Robert Duffield’s book on Lang Hancock talks about the geology of the Pilbara, which lends us a clue about what smaller and mid-level companies might be the next BHP (ASX:BHP), the next Rio (ASX:RIO)…or even the next Fortescue (ASX:FMG).
“Hancock had thought the internationally valuable ores, the haematites, were the only ones worth immortalising, and they are only found in the formation called Brockman. [editor’s note: the Pilbara’s most valuable iron ore is found in two banded iron formations (BIFs) called the Brockman iron formation, about 620m thick, and the Marra Mamba iron formation, about 230m thick. Both formations are part of the Hamersley Group, which itself is one third of the Mt. Bruce Supergroup, the other two being the Fortescue Group and the Turee Creek Group.]
“Everybody knew here was iron in the marra mamba formation, but for goodness sake why bother about it? It is a yellow caky-looking thing, and you can actually crumble it between your fingers. How could you make steel from stuff like that? And so marra mamba ore, although it looks nothing like it, was regarded as some sort of fool’s gold.”
Hancock’s geologist, a man named Ken McCamey soon proved that the marra mamba formation was not fool’s gold at all, and was well worth the bother. “[McCamey] had found manganese at the back of Wittenoom Gorge, and at Marandoo he had also identified a very rich deposit of marra mamba ore. Rich? By conventional wisdom it was not; but McCamey had many samples assayed, which showed sixty-two percent iron ore, and fewer impurities such as sulphur found in the conventional haematites.”
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