RNC Minerals – Has The Scale & Returns That Strategic Partners Need (Transcript)

A group of four mining workers stand proudly in front of a huge hunk of gold ore.

Interview with Johnna Muinonen, President of Dumont Nickel (TSX:RNX).

Production-ready, shovel ready, development-ready. Dumont Nickel has been positioned as a free ride for shareholders, but the reality is that Dumont may hit the market at just the right point in this cycle for RNC Minerals shareholders. Completing their upgrade of the PFS means that strategic partners will look at Dumont as a shovel ready project which is fully optimised say Muinonen.

We ask what the brief is from the board. What is the timing? What do you think about what you heard? We also discuss the timing and nickel market forecasts. How relevant is the EV revolution to estimates and at what point Dumont and RNC makes decisions about the timing as to when the company monetises this asset for RNC Minerals shareholders.

Let us know what you think about Johnna Muinonen. Does she make you confident? Does RNC Minerals know what it is doing?

Interview highlights:

  • RNC & Dumont: What is the Situation? Best Way Forwards: How Much Control Have They Got Only Owning 28%, What Will They be Able to do?
  • Analysing Dumont: What is There and How Expensive Will it be?
  • Market Dynamics, Nickel and Gold Cycles: How Does One Affect the Other?
  • Opinions on EV’s
  • Value Creation for Shareholders and Dumont Potential
  • What Can They Do in This Cycle and How Will it Affect RNC Shareholders? Financing Talks: Why Invest Now and Why are People Hesitant?
  • Production Values and Cash Generation Potential

Click here to watch the full interview.


Matthew Gordon: Hi Johnna. You are here in London.

Johnna Muinonen: Yes, for LME week.

Matthew Gordon: A lot of Nickel people here for that?

Johnna Muinonen: A lot of nickel people here for that. So, it’s always a good week to come to London because everybody’s here so you get to meet everybody.

Matthew Gordon: RNC is moving to be a gold focus business, but it has this very large nickel play in the shape of Dumont. So, how’s that panning out? Because if I look at some of your presentations from June, you have about 15-20 pages on Dumont. But if you look at the presentation today, 4. What’s happening?

Johnna Muinonen: With Paul coming in as CEO we are really a gold focus company. No question about it. However, what I’d like to talk to you about today is that we own 28% of one of the largest undeveloped sulphide projects in the world. And we feel that we can add value to RNC shareholders by looking at various options for Dumont moving forward.

Matthew Gordon: That’s 28%. Waterton own the balance. What do they do?

Johnna Muinonen: In 2017, we sold 50% of Dumont to Waterton. They’re a private equity firm. They are now our partners and Dumont. Dumont is fully 100% owned within the JV. We are now 28% and Waterton is 72%. RNC remains the operator and manager of the JV. We do all the technical work for Dumont as well and then work with Waterton in terms of looking at strategically moving the project forward. Financing and marketing.

Matthew Gordon: What does that actually equate to? You mentioned a phrase ‘for shareholder value creation’, as directive from Paul. Is there a time line on that? What are the options on the table? What are you thinking about doing here? You’re only 28% shareholder.

Johnna Muinonen: We’re not getting a lot of value for Dumont in our share price. We do feel that we want to make sure that we maximize that value for our shareholders. We are looking at strategic options. That was my directive from Paul on the board when I took on the role as president Dumont Nickel that we need to look at, what could we possibly do to actually get some value for Dumont to our shareholders, to RNC. And that could really involve several different things. We’re looking at options around spin outs, potentially a sale, potentially we hold it until nickel prices come up a little bit. So, everything’s on the table.

Matthew Gordon: The G&A is quite low. Not a lot of overhead associated with it right now.

Johnna Muinonen: So, let me explain a little bit the way the JV is funded. When we got into the JV with Waterton, Waterton funded our portion of the holding costs for 5-years. So, they funded a portion of the costs. Currently, all the work that we have planned that we’ve done to date, we pay 28% from within that funding. So, currently the work that we have planned for the next, say 18 months to 2-years is currently fully funded within the JV. So, it is a bit of a free carry for RNC right now.

Matthew Gordon: Waterton is dependent on you to inform them as to what to do. They’re a private equity firm, they’re not miners. They’ve stumbled across mining assets or they’ve funded mining assets, but they’re not by any means experts. How does that relationship work?

Johnna Muinonen: It’s been a bit interesting and we’ve been doing it for almost 3-years now. We’re getting pretty good at it. What it really works is the JV is structured, it has a board. Waterton has two seats on the board, RNC has two seats on the board. We have a technical committee below the board, which is made up of, again, two people from Waterton and two people from RNC. Essentially, the way it works is we look at the work that we believe needs to be done. And generally, this is in concert with Waterton. We don’t show up one day and say, hey, we need this amount of work. We do talk through and we meet regularly to talk through what work do we think would be value added? The feasibility was one of them, about probably close to a year and a half ago, we started talking about, OK, we have a feasibility study from 2012. It’s getting a bit stale. Costs are getting a bit old. We all believe in the nickel market eventually starting to rise and we wanted to get ready for it. And so, between them and us, we discuss what would the scope of it be? How would we run it? Who would be the engineer? And then once we sort of decide that the budget and the scope and get that approved through both the technical committee and then into the board, we then go off and execute.

Matthew Gordon: That’s the dynamic between you and Waterton. What about Paul Huet, the CEO of RNC. He’s a gold guy. You guys have also got to agree about the best way forward. So, it’s great giving you a directive saying maximize shareholder value. But, as you say, this is dependent on price of nickel now, when you believe the next cycle is and what you can do in this cycle, right?

Johnna Muinonen: There’s a lot of moving parts. And right now, we’re just starting to work through that, because the reality is there isn’t a lot of benchmarks out there about value for development nickel projects, because the reality is there aren’t a lot of development nickel projects out there. it’s not like copper or gold where you can go out and benchmark a whole pile of sales purchases. So, it does become a bit more difficult to sort of really quantify Dumont’s value.

Matthew Gordon: We know it’s a big project. It’s going to require a lot of money. You’ve got to bring in strategic partners. They’ve got to bring a lot of money, maybe technical knowhow, but maybe you guys got that covered. Give us an overview.

Johnna Muinonen: Dumont is a very large scale, low cost, long life asset. It’s a billion-ton reserve. It is going to produce in the first phase, which is seven years above 33,000 tons of nickel annually, expanding in year seven to 50,000 tons of nickel annually and over the 30-year life will produce 39,000 tons of nickel annually. We are located in the Abitibi region of Quebec in a very active mining region. We have lots of local support. So, we have all of the pieces in place to be ready for the next boom. If we look at what work needs to be done to get us into production, we’re talking about a 30-months to 33-months, both engineering and construction. So, from financing, the reality is that’s the lead time. But if you look around the world and you look within sort of low risk jurisdictions, there isn’t a lot out there of scale. There’s lots of smaller operations that will produce sort of say 10,000-15,000 tonnes of nickel a year in Australia, in Brazil, in smaller mines in Canada, in Europe. However, there’s really when you look at sort of the world landscape of sulphide deposits, there really isn’t anything or a lot that’s out there in a development ready, production ready, shovel ready type build like Dumont, which is what I find exciting about it.

Matthew Gordon: Dumont’s got that. There aren’t too many others, or if there are you can count them on one hand. What are the numbers involved? Because large scale means large cost.

Johnna Muinonen: We are looking at building a 50,000-ton concentrator which is large, but it is well within the scale of operation in the area. So, we are right located just outside of Amos Quebec. We’re on an all-weather highway and we have a powerline that runs 5km north of the project. And within 10km, there’s two other large open pit mines of similar scale. So, there’s lots of experience in the region on that sort of scale of operation. But it is a large project. It is $1Bn initial capital.

