Mike Jones jokes that all his
discoveries have been found with a ruler. But land deals, tenacity and a head like a hammerhead shark have also helped
t was an “arm-wave at a map,” says platinum boss Mike Jones. Platinum Group Metals, the company he founded twelve years ago, staked 100 sq km on the northern limb of the Bushveld, South Africa's platinum belt, betting it extended further. The
third drill hole punctured a seam of platinum, but it was tilting the wrong way. “The deposit didn't strike north-south, it struck north-easterly.” It also snapped to government data, showing regional magnetic surveys. “We suddenly realised what we had. We had found an entire lobe of the Bushveld complex.”
The company had a moment of panic. It had already announced the discovery, known as Waterberg, but hadn't published a map. Jones' team urgently began applying for ground to the north-east. “The lobe was sitting open and we knew it, so for the next 24 hours we were on the government system, filing prospecting applications.”
Platinum Group Metals, which is based in Vancouver, now owns a land package totalling 1,000 sq km, as big as Hong Kong. By all accounts, Waterberg is a huge discovery. The
deposit is 13km long, with over 30 million ounces of platinum, palladium and gold in seams the height of a tower block. “We actually haven't found the end of it,” Jones says, over avocado and toast in London. “It goes on and we gave up. We just said, okay, enough.”
It is seven in the morning and Jones has been up since four, jet-lagged, drinking black coffee. Waterberg will cost around $800m to build, more than double the company's market cap. But with 90 metre intercepts grading nearly six grams per tonne, Jones thinks the deposit will struggle to stay in the ground. Platinum Group Metals closed an $80m debt deal last year and a $33m equity raise in May.
Conventional mines on the Bushveld, which produce two-thirds of all platinum mined, are over a kilometre deep, with narrow seams a metre thick. They are undulating and...