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McCrae’s New Hunt

MINING identity Wayne McCrae says his return to the industry as part of a listed company is the result of “unfinished business”.

The 69-year-old mining veteran was turfed out of copper miner CuDeco – the company he founded – in mid-2015.

It came after CuDeco’s Chinese backers refused to provide a loan to keep the company afloat while Mr McCrae was at the helm.

Mr McCrae resigned on the condition that the Chinese investors guaranteed the funds to ensure CuDeco’s Rocklands copper processing plant, near Cloncurry in northwest Queensland, reached production.

“I put nine years of my life into it. I discovered the copper orebody at Rocklands. At the end when we were going into production the Chinese pulled the rug out from under me,” he said.

“At the time it was like my heart was ripped out.”

Mr McCrae, who splits his time between Main Beach and Cloncurry, entered semi-retirement for more than a year before he was approached by the directors of Ausmex Mining Group.

“I said to Ausmex, ‘I have no interest in getting back into the public arena’. They sent me a package and when I saw my two old gold mines and the other exploration permits I said, ‘I’m in’.”

The mines were the Gilded Rose and Mt Freda gold mines, which Mr McCrae owned in the 1980s.

The former was estimated to hold a rich deposit of 47g of gold to the tonne. But the gold price fell sharply in the late 1980s and both mines were abandoned.

“Now the gold price is above $A1600 an ounce and it makes sense to get back into the gold,” Mr McCrae said. Mr McCrae, who owns a 24 per cent share in Ausmex, is working with the company as a consultant alongside his team from Aerial Geophysics and Survey.

Ausmex, which listed in May after a merger with a Western Australia company, has nine mining leases for gold, copper and cobalt tenements in the Cloncurry area.

It also has four exploration permits including a 26sq km area, 35km southeast of Cloncurry, which is believed to hold a rich cobalt deposit.

Cobalt is in demand due to its use in lithium batteries and the price has surged to above $US56,000 a tonne.

“My role is to find the new stuff. We’re looking for gold, copper and cobalt in that order but my main role is to look for a stand-alone cobalt orebody. The only reason I came back is the quality of the ground and it is ground I know well. It is unfinished business for me.”

Mr McCrae said he does not retain bitterness from how his time ended at CuDeco.

“Initially I felt why would you do that after bringing me so far? I lived and breathed it for so long. It is important people understand the project was bigger than me,” he said.

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