Matthew Gordon: That’s a lot of money.

Johnna Muinonen: Absolutely it is.

Matthew Gordon: Is it a normal number?

Johnna Muinonen: It is a normal number. When you’re looking at building a 50,000 tons per day mine and mill, you’re looking at $1Bn.

Matthew Gordon: So, that must restrict or give you a very good sense of who you can go and talk to?

Johnna Muinonen: Oh absolutely.

Matthew Gordon: And what are they thinking? Because they’re looking at ‘can we do something this cycle?’ Are you guys ready? Or is it next cycle, in which case, when’s that?

Johnna Muinonen: If you had asked me the same question 10 months ago, people would’ve been like ‘$4 nickel, $5 nickel’, not so sure. I think over the last sort of 3 or 4 months of interest we’re getting more calls. We’re getting more calls, getting more inbound interest by various people who do want to talk. And they’re not small players. They’re people that want to talk about when does it fit? When are you ready? What does it look like? And the $1Bn is a big price tag. But when you start to break it down into pieces, you look at there will be a senior debt facility in that probably to the tune of about $500M. There’ll be some equipment financing. The equity cheque at the end of the day to pull it off, take a loan as part of that, maybe a small stream of the precious metals, potentially. The equity portion of that is probably in the $300M range. So, when you start to break it down like that, it’s not we’re going to go out and build $1Bn… We’ve got to go raise that.

Matthew Gordon: And you’re 28% of that?

Johnna Muinonen:  And we’re 28% of that. Exactly.

Matthew Gordon: And so, again, it depends on what’s happening in the rest of RNC that will determine what the cost of that money is and where indeed where you put it in, project level, presumably. How do you go about having those discussions with people about the cost of that money and how do you retain as much as possible, because your brief is’ shareholder value’, right?

Johnna Muinonen: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Matthew Gordon: You’re 28%, so you’ve got to create some shareholder value, more than it is today.

Johnna Muinonen: Which is arguably not much, I’ll admit that.

Matthew Gordon: I certainly think you’re not getting much credit for it and I think it’s partly the company has said, ‘Oh, and you get Dumont for free’, that kind of strapline, which is a little bit disingenuous’.

Johnna Muinonen: Yeah. No, no, I mean it really is. I have heard that said ‘oh and you get Dumont for free’. Well I mean if you look at it, if we look at even the two commodities, I realize we are a gold focused company, and our real focus is on the gold assets in Australia. No question about that. But in a rising nickel price environment, where you’re starting to get interest and excitement around people realizing the world’s going to need a lot of nickel in about five years’ time. Where are we getting that from? Dumont has the real potential to add value to RNC.

Matthew Gordon: Is that part of your equation then? It’s like maybe we’re be better waiting for five years?

Johnna Muinonen: We’ve talked about it. Absolutely. Because Dumont is funded within the JV. And I think that’s where we get that whole ‘oh, we get it for free’. You know, the fact is, is that we are funded for several years within the JV. And so, it is a bit of a free carry. So, it is a bit of nickel exposure, future opportunity. However, in the short-term, looking at our shareholders, looking at the focus of the company, we may want to do something sooner rather than later. And like I said, we’re not about to put up for file, so we’re not in a rush. We have cash in the bank.

Matthew Gordon: You’ve got cash in the bank. The costs of running this thing for another 5-years is negligible in the scheme of things. Not negligible in terms of dollars. You’ve got salaries, permits to maintain all of that kind of thing. But you’ll do the math and work out whether you just deal with it now, focus on gold or you wait 5-years because the upside could be because of demand story. It’s going to be better for shareholders.

Johnna Muinonen: And it’s hard because you can’t predict the future. And so, if you look at today and you say, well, maybe the best option for shareholders, do something now, to clarify the structure, be a pure gold company. Maybe that has more value now than having two assets. And being, personally, I know people say it’s confusing. Are we gold or are we nickel? What are we? So, maybe there is value, but it is a bit of a…nobody has a crystal ball. So, you can’t really say, well, in 5-years’ time…

Matthew Gordon: It’s not distracting you financially or otherwise?

Johnna Muinonen: We have a team in Australia that’s fully dedicated to the gold. That is their focus. We have a smaller team within Canada that works on the Dumont story.

Matthew Gordon: How does RNC make the decision about timing? Because obviously the gold part of the business is moving along. It’s normalizing relationships in the marketplace as people understand the business plan. Is there any pressure from what’s happening in the gold side business, which affects your decision making on the nickel side?

Johnna Muinonen: I think the gold side is ramping up. We’re coming along there, the gold side. Like you say, it’s normalizing. We’ve seen a lot of success recently. We’ve hit a couple more pockets of the higher-grade gold. So, that is moving forward. And really, with Graham in Australia and Paul, they really have that managed. Because Dumont is funded within the JV for RNC’s portion, there’s no real immediate need for us to take cash from profits in Australia and funnel it towards the nickel. So, at the moment we are under no immediate pressure to do anything about it. However, we are in an interesting nickel market right now, very much more so than when we completed. So, when completed the fees back in June, nickel was $5.50 a pound. Nickel is now hovering between 7.50 and 8 dollars a pound. The stocks on the LME are almost at an all-time low. So, we’re in a very different place. So, we want to make sure that we do look right now at taking advantage of this current nickel price to see if there’s that appetite. But at the end of the day, we’re not going to fire sale Dumont.

Matthew Gordon: Sure. But neither are you going to decide rashly, because nickel is famously volatile, right? You’ve been through various super cycles of nickel and they last a long time. And I think we talked about it, bits of scrap metal getting to the market if the prices stay high for long enough. And that’s going to again, give us a false impression of supply for a while.

Johnna Muinonen: Absolutely. I agree. If we look at right now, this recent price action is really somewhat artificially generated by Indonesia exclusively. Where Indonesia has restricted the export of ore into China to make NPI. So, originally, they had restricted as of the end of the year, but then people were starting to massively export ore above and beyond their current permits. So as of Monday, they announced that it was shut down completely. Whether or not that’s going to be permanent or going to be for a few weeks until they figure out what’s going on, we don’t know. However, it’s definitely a supply control versus demand. With this rising nickel price environment, it is going to draw out stockpiles of stainless-steel scrap of ferro nickel that has been sitting in people’s backyards waiting for nickel to go above five or six dollars.

Matthew Gordon: I think we know which backyards.

Johnna Muinonen: Yes, we do. So, we will need to chew through that as an industry.

Matthew Gordon: How long?

Johnna Muinonen: Probably, next year into Q1, Q2. It’s not a huge amount. However, there is some. And stainless is still pretty soft in terms of the demand side of things.

[17:39] Matthew Gordon: And that’s going to affect prices?

Johnna Muinonen:  It will. Absolutely.

Matthew Gordon: But it will bounce back up?

