Geoff Loudon, who is a key figure in resource development in this region of the globe and who is truly a legend in his own lifetime, delivered the Tas McKee memorial speech at the AusIMM NZ Mining Conference in Dunedin on the second day of the conference.
Loudon, who formerly lived in London, is now based in Christchurch. He has been acknowledged as a leader in the resource development field where has played a leading role in the establishment and development of the Lihir Island gold project. He was also largely instrumental in the same way with the high-profile Solwara-1 copper-gold seafloor sulphides mining project. Both of these projects are operational in Papua New Guinea.
Loudon gained control of L&M and using this company as a vehicle, revived alluvial gold mining at Earnscleugh near Alexandra. He also was behind coal seam gas exploration in southern Otago as well as being involved heavily in mineral exploration ventures onshore in Taranaki not far from Hawera.
In his address to the delegates, Loudon paid tribute to Tas McKee as a leading figure in New Zealand mineral exploration and the establishment of a minerals industry. Loudon noted that Tas McKee was also responsible for forming the NZ branch of AusIMM and was an early president of the institute.
Turning to the operations of L&M here, Loudon said a total of 14 areas of NZ’s South Island were mined by L&M. However, the company under his direction always ensured it returned areas where it had mined to a better condition than before it began mining.
The modern L&M, taken over by a group led by Loudon, saw development of gold dredging at Earnscleugh. That project recovered about 50,000 ounces of gold and was completed about 12 months ago.
While the company has kept a low profile in Earnscleugh, the big Japanese-built bucket wheel excavator had high public visibility when the company brought it in for the Waikaka alluvial project. Loudon told the conference that while it was a technical success it was not a commercial success. “But that’s the gold market,” he said.
Loudon had also been joined in ventures by partners in the Toromocho copper project in Peru, which advanced rapidly. About C$100 million was raised on the specialised Toronto Stock Exchange to produce a massive copper-molybdenum-silver project and an outer rim of zinc and copper. This project was on-sold after it had been launched to massive Chinese listed Chinalco for C$600 million.
A number of the shareholders from this project joined Loudon in Nautilus Minerals. This was perceived as a long-term investment 20 years ago. It is now acquiring and assembling seabed mining and ship-processing facilities to recover high grade copper, gold and other minerals. Loudon predicts this project will deliver and process its first production in about two years’ time.