Growing geopolitical and sovereign risk issues in Africa could be one reason more mining entrepreneurs are switching their focus to safer, more stable locales such as New Zealand, with both gold and tungsten proving prospecting drawcards.
Indeed, the list of speakers at the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy New Zealand branch conference in August includes the likes of former Western Areas boss Julian Hanna, OceanaGold chief executive Mick Wilkes, Lihir Gold founder Geoff Louden and Perth identity Miles Kennedy, whose MOD Resources story has a strong New Zealand flavour and could be one to keep an eye on.
After morphing from a junior biotech into a junior explorer in late 2010, MOD announced an agreement last year to earn 80 per cent of the Sam's Creek gold project from OceanaGold, which is preoccupied with its Didipio copper and gold project in the Philippines.
Sam's Creek is in the Golden Bay region. Last week its resource was upgraded from 770,000 ounces to over a million ounces, delivering only a small fillip to MOD's share price which has fallen from over 20 cents in February to around 7c.
The Sam's Creek project lays claim to being New Zealand's largest undeveloped gold project.
MOD started a drilling programme within two weeks of signing the agreement with OceanaGold in October, something just not possible in Western Australia.
Earlier last month Kennedy, who is MOD's chairman, confirmed the bar talk at Takaka's Junction Hotel that the company would soon upgrade the resource based on the results of that initial nine-hole programme.
And this for only the main zone prospect at Sam's Creek, comprising about 10 per cent of the known six-kilometre strike length. To date, the main zone is the only prospect to be systematically explored.
In February, the buzz around MOD was over the company's Botswana copper project, which is between the Boseto (Discovery Metals) and GhaNew Zealandi (Hana Mining) copper-silver discoveries in that country.
MOD shares reached 24.5c then but has since fallen, with investors adopting a more risk-averse approach that hasn't favoured junior explorers.
The Sam's Creek joint venture with OceanaGold marked a return to the New Zealand gold scene for Kennedy 23 years after he founded Macraes Mining and commissioned the Macraes gold mine in the South Island. Macraes is now one of OceanaGold's main New Zealand operations and has produced more than 3.5 million ounces of gold.
Meanwhile, another listed Aussie, Siburan Resources, has been granted prospecting permits covering Kirwans Hill, near Reefton, a promising resource for increasingly rare tungsten. Siburan is also chasing gold, zinc, lead, uranium and copper in Western Australia and Papua New Guinea, New Zealand Quarrying & Mining reported this month.
Tungsten prices have doubled since 2008, reaching US$40,000 a tonne. China holds 60 per cent of known reserves and is cutting its exports, so sites like Kirwans Hill promise, in time, to fill a growing gap in the world market.
Tungsten, which is dense like uranium and gold and has a very high melting point, is used extensively in tools and abrasives manufacturing.
Q&M reports tungsten has been found at 15 South Island sites as well as one on the Coromandel Peninsula and one on Stewart Island.