Johnna Muinonen: I mean long term, we have seen year on year deficits in nickel production into the industry. We’re on our third year of deficits. I believe next year the International Study Group is predicting another small deficit. We are seeing these deficits. We do need new nickel to come online at some point in time. And that’s really just the stainless-steel story, you start to overlap the EV’s story on top of that. I think the challenge with EV’s is nobody’s quite sure how fast, how much and when. But it is definitely out there. EV’s especially within China, within Europe, all of the large major auto companies are now announcing major plans for EV cars to come out, various models. But it’s a bit uncertain about timing. And I 100% believe it’s coming. I personally drive an EV. I think that once you drive them you realize exactly why people love their EVs. But it is coming. I do think it will probably be slower and I think if you really look at the industry on the OEM side of things, specially within the historical the OEMs, they have so much infrastructure built into building internal combustion engine cars. That is going to be a very hard tide to change quickly. They have billions of dollars invested in plants and invested in manufacturing lines. Plus, you just need to ramp up the battery and cathode supply side. There’s a huge amount of capital that will need to be spent to actually make all these batteries. It’s not just tomorrow. So, when we look at Dumont, the one thing I’m very excited about is if you look at the world of nickel and you look at nickel sulphide deposits the reality is there just aren’t that many or any nickel sulphide deposits that are currently permitted in a low risk jurisdiction that can produce something in the order of 30,000 to 50,000 tons of nickel annually for 30 years. And that’s where I think Dumont’s value really is.

Matthew Gordon: How long did the last cycle last?

Johnna Muinonen: Oh, I mean, the down cycle, the reality is that we haven’t seen a true nickel bull market since 2007/2008 really. I mean, there was a bit of a bull market 2010 when RNC first IPO’d. We sort of lucked into a window there back in 2010, but otherwise it ran up a little bit 2013. But we haven’t been in a true bull market for a while.

Matthew Gordon: We’ve seen some pretty big numbers forecast. What are the conversations internally with Waterton.

Johnna Muinonen: There’s sort of two conversations. One is how do we maximize value for RNC shareholders? And then how do we maximize value for Dumont within the JV? And what does the structure of the JV… It’s a JV between two partners.  

Matthew Gordon: Why are those two separate things?

Johnna Muinonen: Not necessarily. Maybe they get cleared up in one step. Well, in terms of ownership, in terms of how Dumont is owned. And maybe there’s options around things like potentially… to get to your point of you can’t predict the future, looking at an alternative for Dumont that separates it in some form from RNC, but potentially RNC retains an interest of some sort of upside potential. I don’t know exactly what that looks like. But maybe there’s something there where you kind of look at doing the best of both worlds. You create a clean gold company, a clean nickel company but RNC at some level retains some sort of upside interests. We are talking about that, looking at that, what does it look like? Adding a new NSR onto Dumont’s probably not doable but revamping something around that or something. But there are options that we’re looking at because that really for RNC shareholders, that would start to reduce some of these short-term risks of just selling it. It removes the management in Operation and Distraction.

Matthew Gordon: So, these are not unusual considerations in the mining space and those conversations have happened before. But if I’m a long-time, long-suffering shareholder, I am asking the question, ‘how long do you guys need to monetize this?’

Johnna Muinonen: I’ve been there almost 10 years now.

Matthew Gordon: 10 years. Mines can take 10 years to get into operation. So, this has had, because of the nature of the nickel market… I must explain here. It’s not like gold. It’s not like copper. So, you can go in fits and bursts, but people are saying, ‘just get it over and done with. I need to see something now’. What do you think it could do for RNC if you did do something this cycle?

Johnna Muinonen: If we did do something this cycle, first of all, in the short-term, there might be a potential to offer RNC some sort of initial consideration. RNC has some debt outstanding. There’re opportunities for capital spend in Australia as well, potentially. If we could monetize Dumont in some way, some short-term value. I think longer term having or retaining some sort of upside consideration is really where that’s where you get exposure to the nickel prices. The last time nickel ran, we went from $1.98 up to $25 a 1lbs. Nickel is the most volatile of the base metals, it goes the highest and it goes the lowest and it dives the lowest. So, having some exposure to that long-term, I think that that’s how we go about adding value.

Matthew Gordon: What do you think you need to deliver for this cycle to be able to put you in the position, to give you the opportunity to have those conversations?

Johnna Muinonen: We’re completing the updated feasibility study. We had to do that just because if we had not done that, we would be trying to market Dumont with an outdated study. So, that was done. The next stages: one is off the back of that study. We need to make sure that our stakeholders, which include the government, including the local communities, are all updated on the study, as well as updating things like closure plans, updating looking at our CFA’s, making sure that we don’t need to do anything there or if we do, start to take care of that. Because what we want to make sure is we build Dumont as a shovel ready project, which essentially means what is shovel ready? Shovel ready means that you have your permits in place. You have your land ownership. You have your surface options. You have your mining lease. You have your closure plans. You have your technical study up to date. So, making sure all of those things are maintained because updating your Feasibility Study. That Feasibility Study forms the basis for all of those sorts of feed forward information flow to the government as well. So, the next in the short-term, making sure that we have all of that, maintaining our shovel ready status, that is very important. A couple of things, some of the more optional ones, are really around looking at some of the value-added opportunities that we saw come out of Feasibility Study. So, in the feasibility study, we saw some opportunities around automation, truck automation, just like the EV story, just like all of the things, haul truck automation is coming along faster than… so, by the time Dumont gets into production trucks of that scale will almost all be automated. So, we want to look at that because that adds significant value. We want to look at potentially magnetite off-take. We want to look at some technical equipment choices. So, there are a few things we’d like to look at over the next sort of 6-months to look at how is there an opportunity to add more value to Dumont? Because that really speaks to investors who want to come in to say, what are my upsides? Here’s the project, what else could I get?

Matthew Gordon: But you can have these conversations now because you’ve got to leave something on the table for them because they can go, well, maybe we automate this. There’s an opportunity margin for them, right? Are you having conversations now?

Johnna Muinonen: We’ve had ongoing conversations with people over the last three to four years.

Matthew Gordon: Who?

Johnna Muinonen: The major mining companies, nickel companies. We’re talking with downstream OEMs. Battery companies, as well as trading firms.

Matthew Gordon: But some of those are more realistic like those OEMs, EV revolution, a couple years out, mining companies, they know who you are and you’re one of a handful of big, large scale operations for nickel. So, why aren’t they knocking at your door now?

Johnna Muinonen: I think they’re keeping they’re in a bit of a wait and see approach right now.

Matthew Gordon: What are they waiting for?

Johnna Muinonen: I think they’re waiting for a couple of things. I think that they’re waiting for the nickel demand side of the story to become much stronger.

Matthew Gordon: They’ve got to have a view on this, because they must be looking at nickel, reading the same reports I’m reading going, it’s all good, right? So, why not come in now? What’s stopping them?

Johnna Muinonen: A history of greenfield nickel projects that have not been successful. Now they’re much more complicated than ours. They’re very much higher risk jurisdictions, much more complicated flow sheets. Dumont is a very standard mine and mill, as opposed to some of the very complicated HPALs or a laterite projects that have been blown out the water.

Matthew Gordon: By complicated, do you mean more expensive?

Johnna Muinonen: Technically complicated, which then leads to more expensive, significantly more expensive. We are a mine and a mill. On a scale of simple, people know how to build mines and mills.

Matthew Gordon: People should be attracted to that. You’re saying people still just aren’t committing because the nickel price is doing what they think it should be doing.

Johnna Muinonen: I think that they’re still in a wait and see mode. Absolutely they have forecasts. I mean, absolutely. They think that the future of nickel is, ‘we are about to enter a bull market over the next 12-months to 18-months’. They’re keeping in touch. They’re making sure, knowing what’s up, knowing what’s happening. But I think people are waiting to see the demand side start to get a little bit stronger. I just think that with the supply restraint in Indonesia…We were at $5 a pound 3-months ago. I just think most people haven’t quite caught up and there’s still there’s a bit of a disbelief that now we’re between $7.50 and $8, let’s just have a wait and see for a bit.

Matthew Gordon: They want some consistency.

Johnna Muinonen:  Do we make it through this next quarter? Do we see the price fall back? And if so, how much does it fall back? How much scrap is really out there that’s going to come into the market?

