated the value of geophysics.
It’s a sentiment shared by fellow director Neil Williams, president of the 34th International Geological Congress, who says “it’s going to take good science and exploration to make new discoveries” like Olympic Dam.
Australia was undergoing a nickel boom in 1968 when Nick first arrived in the country from the United Kingdom, having been lured to Kalgoorlie by a job with McPhar Geophysics.
“It was just so wonderful working in the bush – doing work that was exciting, surveying in places where you felt no one had been there before,” he says.
Sheard said mining and the climate persuaded him to stay in Australia, where he completed an Honours degree in Geology and Geophysics at Flinders University in Adelaide.
From his first job out of university – working as a seismologist for the Australian government in Papua New Guinea – his career rapidly advanced, becoming Chief Geophysicist and then Global Exploration Manager for MIM Holdings.
“At MIM we set up an excellent geophysical team, which was in my view one of the best in the world and backed by management and the board,” he said.
“We developed an electrical geophysical system called MIMDAS, which was a really novel way of doing deep-looking geophysics that has now been copied by others around the world.”
From MIM, Sheard’s next big adventure was in Canada, where he took a job as VP Exploration at Inco. He discovered not only a love for the Winter Olympic sport of curling, but also some major resources.
“Building a team has always been very important to me, and a key part of the successes I’ve had. At Inco, we not only rebuilt their exploration team, but we added to the company’s resource base quite considerably and made at least one world-class nickel discovery at Reid Brook near Voisey’s Bay in Labrador.”
When Vale acquired Inco, he decided it was time to return to Australia and start his own company.
“We chose the name of Carpentaria Exploration as it was the name of MIM’s former exploration company. We had a lot of success at MIM and thought it was a good omen,” he said.
From managing up to 200 people at Inco with a budget of $80-90 million, Sheard’s team dropped to a handful on a tight budget of $1 million when he started Carpentaria.
Yet by employing the same principles, Carpentaria has grown significantly from its $7.5 million IPO in November 2007 into a company with a range of projects across eastern Australia, principally around Broken Hill and other regions in New South Wales.
With the company targeting 2015 for the start of production at Hawsons Iron Project near Broken Hill, Carpentaria will soon prove the value of its discoveries to investors. If the future belongs to geophysicists, then Sheard and his team have the expertise to take advantage.
Pic: (Above) Nick in the field. (Below) The Hawsons discovery hole.
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