‘We took on the world and won’ says the man behind Spartan Resources’ 470 per cent share price resurgence

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
Spartan Resources boss Simon Lawson at the Dalgaranga Gold Project in WA's Murchison Region.
Spartan Resources boss Simon Lawson at the Dalgaranga Gold Project in WA's Murchison Region. Credit: Trevor Collens

Simon Lawson ripped Spartan Resources from the clutches of death with the helping hand of his gold mining rivals, but he is wary the job is not done yet.

A record gold price and a steady stream of high-grade ore from its new discovery has made Spartan one of the biggest mining success stories of the past year.

Its shares have risen 470 per cent since last March to reach a market value of about $580 million, a far cry from the hand-to-mouth existence the company led for many years.

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Gascoyne Resources — Spartan’s former iteration — fell into administration in 2019 and despite being revived the gold miner battled to survive, culminating in its flagship Dalgaranga gold mine being placed into care and maintenance during November 2022.

The move forced another recapitalisation in February last year, at which point Mr Lawson had been at the helm for just over a year.

This meant hundreds of millions of shareholder money had been torched since Dalgaranga was switched on in 2017.

“We didn’t have a lot of friends at that point, we went through a lot of pain,” he told The West Australian.

“I’m glad we went through that pain though because it allowed us to reset our plan.”

Mr Lawson was on the hunt for cheaper ore to offset the rapidly rising costs crippling Dalgaranga’s future viability, when he stumbled on rocks that exceeded his expectations. This was thanks in part to the bosses of two of his competitors.

“I had several chats to Capricorn’s (Metals) Mark Clark and Ramelius Resources’ Mark Zeptner about what they had seen in the area in terms of the geology and both were very helpful,” he said.

“I adopt a similar approach to Mark (Clark), who takes the accounting approach of drilling out the orebody so there’s no surprises whatsoever.”

The reinvigorated drilling campaign unearthed Never Never — the main deposit at the Dalgaranga project north-west of Mt Magnet — leading Mr Lawson to shed the Gascoyne name in July last year in favour of a homage to the famous Greek army.

“The Spartan name was chosen because they were a small group of people that basically took on the world and won,” he said.

“It felt like that’s what we did . . . we had a lot of doubters given our history.”

The former Northern Star Resources geologist believes the discovery of Never Never is the real deal and will ensure Spartan can avoid facing its mortality again.

“The grade we’ve found at Never Never is about six times what they used to process at Dalgaranga, so we have a lot of fat in our margin when we turn our plant back on.”

“In saying that we still have to get our restart strategy right and can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

Dalgaranga is scheduled to remain in care and maintenance until at least the end of November 2024 and despite the triumph of Never Never, Mr Lawson is not tempted to rush getting the mine back online anytime soon.

“We’re going to drill (Never Never) all out, a one and done strategy,” he said.

“I’d rather burn and fail than be left wondering if I could’ve drilled another hole.”

Mr Lawson is navigating an “ironic situation” of building a fresh resource base while having all the mining infrastructure already in place.

“It’s definitely back to front of what most miners have to deal with,” he said.

“It’s an ironic situation but also a unicorn situation, we have de-risked lot of that mine development work already.”

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