Matthew Gordon: That’s a question of pricing. How much they are going to pay. Not a question of if, it’s a question of what’s the optimal timing for us to work out how much this is going to cost us? Is that what you’re saying?

Johnna Muinonen: I think in some ways. I do think that whole EV story… I do believe in the EV story. But I do think the question on speed that it’s going to advance and the timing. I think that most people are still somewhat bearish on some of those estimates. And so, people are still taking that wait and see. Everybody believes that the EVs are coming and that batteries are going to be a significant consumer of nickel moving forward. But timing! Is it really 2023 or is it 2025? What are we really going to need this nickel to come on board? And then with the run up that’s been so sudden and somewhat unexpected, I think people are just sort of wait and see. So, keeping in touch and making sure they know what the updates are, what’s happening.

Matthew Gordon: If someone puts a $1Bn, gets this thing built out for you. What do they expect to make?

Johnna Muinonen: If you look at the free cash flow of the project over the life of the deposit, somewhere, EBITDA $200M annually. It’s a large cash generating project. It is a low cost. Overall our C1 cash costs over the life of mine (LOM) are just over $3 – $3.22 are all in sustaining cash (AISC) per pound on a U.S. dollar basis is just under $4 at about $3.90. So, when you’re looking at projects to invest, because the thing about nickel, I talked about it before, nickel is the most volatile of the base metals, it jumps the highest and it falls the lowest. If you’re going to invest $1Bn in the project, you need to make sure that that $1Bn is going to be paid back. You have to make money.

Matthew Gordon: And there’s a cost to it.

Johnna Muinonen: And there’s a cost to it. There’s interest there. There’s a cost to that to everybody. The reason why I believe in Dumont, one of the reasons, is just because of its scale. So, we have a 30-year life project. That 30-year life allows you to take advantage of those peaks and valleys of the nickel cycle. And because it’s such a large scale, low-cost project, you are profitable along that that entire time. Any investor that comes in has that time on their side to be able to get back their investment. Because nickel, unlike copper, it does really go up and down. When you look at some other projects that are $300M – $500M to invest, but only are 10-years, you can really easily miss the price cycle.

Matthew Gordon: The cost of building the plant, aggregated at over 10 years versus 30 years. We understand that. Johnna thanks very much for coming in. Brilliant to catch up with you. We understand your brief. Monetise this for shareholders. That’s what they want to hear from you in the next few months. How you going to do it, what are those discussions are developing and what it’s going to mean for them.

Johnna Muinonen: Our focus is shareholder value. And the board and Paul have given me very clear direction around looking at what we can do with Dumont to maximise shareholder value.


Company page: http://www.rncminerals.com/

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Regulus Resources – Credible Copper Company Creating Cash Coppertunity (Transcript)

A map of Regulus Resources' assets including the Antakori Project.

Interview with John Black, CEO of Regulus Resources (TSX-V:REG).

In the mining country of Peru, Regulus Resources specialise in identifying promising copper or copper-gold exploration projects. Large copper and gold projects are in high demand and short on the ground.

This team thinks they have the perfect asset for a major mining operation to extract. Regulus has a market cap of $120M and while the share price rose in March to $1.92 after promising drill results (34 holes with 820 meters of a 0.77% copper equivalent), they’ve now receded down to around $1.36.

Regulus Resources is an excellent example of a copper/gold company in the evaluation period of its life cycle. There is clear potential exemplified by the level of investment by management in Regulus projects, the experience and track record of the management team, and their strong list of assets.

However, Regulus Resources has work to do before investors can think about scheduling an extravagant party with no expenses spared upon the sale of their shares. While no hitches are expected, Regulus Resources is still waiting for a permit to come through for their asset in the North of the property, which isn’t the fastest process in Peru. Liquidity of their stock is an issue: a symptom of the company’s position in its life cycle but also because the stock is so closely held by a just few insiders, c.70%. Regulus Resources is conscious of this as they enter their next round of fundraising.

Capital is available but management must decide what type of investor they want to come in at this stage. Regulus Resources needs to convince prospective retail investors their copper/gold project has what it takes. This can take a significant amount of time and not all investors are willing to play the long game.

Regulus Resources is in a heavy drilling phase that has only just begun and there is lots of work left to do and funds to raise. The management’s track record suggests that they are capable of creating real value for shareholders by developing exploration assets. While Regulus Resources looks like a safe, stable investment, with solid if unspectacular long term prospects, it looks unlikely to be making shareholders money anytime soon; that will require them reaching a point where larger mining operators come in and bring it through to production. For the patient investor, money is certainly there to be made, but just how long is the long-term? What did you make of John Black? Let us know in the comments below.

We Discuss:

  • Company Overview
  • Update on the Jurisdiction: Permitting Processes in Peru
  • Share Price Bump in August: How are They Continuing to Grow the Share Price: Working the Cycles: Can They Raise Money and How?
  • Focus and Strategy: Have They Got the Money to Make it a Reality?
  • Creating Value: Should You Invest in Regulus Resources?

Click here to watch the interview.


Matthew Gordon: We spoke to you back in the beginning of May. Can you give us a one-minute summary for people new to the story?

John Black: We have a company that we’re a group of seasoned explorers and we specialize in identifying large copper or copper gold projects at a relatively early stage, but at a stage when it’s clear that it will be a fairly strong project. We capture those projects, we drill those out, and then ideally, we deliver a large, economically robust resource to the market at a time when major companies are looking to acquire these type projects.

Matthew Gordon: You have project’s in Peru. Peru’s a well-known mining region and district. You’re surrounded by some big name companies. How have things been since we spoke in May.

John Black: When we spoke in May, we had just put out first resource estimate on the project. So, between indicated and inferred resources, we announced over a 500Mt resource of attractive copper gold grades on the project. And we were just entering into our Phase 2 drill program. Our Phase 2 programs designed to be about 25,000m. We’re about halfway through that program and we’ve been announcing some very eye-catching drill results from that drill program.

Matthew Gordon: You’re waiting for a permit to come through. Any reason to believe that that won’t come through?

John Black: No. The good thing about Peru is it’s a mining country. It’s a fairly standard process. It’s a very transparent process in the sense that there’s no jumping the queue or anything like that. The frustration that many of us have with Peru is that sometimes it’s a slow process and you don’t know exactly when it comes out. But ours is fairly straightforward. And it’s just a wait now. We anticipate that we’ll have the permit by the end of the year.

Matthew Gordon: And no challenges or issues from that neighbour?

John Black: No, not at all. No. The fact that we’re next door actually helps us. We’re more of a brownfield situation and we’re in Northern Peru, we’re in Cajamarca. We’re in an area that is a mining community in the area. And we don’t have indigenous community issues or anything like that. We have good support from the local communities on moving forward. So, it’s just a just a process. The process now involves a number of other ministries, not simply just mining. You have to check off with other interests in the country. And that’s good for us. That means that it confirms that we have broad support to go forward with what we’re doing.

Matthew Gordon: When we spoke in May, your share price was about $1.45. It’s about $1.30 at the moment. But you’ve had this peak, had a bit of a run up in August, September. Can you tell us why that was?

John Black: What we’re seeing and is an interesting pattern in our space right now as we drill the project out. We’re drilling lengthy holes into a fairly large deposit. And so, we have drill results coming out about every two months. And we’ve been announcing some rather spectacular results. Results that came out in September included hole 34 with 820m with a 0.77% copper equivalent. Eye-catching results on that. That catches the market’s interest. We tend to see a run up in price. But we’re fighting headwinds right now with trade tariffs affecting copper price and affecting sentiment in the copper space. And so, we tend to see a pattern where we have good news results in a run up and then we drift back off until we get the next good news coming out. We believe the results we’ve been putting out warrant more steady, positive results that accumulate over time on this. But our trading pattern has resulted in kind of flat for the year.

