MNN Awards: Adams goes back to the beginning

AFTER the better part of 20 years being largely forgotten, the Youanmi area is again hot property thanks to drilling earlier this year by Spectrum Metals, but for the company’s managing director Paul Adams, it is almost like his career has come full circle.
MNN Awards: Adams goes back to the beginning MNN Awards: Adams goes back to the beginning MNN Awards: Adams goes back to the beginning MNN Awards: Adams goes back to the beginning MNN Awards: Adams goes back to the beginning

Paul Adams.

Haydn Black

Reporter

Born in the UK, Adams graduated as a geologist in 1986, but quickly realised there weren't a lot of jobs for geos "unless I wanted to go into sand, gravel or coal", so he came to Australia on a working holiday visa.
 
Arriving "with a backpack and £500 in my wallet" he managed to walk into a job with one of Western Australia's most aggressive most aggressive explorers of the day, Metana Minerals, working around the Mount Magnet hub in the Murchison. 
 
Working under senior geologist Geoff Hewlett, Adams spent about 18 months prospecting for gold within a 150km radius of Mt Magnet, before moving to mine geology, overseeing mining of the Parkinson, Welcome and Baxter deposits.
 
Sadly, the 1990s arrived and Metana fell on tough times, retrenching many of its geologists, but by then Adams signed on with Dominion Mining to help mine the Westralia open cut, a "real corker" that Dacian Gold is now operating as an underground mine.
 
After time out of the sector he caught gold fever again and returned to the Goldfields before being offered a choice: working as a senior mine geologist for either Troy Resources at Sandstone or at the giant Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea.
 
Not surprisingly, he took up the latter opportunity.
 
"It was an absolutely fascinating deposit, one of the world's greatest for gold, and I stayed there working open pit and underground mining, doing exploration for four years," Adams said.
 
After a chance to work with Australian Goldfields on the emerging Hidden Valley deposit, he returned to Porgera, as production manager.
 
By 2003 he was transferred back to Australia as chief mine geologist on PlacerDome's giant Wallaby deposit, and also headed up a special investigations unit of geologists and engineers looking at satellite deposit options in the region. 
 
During that period he completed a graduate diploma in applied finance, and through that process he got to know the broking community, and was asked to apply for an analyst role at DJ Carmichael, where he quickly became head of research.
 
It was early last year when, after 12 years of casting an eye on small to mid-cap companies across the full spectrum of resources, looking at M&A opportunities and the corporate side, he decided to get back to the coal face.
 
He'd been helping Spectrum vet a gold asset in California, which looked good: high-grade, fully permitted with infrastructure in place with near term potential. 
 
He signed on as MD as the company switched its focus from rare earths to gold.
 
The due diligence looked promising, but four days before the documentation was to be signed there was a small forest fire. Out of an abundance of caution Spectrum delayed the signing, expecting a 2-3 day delay.
 
Ultimately the fire became one of the worst in California's history, raged for weeks, and seriously damaged or destroyed much of the surface infrastructure.
 
But, sticking with a strategy of underexplored brownfields projects with high grade discoveries, Adams took Spectrum to the old Penny West project, previously mined by his old bosses at Metana and by worked many colleagues back in the day, including Hewlett, father of Spectrum's chairman, Alex, whom Adams has known since he was a child.
 
By following up an old intercept that had been ignored, Spectrum was able to prove its theory there was a faulted offset of the original Penny West mineralisation.
 
"We've rapidly expanded that initial discovery, which only happened on March 4," he said. 
 
"We have now put around 50 holes in this thing. We are hitting the lode in every hole, and a large proportion of the holes have been at this incredible grade, which mimics the Penny West grade, which was one of the highest grade mines ever mined in WA - back in 1991-92.
 
"It made an an absolute motza for Metana/ Eastmet when it was mined, even though it was only 80,000-90,000 ounces, it was 22 grams per tonne.
 
"Here we are 30 years later and we've made this high-grade discovery, right next to the existing old open pit, with this wonderful tie-up between companies past and present. It's actually quite a neat story from that point of view."
 
Spectrum's discovery has sparked a revival of the gold potential in the Youanmi area, from which around 560,000oz has been recovered since 1901, with Venus Metals and Rox Resources teaming to explore a number of areas around the mothballed plant, and having high-grade success of their own.
 
Paul Adams is nominated for New and/or Emerging Leader in the 2019 MNN Awards.