Miner backlash prompts ASX move

RESOLUTE Mining boss John Welborn says the industry’s reaction to changes to disclosure rules has been healthy, as the ASX moved to clarify its position.
Miner backlash prompts ASX move Miner backlash prompts ASX move Miner backlash prompts ASX move Miner backlash prompts ASX move Miner backlash prompts ASX move

Resolute Mining MD John Welborn speaks as ASX listings manager James Gerraty looks on.

Kristie Batten

ASX senior listings manager James Gerraty faced the music this week when he participated in a panel discussion at IMARC on disclosure, moderated by Aspermont managing editor Richard Roberts.

It came days after the ASX had released a guidance note aimed to assist miners in interpreting the Australian Securities and Investments Commissions' updated Information Sheet 214, particularly around the release of scoping studies.

"It filled some gaps, partially around production targets," Gerraty said.

"It's been an area of a little bit of contention. The issue today is production targets and financial forecasts."

Gerraty acknowledged there was more work to be done in conjunction with ASIC and JORC.

"The target is an agreed position," he said.

But Welborn, speaking on the same panel, likened the market crackdown on forward-looking statements as taking all cars off the road after one crash.

He suggested that rather than stop everyone from driving, only those who are speeding should be pulled up.

Stavely Minerals managing director and JORC member Chris Cairns said too many studies of a poor quality had been allowed to get through in the past.

"If the policeman's not on the beat, why do we need more laws?" he said.

Lion Selection fund manager Hedley Widdup said the release of 214 in May was a case of overcorrecting for the minority, and the abruptness of the change had shocked the market.

Gerraty said ASIC had expressed surprise that it caused the alarm that it did, but Welborn said the reaction and discussions that followed had been quite healthy.

Gerraty admitted that most mining companies actually did the right thing.

"Some companies take extreme care to the point of overcautiousness," he said.

Welborn noted that IMARC presenter Centrex Metals had a scoping study it was unable to release, yet held $A27 million cash.

"That gets to the nub of the issue," he said.

"To me, it's an insult to investors that ASIC is saying you're not smart enough to understand the difference between an inferred resource and indicated resource."

To the panel, the biggest consequence of 214 was that it reduced the ability for companies to release a positive study and then raise capital to move to the next phase.

Welborn has been on both sides - as recently as early last year he led junior iron ore player Equatorial Resources and remains on the board.

"It's a lot easier when you've got a $1 billion market cap and you produce 300,000 ounces of gold per annum," he said of leading Resolute.

But he noted that great companies like Fortescue Metals Group and Northern Star Resources would have been unable to thrive under the tougher rules.

"That journey for companies … is all about getting through those funding windows, getting that risk capital," he said.

"It's a bit like asking a two-year-old Usain Bolt to qualify for the 100m in 12 seconds."

The ASX guidance note can be viewed here.