Matthew Gordon: Yeah, it’s kind of flat overall. I was just interested in that peak because you went up to circa 175, then back down at 130. It dropped off rapidly. And you’re putting that down to trade tariffs and commodity price as a result of the trade times. Right? But are you at that kind of funny stage in terms of your drilling. You’ve got about four rigs, is that right, in the ground at the moment?

John Black: We’re currently drilling with four rigs. Yeah.

Matthew Gordon: OK so that’s giving you meaningful data, that you’re that kind of funny stage where you’re waiting to tell people what it is that you think you got there in the ground and how do you sustain, how do you consistently convey what it is that you’re trying to do or trying to be to enable the share price to actually start going upwards?

John Black: Well, the good thing is this is not the first time we’ve done this says as a company. Our business model is to get on a project like this and drill it out. We have good access to capital, we have good supporters, good shareholders on this. And so, we focus on steadily drilling the deposit out, demonstrating the size of it and de-risking it. It’s kind of a funny market that we’re in right now is there’s a lot of positive sentiment for copper in particular. And when you talk to major mining companies, they’re all trying to position themselves to have large copper deposits. There’s a general consensus that there will be a looming shortage of copper as we see further electrification of vehicles. And quite frankly, we’re not putting too many new mines on in production is an industry right now. However, in the short term, there’s uncertainty. I mentioned the trade tariffs. It’s partially centred around that, maybe global economy as well on this. And so, I’ve described it as the most positive yet, cash poor market that I’ve seen right now, where everybody seems to be in agreement that copper is a great place to be, but everybody’s waiting for it to happen. And so, everybody’s watching. They’re taking a look, but they’re afraid to be the first movers on this. We see this commonly in the market when we’re on a market, bottom or lower spot on this. Nobody wants to go first. Everybody wants to wait. Everybody agrees it’s a good idea, but they need to see those breakouts and sustained breakouts. Quite frankly, it’ll be mostly in copper price for us if we see, for example, trade tariffs resolved between the US and China or a general more positive feeling on global growth. We will most likely see the copper price move and then names like us will be in a very good position because we’re working on a large deposit, one that’s very attractive for people to acquire. And so, we kind of look one to two years out is where we want to be, and it’d be nice if our share price was steadily climbing and that, but we know we’re building the base so that when the positive sentiment comes back, then we’ll probably see a rather sharp uptick for names like ourselves and many others.

Matthew Gordon: So, what’s the thinking for you? I mean, how do you deal with these cycles? OK so you’re a bulk play. You’ve got some credits with gold, silver. So that’s kind of appealing. But it’s very it’s a low-grade belt play here. Do your shareholders like, Route One I think one thing was someone who was on board, do they say we’ll continue to follow our money? We believe in the thesis, we believe in this management teams’ ability to deliver this project. Will they continue to fund you or are they now sitting back and also waiting to see what the market does?

John Black:  No. Route One’s, a very steady supporter for us. They’ve actually encouraged us to go out and take advantage of these low spots in the market, both to acquire projects. Quite frankly, the Anta Kori project we had, we acquired it in 2014 when the market was even a more difficult situation right now. So, we like these soft spots in the market. It’s a good time to acquire projects. It’s a good time to work on them. It’s easier to get drill rigs, prices are cheaper. Good qualified people are available. So, the important thing is to have access to capital and be able to work steadily in these periods where the market’s struggling a little bit more. Then we’re building up the resource, we’re building up the project that we want to have when the market hits that boom. And then the thing about our business is it’s very cyclical when we have these low spots, we always see the high spots come back on it. So, it always seems a little scary while you’re waiting for them. Yes. But we’ve been through this a few times before. And that’s the important thing, is to work steadily, focus on project quality. You want to have a project that stands out. We believe we have that with Anta Kori. You mentioned a key point is it’s not only copper on this project as a strong precious metal’s component to very significant gold content. So, we kind of have some protection on metal prices. Copper is down a little bit now, but gold’s up a little bit, too.

Matthew Gordon: Where you were in 2014 and having Route One encourage you to buy something in 2014 is different from today. You didn’t have assets then. You have assets now. The market, the cycle is at a low point now. What is Route One telling you to do today? Because they’re not saying go out and buy more projects, are they?

John Black: Well, in general, and it’s not just Route One, we have a number of backers that encourage us to do what we do, as well as our own personal philosophy on this is it right now is Regulus we’re on to a very, very good project. We’ve recently spun out a new company called Aldebaran on a very encouraging copper gold project in Argentina as well. And so, we’re not aggressively seeking new projects right now. But you always keep your eyes open. Projects like what we have with Anta Kori and Regulus and what we have with Altar and Aldebaran are very hard to find. It’s an industry we’ve been able to, as juniors, put our hands on a number of these over the last 15 years or so, reveal the full potential for them and sell them to majors. It’s been a very good business model for many of us to do. We were very successful in our first company Antares when we discovered the **** deposit and sold out to First Quantum. We’re back on another one that we think we can do again. But it’s harder to find those right now. And so, groups like Route One or others that back up are always encouraging us to keep our eye out if we see another one of these rare, rare opportunities. We’d certainly tried to put our hands on it, but we’re, as you mentioned an interesting point, right now we’re onto a very good one with Anta Kori and Regulus. And so, we’re really in the stage now where we’re focusing on drilling it out, showing the full size, de-risking the project, having it ready so that when the market enters into a stronger phase than it’s in right now, interestingly enough, that’s when the major companies acquire projects is when copper prices are high. It’s because they’re cashed up and they’re looking to grow.

Matthew Gordon: I understand that. So that’s the M&A components. And then towards the end that you think answered the question, I was going to ask. So, what have you as a board or a management team decided to focus on now in this low cycle? And have you got the cash to be able to do that?

John Black: Yes. Essentially, in these low cycles, capture a good project, which we have and now focus on drilling it out, showing the full size, de-risking it, having it prepared to be ready when the market comes back more strongly than it is right now. And we see the roots of that. We see the major companies clearly indicating they want to have very good projects and they’re looking. We’re not quite into a strong M&A phase. Capital right now, we have we have good, strong supporters and for good projects we’re seeing access to capital is, I wouldn’t call it easy, but it’s there for good projects and good teams. And particularly those with a gold component. There’s been a flurry of financings for gold related projects recently and we can play. Both aspects of this project as being both copper and gold say.

Matthew Gordon: So relatively easy. And I know you’re stressing the word relatively. Where would you be getting this money from? You’re not yet looking for strategic. You want to maintain control, to prepare, as your word, the company to get the best outcome for your shareholders. Is that fair to say?

John Black: That’s fair to say. Yes, absolutely.

Matthew Gordon: So, who are you talking to? Or who will you be talking to with regards to raising the next round of capital? What type of money are you expecting to bring in? How much? What are you going to do with it?

John Black: Well, there’s been an interesting phenomenon really in our space recently. If you look at most of the major financings that have been done for larger amount of moneys for serious drill projects. We’ve seen a migration away from the traditional private placement in our space and we’ve seen an increasing number of strategic placements, major mining companies, putting money into interesting projects that they want to monitor, even at a relatively early stage. And in some ways, it’s acting as a proxy for their expiration efforts. They’ve realized they’re not generating sufficient projects themselves. So, they just get a toehold into a group like this. And so that’s something we’re very aware of and we’re constantly in discussions with potential groups to do that. And then the other alternative is to do a more traditional private placement, which has been difficult for us, partly due to competition from other high risk, high reward opportunities like the cannabis industry or prior to that cryptocurrencies. So that’s drawn a lot of funding away from us. We’re starting to see that come back into the mining space, particularly for gold right now, so right now we really have two principal avenues that we’re exploring. One is a strategic placement from a variety of major mining companies or private equity funds that want to have a toehold into an interesting project like we have or always with the opportunity to go in a more traditional private placement. They have their pros and cons. The strategics are very attractive, but you have to watch out for strings attached. You can’t be wed to one company by simply having them make a minor placement into you.

