Kavango Resources (LSE:KAV) is one of this year’s few success stories in the small cap exploration space.

As the wider market has seen across the board declines in share prices of 30% to 50%, plucky Kavango’s stock has more than doubled. Excitement about the company’s drilling campaign in the Kalahari Suture Zone (“KSZ”) has certainly attracted investor interest, but there is much more happening on the ground in Botswana that points towards a bright future for this ambitious firm. Last week’s operational update is a perfect case in point.

A key part of for any company working to fulfil its promises is to ensure it has the right expert team members in place. For an exploration company, the quality of boots on the ground is essential…

Enter John Lauderdale, Kavango’s recently appointed Group Consulting Geologist.

New to the company, but certainly not to the exploration world, Lauderdale brings a wealth of experience to the firm that will help it greatly as it moves into its next exciting phase of growth.

Here, Lauderdale talks Mining Maven through his history before joining Kavango, and how he believes his experiences can benefit the company’s established operations in Botswana.

Strong pedigree and belief in Kavango’s potential

Lauderdale, a well-travelled industry veteran, has been working in Africa since 1984, shortly after graduating from the University of Bristol.

Over a celebrated career, he has worked in almost every country in the continent, from Morocco to South Africa, as well as also spending time in South America.

So, when someone with that much experience in minerals exploration describes the Kavango’s KSZ project as “potentially absolutely mind-blowing” – it’s certainly encouraging.

In fact, as Lauderdale himself puts it:

“The KSZ project could be a real company maker. There are some extremely good indicators already, but now Kavango needs more data, and that’s where the drilling program is going at the moment.”

Given his experience, Lauderdale is the perfect individual to guide Kavango as it continues to build up this picture.

Indeed, highlights of his career before joining the company include making the decision to “peg all the ground around the Gecamines holdings” when he was exploration manager at African Minerals.

African Minerals is a Central African subsidiary of the Ivanhoe Group, and the area around Gecamines is where the world-class Kamoa copper-cobalt discoveries were made.

Alongside this, Lauderdale also spent time running exploration programs for ENRC Group in Congo – a very efficient period where his small exploration team “drilled 250,000 metres in around two and a half years”.

Bottom line is, the lessons learned from these sorts of massively successful exploration projects will be extremely useful to Kavango as its investigation of the KSZ continues.

As Lauderdale himself highlights, the numerous and varied exploration programs he has run across Africa give him a wealth of insight that he can bring to his new role:

“I’ve done everything from tiny little operations the size of a wheelbarrow, designing exploration programs for guys who can’t afford a drill rig, right through to FTSE 100 companies with a $40 million to $80 million a year budget. Over the years, I’ve covered pretty much all of the kinds of projects that Kavango is looking at.”

Pushing forward in the Kalahari Copper Belt and at Ditau

Particularly relevant to Lauderdale’s new role is his previous work conducting exploration on the Central African Copper Belt.

This fits perfectly with Kavango’s growing project areas in the Kalahari Copper Belt (“KCB”). The KCB is an almost 1,000km mineral belt where, similar to the Central African Copper Belt, copper mineralisation is hosted in a sedimentary basin or rift.

A sedimentary basin is an area of the Earth’s crust where subsidence (when the Earth’s surface sinks) is dominant, causing sediments to accumulate. Rift-type basins occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates that are moving apart from each other.

Lauderdale “spent a long time on the Central African Copper Belt doing exploration”, and notes that many lessons learned on the Central African Copper Belt “have been directly applied to the Kalahari Copper Belt with great success”.

Another key relevant area of Lauderdale’s experience applies to Kavango’s Ditau Camp Rare Earth Elements Project, located in south west Botswana and part of an equally owned joint venture (“JV”) with Power Metal Resources (LSE:POW).

You see, Ditau focuses on carbonatites – a type of rock and the principal source of rare earth elements that are a particular interest of Lauderdale’s, thanks to his early work in Zimbabwe.

During this time in his career, he identified two carbonatites while working as a regional mapper for the Zimbabwean government. Since then, he says, he has “always been interested” in the formations since that’s how his career in Africa began.

Of course, Lauderdale has come a long way since then.

In that time, he’s learned the value of “doing something real” by creating value not just by looking for minerals but also in terms of human capital.

In the DRC, for example, Lauderdale ran exploration programs for ENRC Group back when it was a FTSE 100 company. He explains that it was the tight-knit and hard-working nature of his team there that delivered such quality results:

“We ran a very small exploration team but we had 28 rigs. I think we drilled 250,000 meters in about two and a half years. The team was, if I say it myself, extremely well run, and we converted a lot of the historical resources into reportable resources for the Stock Exchange.

“We also found a new style of nickel mineralization, which, as it turned out, was very similar to something that had been located by First Quantum Minerals, in the Northwest Province of Zambia. We had a very, very good exploration team. It was small and the guys worked their socks off.”

Primed for success…

Lauderdale’s drive to create value in a real, tangible way definitely suits Kavango.

After all, this is a company with a portfolio of potentially world-class metals exploration projects in Botswana, one of the Africa’s most favourable jurisdictions for doing business. Lauderdale’s experience makes him the perfect person to help see Kavango through to making one or more major minerals discoveries.

As Lauderdale himself sees it, his role is to design programs that ultimately find what the company is looking for on the ground – not just at the KSZ but also in the KCB and at Ditau. As he says:

“I know where we want to try and get to, I know what the bigger picture is, and then it’s really designing the steps to get there.

Successful exploration requires proper planning, hard work and discipline. Ultimately the rocks are the rocks, but it is our job to zero in on the most prospective zones and prepare those for drilling as quickly as we can. We have a huge amount of ground to cover, which presents both a considerable challenge and great opportunity.  

I’m really excited to have joined a company as ambitious as Kavango, which has both the vision to make large-scale discoveries and to become an active investor in Botswana itself. This last point is really important and I hope to make a meaningful contribution to our future success.”

With someone of Lauderdale’s calibre now in the field, Kavango’s shareholders can expect to see the company make significant strides forward in the coming months. With eagerly anticipated drill results to come from the KSZ and then likely drilling in the KCB and then Ditau, there is plenty of upside left in the company’s stock.

If Lauderdale’s enthusiasm is matched by success on the ground, Kavango’s shares could well break out to new all-time highs. 

Author: Anna Farley

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, owns a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

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