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Introducing Maronan MetalsMaronan Metals are a Junior exploration company operating in the Carpentaria Province area in North East Queensland, Australia.Spun out of Red Metal Limited’s Maronan Project in mid-2022, the Junior explorer announced itself on the ASX with a bang. The highly experienced team led by Managing Director, Richard Carlton, and Exploration Manager, Andrew Barker, quickly secured funds for an 18-month drilling program, building an existing JORC Inferred Resource within an area of Queensland renowned for its rich mineralisation.An aggressive diamond drilling campaign commenced in August 2022. Although it’s still early days, the outlook is bright. As is the case for most Junior explorers, Richard and Andrew’s biggest challenge will be managing cashflow to sustain the business until the moment they make their big hit.An agile drill program designAgile methodology is a modern business approach where work is broken down into short, digestible cycles. The learnings from each cycle adjust the approach to subsequent cycles. The Maronan team are taking an agile approach to drill program design to better manage their costs and improve drill hole targeting. The geology-led strategy aims to ensure that no time or cash is wasted on holes that aren’t going to advance the drill program.For Maronan, this means that, instead of trying to design their entire 18-month drill program in one go, they create iterations of their drill plan based on the assay results of all preceding holes. This is a proven strategy for Juniors. However, it has been historically complicated to execute without the right tools. At times these are tools that have been traditionally even more so out of reach of the small teams that need them the most.Grappling with budget uncertaintyIn the very beginning, Maronan Metals operated as most Junior explorers do. They were using spreadsheets to reconcile their drill plods and invoices, track their cost per metre and generate budget forecasts for the next phase of drilling. This worked…. to some degree. Once they knew they had a year and a half’s worth of drilling to plan and budget for, it quickly became critical for the business to have a deeper understanding of where their money was going and why. “Staying on top of drilling costs and cash burn rate is critical. It’s alarming to think how easy it is for millions of dollars to fall through Junior fingers if you don’t have a good handle on where it’s being spent” - Richard Carlton, Managing Director.“We have always understood our fixed costs well, but these only make up a tiny portion of our budget. Drilling is our highest but most variable cost,” laments Andrew. “We use cost per metre for our budgeting and forecasting, but it was difficult to stay on top of the fluctuations using spreadsheets. Anytime we got new information from the drillers, like if they came back with new charges or we queried something on an invoice, we’d have to go back to the drawing board.”Not only was this frustrating, but it was also an enormous strain on their time as a team of three permanent full-time staff. But the consequences of not doing so can be considerable.Ending spreadsheet purgatoryUnhappy with the prospect of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, Andrew and Richard knew there had to be a better way. And then, Andrew stumbled upon a LinkedIn ad for CorePlan featuring the success of a former colleague, Julian Woodcock, at Viking Mines.It was the moment they were waiting for. A new path forward toward a future that would neutralise the uncertainty of drilling costs and put them in the driver’s seat of the drill program.CorePlan offered a new way for Maronan to organise their operations, where their time would no longer be at the mercy of drilling paperwork. The calculation of cost per metre and drilling invoice charges would take care of itself, meaning fewer surprises throwing their budget out the window, a more accurate burn rate calculation and more time spent on discovery.It was also opportune that Maronan’s current drill contractor, DDH1, had also begun using CorePlan for their whole fleet of surface rigs. While still in the early days of implementation across Australia this presented a perfect opportunity for both client and contractor to gather data and analyse it promptly together.Taking a deep dive into cost per metreThe impact of switching from spreadsheets to CorePlan was realised virtually overnight.The Maronan team import their drill plods at the end of every shift to gain instant insights into costs and performance - without the time and hassle of having to trawl through spreadsheets for hours at a time.From day one, they have been able to easily track their cost per metre down to the individual shift level. Over time, they have been able to observe and deeply understand all of the variables affecting their costs, like time activities and consumable usage.Using the drill production analytics in CorePlan’s drill program intelligence software, Andrew has total visibility into business-critical metrics like penetration rate, cost per metre and total metres drilled to better understand what’s happening in the field.Being able to review cost and production data daily means that operational changes can be made immediately. Never again will the team have to digest a month’s worth of low pen rate or high cost per metre, unknowingly draining their budget away and delaying time to completion.This has helped the team to stay on top of their burn rate and plan their drilling spending more strategically to maximise their chances of discovery.Now that they have more visibility into drilling performance, Maronan it sets a strong base for a good relationship with their drillers and as a result they experience fewer issues at the end of the month.“There's no use reviewing costs at the end of the month - they're ancient history by then,” says Richard. “People leave, everyone forgets what happened, and it's almost impossible to follow things up. But when it happened yesterday - you can.”“It's easier to find out what happened and make corrections if required. Being able to visualise daily data in CorePlan improves our confidence that things are under control.”The power of sampling visibilityAnother challenge faced by Junior explorers is maintaining investor trust.Timely communication of assay data is key to securing further funding, but sometimes this extends beyond your control. Once your samples leave the yard, you’re at the whim of the labs that themselves experience fluctuating demand or incur delays that may even impact the timing of the next round of drilling.“Our original goal was to get a handle on all of our costs, but the other benefits we’ve achieved, like sample visibility, have been a huge bonus for us”, Andrew reports.“We’re using CorePlan’s sample dispatch tool to keep a close eye on our samples. I can see when we shipped a batch, if and when it arrives at the lab and how long it’s been there.” “This makes it easy to follow up if we’ve been waiting longer than expected. It also gives us more certainty around when we think we’ll be ready to share our next investor update and start planning our next round of drilling.”When it’s time to plan the next iteration of drilling, Maronan can execute its agile drill plan with enhanced accuracy.“In CorePlan, our plods are now automatically matched against our drill plan. Because we can easily verify that the drilling has been executed correctly, we can have more confidence in our results.” “For instance, we can confirm if the actual hole depth, dip and azimuth match our plan. This helps us to confirm that our samples came from where they were supposed to.”“Ultimately, it means that we can improve our targeting, abandon holes that aren’t going to add value and extract maximum value from our budget.”‘A solution that pays for itself in time saved’Today, Maronan Metals’ operations are running more smoothly. Any fluctuations in penetration rate or cost per metre are much better understood because of timely information, despite drilling to greater depths.Andrew and Richard were finally able to say goodbye to spreadsheets to track drilling activities and focus on tasks that move the needle.“The cost of CorePlan is less than the cost of our time previously spent having to manually count our costs and chasing up drill plods from all over the place,” says Andrew. “It’s paid for itself, really!”Meanwhile, communication on drilling progress between operations on the ground in Queensland and Sydney office has never been better.“I’m based onsite in Queensland, but Richard works from Sydney,” says Andrew. “CorePlan has helped us stay on the same page despite the distance because we can access the same information at the same time. This saves us a lot of back and forth. I’m also travelling a lot, so it’s great being able to keep in touch with what’s happening on the ground.”It’s still relatively early days for the Maronan team, but they are perfectly positioned to rapidly and cost-effectively scale their operations when they make their big hit.“Any Junior could do this. It only took us a few hours to get started. We’re so glad we signed up to CorePlan when we did!”
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