Matthew Gordon: Right. And with all your experience and your track record, what’s that telling you with regards to the amount of money that you think you’ll need to have in the kitty to be able to prepare this company for some kind of exit?

John Black: Well, our business model requires us to do a lot of work on a project. When we acquire the right project like we have our hands on right now, we’re into a heavy drill phase on this as we drill that out and so our burn rate, the amount of funding that we need to progress the project is approximately 20-$25MIL Canadian per year. We’re nearing the point where we need to get set up for next year on this. And so that that would be approximately the amount of money somewhere between $15-20MIL is what we’d be looking at raising in any variety of manners between now and, say, the end of the year.

Matthew Gordon: Right. And then I guess then comes the question again, using your experience, you’ve been there, done it before, is do you think you then reassess the situation at the end of next drill season and then work out what you want to do? Or do you say, well, that’s the moment where we’re going to have meaningful conversations to try and monetize this, have a monetary event?

John Black: Really, we’re right on this as we’ve put out our first resource in March, we’re in our Phase 2 drill program. That’ll be about 25,000 meters. We anticipate we’ll finish that about the end of Q1 or sometime in the first half of next year, which will allow us to put out an updated resource about mid-2020. At that point, we’ll make a decision on whether we put a preliminary economic assessment around that or if we still feel the project is quite open for expansion we would enter into a Phase 3 drill program. Our strategy really is to demonstrate the full size of the project and identify the best areas of the project before we enter in to putting economics around it. You really don’t want to start too early on that because you want it to have the best foot forward when you put your first look at what the project might look like, the full potential of the project.

Matthew Gordon: And where do you believe that shareholders get the most value? At what stage? Obviously, the PEA, Phase 3 I think you’re calling it, has some benefits, but PEA’S you know, I think they vary in terms of the numbers, in terms of what they tell you. It’s preliminary. Do you think that the company will see more of an uplift if it gets into a pre-feasibility stage? Or do you think a PEA is the point you could exit just as meaningfully?

John Black: If we look at the lifecycle of a junior mining company or really any mining company on this, there are two really notable points when you see a lot of increase in value in projects. Well, one is between the discovery point and approximately the completion of a pre-feasibility study. It’s the drill definition. You’re onto a good project. You’re revealing the size of it and you’re de-risking the project to confirm that it could be economically developed. There’s a very sharp increase in value in the project at that point. And then there’s another increase in the ramp up right before you go into production. But sometimes that space between completion of a pre-feasibility study and production is a long period of time and it’s a risky time for a single asset company like ourselves. And so, our business model is to identify projects as close to that discovery stage as possible. Ideally, we acquire them after the discoveries been made, but maybe not fully realized by the market or the group that is offering it to us. And then we reveal that discovery. That’s exactly where we’re at right now in the Anta Kori project. And then typically we notice that up to about a pre-feasibility stage, it’s a good time for us to be investing money and showing that. If we’re on a very strong project at the time, we complete a pre-feasibility and we’re in a good market, a robust market with good metal prices, it’s highly likely that a major mining company would like to take it from us. It seems strange that they let us add that much value to it, but they want to have certainty it’s there. So, it’s not simply it’s a large project. They want to have it de-risked and be comfortable with it. So, we typically see our role as working up to about that pre-feasibility stage. And then ideally, we pass it on to a company that has skill sets to develop the project. We’re not miners. We’re good at identifying projects and discovering them, revealing the full potential on them. But then it’s best for us to pass that on and that results in an earlier return for our shareholders. So, we like that early monetization at about a pre-feasibility stage. A good project and go to a PEA. Sometimes they take a little bit longer. It depends where the market is in terms of price and how robust the project.

Matthew Gordon: Right. So, people think to have a view on the price of copper at the moment, looking at chat rooms and forums, people seem confident in the management team’s ability to deliver this. I think the question’s always been around timing. That’s their only concern. It’s not a case of if, it’s when, which is good. It doesn’t do much for your liquidity, though. So, what do you want to say to new investors or potential new investors looking at this as an investable proposition?

John Black: Yeah. For somebody looking at a project, liquidity is an issue that we were quite conscious of as we go into a round of raising additional funds. So, that will be a consideration on when we bring in new funding. It’s nice to go to one source, or same shareholders or steady hands that way. But we do realize that liquidity is important. So sometimes bringing in new investors could be advantageous to us. So, we’ll certainly have that in consideration. But for those that are looking for a project right now, a good management team that has done it before, is a very important way to identify good opportunities in our space on this. Our group has successfully completed our business model once with Antares, which resulted in a very nice return for our shareholders. We learned a lot in that process and we believe we’re on to a better project now and a chance to do that again. It does take some patience on these. So, we’ll be building value. We’re the type of investment opportunity where you accumulate when prices are weak like they are right now. And you sit on that and wait for us to have that monetization event. A lot of values added very quickly as we approach that point in time when we can monetize the project.

Matthew Gordon: John, look I appreciate the catch up. Sounds like you’re sticking to the business model you know. You’re very clear. My interpretation is that, you know you’re not miners, you’re not pretending to be minors, not pretending to get into production like some management teams do, even though they’ve never done it before. You’re clear of what that point that you’re looking for is and how you’re going to get there. I guess what we will like to see is how you fund that and what the cost of that money is. As you say, it’s cheap to come in now, but not necessarily good for existing shareholders. With that dilution. But if it allows you to deliver an exit that like, I guess everyone’s going to be happy.

John Black: Well, it’s not like we’re rock-bottom prices by any means that right now at all. We’ve identified a project and that shows we have a market cap of about $120MIL right now, which shows that we’re on to a good project. It’s a good intermediate stage with us right now. And the real trick now is to make that next jump up. And we’ll do that by continuing to deliver the drill results we’ve been doing right now. Should that increase in resource, a critical stage to watch for us is that we anticipate we’ll have the permits that let us make that next jump to the north. And by moving to the north, we’re have the opportunity to increase the size of the resource that we’re on. But we also anticipate that the quality of the resource is greater to the north. As we move to the north, we’re moving into an area, the project that has cleaner metallurgy with it and is associated with better quality ore, so we think that that’s a critical stage for us and that’s a great opportunity for people to get into the company before we make that jump to the north. Once we’re drilling to the north, if we don’t deliver the results, we anticipate that we’ll see from there, that’s the type of point when we’ll see not just a jump, but a sustained jump in the value of the project.

Matthew Gordon: It’s a bit early, but we’re coming up to tax loss season in Canada. That’s always a tough one for juniors. Is that going to affect your decision making as to the timing of raising money?

John Black: Tax loss is kind of a funny one. It’s always hard to predict. I mean, we are coming up to that time of the year when that’s mentioned a lot on this. Keep in mind, many investors are not just in our sector, they’re in other sectors as well where they may have a lot of tax benefits on this. So, it’s kind of hard to tell. Investors have their reasons to be selling. If there are those that want to sell for very good reasons right now. That just creates an opportunity for other people. So, I view the end of the year this way as a great time to look for opportunities for good prices in solid projects with good management teams and to position yourself well for those, in particularly in the copper space. We will see a point in the not too distant future when we see a price increase and any company on a very good project right then is likely to see a substantial increase in price. So. it’s a great time to patiently position yourself for one or two years down the road.

