Article from the Australian Business Review, Barry Fitzgerald, Stockhead
Fedora-wearing Noel “Samso’’ Ong counts himself lucky to have been involved in major gold and diamond discoveries early in his 30-year career as an exploration geologist.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Western Australia in 1992, Ong was a field assistant when Joe Gutnick’s Great Central Mines (GCM) made the Bronzewing gold discovery.
Then followed a breakthrough in the hunt for diamond-bearing pipes when the young Ong was working in the Northern Territory with Ashton Mining.
GCM and Ashton have long left the ASX but Ong continues on the search for the next big discovery, this time in a lightly explored part of the central Gawler Craton in South Australia – at the Highway project.
Highway to sell
The project is the flagship of the new exploration company Ong has brought to the market in a $7-$10 million public offer in Taiton Resources (ASX:T88).
Exploration success at Highway in uncovering a large-scale hydrothermal/ polymetallic porphyry system beneath shallow cover would be a game changer for the industry as much as it would be for Taiton.
That is because success at Highway would extend SA’s famed Olympic copper-gold province – home to the Olympic Dam (BHP), Prominent Hill (OZ Minerals), and Carrapateena (OZ Minerals) mines – hundreds of kilometres to the west.
The new geological interpretation Taiton is pursuing at Highway is supported by geochronology data generated by the company.
“Highway is really intriguing. I talk about it as being the blank canvas waiting for us to draw the picture,’’ said an excited Ong.
“Everyone in the past was looking at the area wrong – it is primed for iron-oxide copper gold and porphyry mineralisation, and is only under 10m of cover.’’
Drill ready country
Taiton’s SA exploration portfolio also includes a gold project covering prospective gravity ridges to the west of the Challenger gold mine. And across in Western Australia, its Lake Barlee gold project to the southeast of the Youanmi has drill ready targets.
A passion for exploration has stayed with Ong since graduation.
But he could also be called the accidental geologist.
“I went to university thinking that I was going to be a clinical psychologist. But I was told that I needed a B-plus average to do honours in clinical psychology, and I knew that was not going to happen,’’ Ong said.
“So I switched to geology,’’ he added, with a laugh.
“There is a family history in the mining industry.
“My grandfather was a gold miner in Malaysia after the Second World War. He had three gold mines in Bau in Sarawak.’’
“Funnily enough, he had four wives and 15 plus kids that we know of. But I am the only one in the family that followed him into the industry.’’
The son of a civil engineer father and a teacher mother, Ong arrived in Australia in 1981.
“I was 11 years old and I’ve been here ever since. Obviously if you do geology in WA, you are stuck!’’
After his stint at Ashton, Ong was involved with gold exploration at Norseman.
“Then I went through the downturn in 1999 when geologists become roof plumbers, taxi drivers, and teachers because there were no jobs.’’
“I then moved on to tantalum and I got involved in the early lithium days with Galaxy,’’ Ong said.
“But come 2009 and I thought, ‘Hey, I could do this for myself’.’’
“I am one of those fortunate people that never got a full-time job with a big company, which meant I had to market myself to create opportunities.’’
“So with no corporate experience I started the listed company journey with Siburan Resources.
“It was 2010 and you couldn’t raise a cent. So I went to South-East Asia and talked to a lot of high net worths, because I had to.”
Siburan listed the day after a 9 per cent fall on the New York market.
“So everything had to be done on the cheap. I was the field assistant, I was the geo, I was the MD, I was investor relations, and I was in charge of marketing,’’ Ong said.
“When it was no longer possible to do what I wanted to do at Siburan, I decided to leave (in January 2017).’’
Banging the Ong
Drawing on his flair for self-marketing to create new opportunities, Ong turned his attention to the creation of Samso, a content channel business dedicated to “telling compelling’’ ASX stories in the resources space, and educating investors about exploration.
“The idea was that it would be good to sit down with a CEO of a company over coffee in a casual setting and talk about stuff – what they do,” he said.
“Because the reality is that a lot of people don’t understand what drill intersections could mean, for example.’’
Ong first published a blog under the Samso banner in 2018. It proved popular and was picked by a publisher.
Ong expanded the offering into the online video space with the launch of the well-known “Coffee with Samso’’ series, with his fedora ever present.
“I don’t have a YouTuber personality but I knew I wanted the interviews to be in a relaxed style, so I looked to the style of Graham Norton, and the Footy Show.’’
As it is, the Samso name (from the Ong family’s labradoodle) is an acronym derived from Ong’s first dog in Australia (Silver), his children’s names and finally, the family name.
And as for the fedora, Ong says he has worn hats all his life and that he became a collector to fill in the downtime in cities on his overseas business travels.
“I learnt that I needed something to go and look for, so I started to look for hats.’’
“And being a geo living in sunny Perth, it makes complete sense to me.’’
About Taiton Resources Limited
Taiton Resources Limited is a mineral exploration company focussed on projects in Western Australia and South Australia.
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