Matthew Gordon. Beautiful. Thanks for the summary, John. Appreciate your time. Stay in touch and let us know how things are getting on.


Company page: https://www.regulusresources.com/

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

What on earth are we doing?

In recent weeks, my research into investing has become considerably more detailed and focussed. Whereas before I took a passive overview of market proceedings, now I consider myself to be active; I look at stocks with a genuine consideration of purchase.

I am an investor, just like you, but in the last few weeks, I’ve become genuinely perplexed by a consistent narrative saturating the investor community.

Hearts not heads?

In the last few weeks, I’ve reviewed all aspects of numerous public companies with scrutiny. I have reached a conclusion that has truly surprised me: the vast majority of companies are going to lose you money.

A phenomenon that exists amongst investors novice and seasoned alike is a peculiar prolificacy that descends any time a vague, yet promising press release comes out from a junior mining company. Logic and prudence fly out the window, and gut gambling instinct takes control. A desperation to be ahead of the curve and locate a winning lottery ticket is the downfall of many investors. It is startling just how little shareholders know about their investments; this is evident in the most basic of enquiries regarding companies finding their way onto community boards via investors whom, with their retirement fund in hand, have already taken a leap of faith. Having made this poor decision, the investor is then forced to double down; they can’t admit to their friends or partners they have made a bad call, which has strangely become more frightful than losing a huge sum of money. The subsequent lies they tell themselves as the share price falls serve only to insure by the time the penny finally drops, it’s all too late, and their shares are worth about as much as a second-hand toothpick.

Most companies have an Achilles heel that renders them doomed from the very beginning. One would think such fatal flaws are well hidden given the tendency of investors to fall for them so often, but this is simply not the case. It does not take a rocket scientist to notice a plummeting share price, a mountain of debt, a low percentage of insider ownership or a terrible management team/structure. Therefore, how do so many investors manage to navigate their financial vessels into deep waters of unparalleled danger? The answer is simple: investors do not take anywhere near enough time to educate themselves before making investment decisions.

It is obvious that investors don’t simply have a wanton disregard for money, and nor are they just lazy; the problem lies deeper than that and manifests itself throughout much of our financial culture. We are too trusting, too emotional, and not critical enough. We have a tendency to fall for snake oil salesmen the world over. As a consequence, resources like Crux Investor are vital. Crux cuts through the nonsense, and gives easy to access, trustworthy information so you can make proper investment decisions in the light of certainty, rather than the dark of ignorance.

Before making investment decisions, you must ask yourself if you are prepared to lose the money you will be investing. If this money is not something you can afford to never see again, you shouldn’t invest.

After asking this initial question, there are 10 further questions you should ask yourself. The questions will be explored in an article in the near future right here on CruxInvestor.com.

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

Battery Metals – A Shocking Introduction (pt2/7: Vanadium)

A fully-labelled cartoon diagram of a vanadium redox flow battery.

Vanadium: Longer Life, Inspired Investment?

A photo of a pile of big chunks of vanadium.

In the last article of this series, we began exploring the battery metals behind the EV economic revolution. Click here to read about the raging ethical debate that will affect every investor’s dealings with cobalt. In this article, it’s time to take a step away from the cultural hurricane of opinions and instead look at the technological tornado surrounding another battery metal.

Vanadium

Vanadium has been a useful industrial metal for many years. It has been used in nuclear reactors, superconducting magnets, catalysts, gears, axles and jet engines. The concept of a vanadium redox battery had been problematic throughout much of the 20th century, with Pissoort, Nasa, and Pellegri and Spaziante all being unsuccessful in their attempts to create one. However, since the first successful all-vanadium redox flow battery in the 1980s, companies have been clamouring to explore the immense possibilities generated by a battery that has a lifespan far longer than current solid batteries.

Higher than expected supply and lower than expected demand has resulted in a downward price trajectory for uranium in 2019 after the record highs and growth of the sector in 2018. However, the vanadium market worldwide is projected to grow by $17.5 Billion. (1) A primary reason is the predicted growth of iron and steel, not the green revolution. Eventually, when the technology standards for VRFB have been agreed, vanadium will find applications for longer-term energy storage in towns and cities to regulate peak-energy surges and provide domestic whole-home use and remote off-grid use. Vanadium will be able to compete in terms of cycle life, safety, and reliability for stationary applications. However, lithium-ion will continue to own the mobile energy market such as automotive (EV) and electronics.

Despite higher upfront costs and lower energy density, VRFBs potentially have a shorter payback time because of capacity retention even after many thousands of cycles. This potential also exists because of their ability to recycle core components more easily than other battery chemistries. Very few VRFBs are in commercial use so investors must take the claims of vanadium companies aligning their success to that of VRFB with a pinch of salt. However, that is the cherry on the cake. Right now, the vanadium producers’ economics are 90% aligned to the steel market.

Lithium-ion batteries will suffer a setback from the emergence of utility-grade flow batteries, which will contribute to easing the pressure on lithium resources that are more needed for electric mobility applications. One final interesting remark is that, with notable exceptions, a sizeable portion of the RFB industry is located in Europe and the US.

A photo of a large yellow vanadium redox battery inside a factory.
A Vanadium Redox Battery

Vanadium Flow is in developmental infancy relative to its older brother, lithium-ion, but is on an upwards trajectory. Wattjoule predicts an increase of 30% for the total Substantial Storage Market by 2025. (2) Vanadium-Flow offers a fully containerised, non-flammable, compact product that doesn’t degrade; therefore, it can be reused. It seems to be an infinite supply! I am attempting to understand if this is a good thing or a bad thing as an investor as scarcity drives prices up and oversupply drives prices down. Investors may also be interested to hear there is significantly more Vanadium in the earth’s crust than lithium; currently, twice as much Vanadium is produced each year.

However, investors so far have been deterred by the economics of vanadium, and commercialisation of the batteries has suffered as a consequence. The benefits are not yet understood by the retail market, so regardless of their promise, they are yet to bear fruit. Vanadium-flow batteries remain less effective than others in terms of energy-to-volume ratio and round-trip efficiency. They are also heavy, which restricts the flexibility of their application to mobile solutions. Lastly, the toxicity of vanadium oxides renders the batteries more dangerous than competitors. The industry needs to assure investors they have a solution for this or they will suffer the same push back that Nuclear energy is getting from some quarters, despite the zero-carbon claims.

Vanadium is produced in a variety of ways for many applications. Vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) always contains 56% vanadium by mass. (3) One of its uses is as a cathode in primary and secondary rechargeable lithium batteries, and in VRFBs, both of which are a key part of the EV revolution. It is also utilised in air treatment, automotive manufacture, paint, flooring materials and as a catalyst or colourant, along with many other uses.

Another popular variant of vanadium is called ferrovanadium (fEv). Ferrovanadium is a master alloy/universal hardener used in ferrous alloy production, such as stainless steel, that is formed by combining vanadium and iron; it has a vanadium content range of 35%-85%. Vanadium is also sold as a nitride that can be used in cutting materials or hard coatings.

57% of vanadium is produced in China and 18% in Russia. India, South Africa and Brazil are also large producers. The USA produces ≅3%. (4)

The spot price of ferrovanadium is ≅$31/kg in China and ≅$21/kg in Europe. The price of vanadium pentoxide flake is ≅$14.55/kg in China and ≅$10.47 in Europe. Historically venadium pentoxide flake has been as low as $2.43/kg in worldwide markets in 2002, and as high as $74.74.kg in November 2018. Ferrovanadium reached a height of $143.50/kg in October 2018 and a low of $6.20/kg in early 2002. (5)

An arial photo of White Mesa Mill, Utah.
Energy Fuels’ impressive uranium/vanadium asset, White Mesa Mill, Utah.

Crux Investor recently took the opportunity to interview Largo Resources (https://youtu.be/TsWIAvM24Ww), Energy Fuels (https://youtu.be/Kf4WwL-VNac), Australian Vanadium (https://youtu.be/5kZaEG2y_ns) and BlueSky Uranium (https://youtu.be/lhFSQ0c56Pg) about vanadium. They helped shed light on the expanding market of vanadium and shared useful information for investors. It is important to decipher the difference between what the CEO says versus what is a reality today. They need to paint a picture of a growth story for investors. We must work out what is real and what is wishful thinking.

  1. https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/338739/vanadium_market_analysis_trends_and_forecasts?utm_source=CI&utm_medium=PressRelease&utm_code=39vjl9&utm_campaign=1310740+-+Global+Vanadium+Market+Analysis%2c+Trends%2c+and+Forecasts+Report+2019%3a+Market+is+Projected+to+Grow+by+US%2417.5+Billion&utm_exec=chdo54prd
  2. https://energypost.eu/can-vanadium-flow-batteries-beat-li-ion-for-utility-scale-storage/
  3. https://www.convertunits.com/molarmass/V2O5
  4. https://www.bushveldminerals.com/about-vanadium/
  5. https://www.vanadiumprice.com/

Company page: http://www.cruxinvestor.com

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

Energy Fuels (NYSE: UUUU) – Picking Winners & Identifying Losers

A conversation with Mark Chalmers, CEO of Energy Fuels (NYSE: UUUU) about what Uranium investment targets are going to need to have to make it in this cycle. Without contracts in place some Uranium companies will not get funded. So price discovery is important but that does not equate to immediate financial relief for some. Don’t be left holding that Uranium stock.

There is lots of money to be made if investors focus on the fundamentals and are not distracted by rhetoric by Uranium company’s that won’t make money even at $100 a pound. Pick companies with the right business model. Management teams experienced in bringing Uranium companies in to production and selling in to a contract market.

We discuss our investment thesis with several Uranium CEO’s. If you believe in the macro story of the Supply Demand story for Uranium then you need to know how to pick winners in this section. Not all boats will float on this high tide.

What is clear is that if the management team has not worked in mining Uranium before and produced and sold uranium in to the market, they don’t know what they don’t know. Cash is King – In a market short on institutional funding, some companies are running on vapour and struggling to find money and if they can, it is expensive and dilutory. Quality assets – the basics of mining are the same. Companies that can get Uranium out of the ground cheaply will do better than others. Investors need to understand a company’s ability to mine economically.

If you buy in to the macro story, we encourage Uranium investors to start looking at which companies are most likely to make it. It is apparent to industry insiders and veterans which companies and which assets will find it more difficult than others. We are listening to them and forming our thoughts.

Interview Highlights:

  • 90 Day Working Group Announcement Expectations
  • Importance of Management
  • Cash is King: Who Won’t Survive?
  • Who Should I Consider as an Investor?
  • Energy Fuels: Rebuilding the Share Price, and The Mill – A Means of Standing Out
  • The Market: When Will it Change and What’s The Plan if it Doesn’t?

Click here to watch the interview.


Matthew Gordon: Good to see you, albeit online. We caught up at the WNA Symposium in London last month. What was your take on it?

Mark Chalmers: Well it’s a good event. I really enjoyed being there again. And I caught up with a lot of people.

Matthew Gordon: There was a lot of excitement around the WNA Fuel Report as possibly being a catalyst for change. And we agreed at the time that it wouldn’t be. But the next catalyst for change is President Trump’s Nuclear Energy Working Group. It’s a week or so before that is due to announce.

Mark Chalmers: We don’t know exactly what timeframe the president will act on the report. Or what announcements will be made.

Matthew Gordon: There’s been various speculation as to what it could entail. But you’re not expecting it to focus necessarily on the uranium market, but the nuclear market as a whole. It’s hard to forecast what the impact could be for US uranium companies.

Mark Chalmers: There’s no guarantees, but I believe the working group gets it. I think they get it. I would be absolutely shocked if we get nothing here. The question is what will be proposed and what will the President decide is appropriate. It’s not very often you get on the President’s desk twice in 90 days. And I’m very proud that we’re able to do that. We’ve got this focus on the front end, the fuel cycle. The focus is absolutely required by the United States government, the largest consumer of uranium in the world, the United States of America is one quarter of the world’s uranium. We cannot go to zero.

Matthew Gordon: done a lot of interviews now with uranium CEOs over the last 3-4 months. As an investor, we’re starting to build up a picture of what the market looks like. I am a believer in the macro story in terms of the supply / demand story and what those numbers look like. I don’t have a sense of timing. I don’t think many people do. I’ve heard from 3 months to 24 months in terms of timing from people. I wanted to speak to you about some of the thoughts that we’ve had, and get some affirmation of some of those thoughts, if indeed you agree. There are lots of different companies at different stages and different positions financially, who may or may not make it, depending on how long this goes on for. But it was clear to me that you need three things. 1. You need a management team who’s been there and done it before. And I don’t mean mining. I mean getting uranium out of the ground, getting it to where it needs to be in terms of being able to process it and sell it and to market – that’s one. 2. Cash, because a lot of companies are running out of cash. And 3. Fundamentals of the asset itself, you’ve got to come back to that, because mining is mining. Start off with the management component with you first?

Mark Chalmers: Oh, absolutely.

Matthew Gordon: You is because you have been through a couple of cycles. You have produced. What would you say to investors about the importance of why the experience of having been through, not only a couple of cycles, but you’ve actually produced product and got it into market. Why do you think that’s important?

Mark Chalmers: Uranium is very unique. And it has a number of dynamics. When you start looking at uranium projects, it has the mining risk, and processing risk. It also has a lot of risk because it is uranium and that is obviously connected to the nuclear fuel cycle. A lot of people underestimate how all those things meld together and how one of those elements can really throw a monkey wrench into any project. When you look at other mining industries like gold and copper, silver, zinc, whatnot. They’ve had a lot more continuous operations over the years. They haven’t had the hiatuses that the uranium market has had. We go through these peaks and valleys. And the valleys, often are very pronounced and very long lived. And you lose a lot of that expertise and the knowledge. So there are similarities, but also many differences.

Matthew Gordon: Your last point about a lot of the expertise has been lost, because the sector has been in the doldrums for a while. People have got to make a living and they go off and do other things. I’ve spoken to only four CEOs who have ever managed to get companies into production. The rest are learning on the job. And as an investor, my problem is I don’t necessarily want them to learn with my money, because things can go wrong if you don’t know what is coming down the line. To coin your phrase, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. And that’s fine with someone else’s money, but not with mine. I just thought it was interesting with some of the conversation’s that we’ve had, it became obvious that these companies were just hoping that the market would come back and there would be enough money sloshing around. And some of these mistakes would get hidden by all the money that would be thrown at them for investment. But when things are tight, like they are now, if you don’t have the cash to be able to cope with this market, you’re in trouble.

Mark Chalmers: It’s pretty hard when these companies get to the point where they’ve gone to the equity markets multiple times. The share price continues to decline. The market just gets tired of the story. And so that’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy cash balance. And I think the one thing that is really a problem for a lot of these really small mining companies, juniors, micro caps, and it is pretty chronic in the entire industry, is that people get down to that last $100,000, or $1M and then they go out and try and raise money. It’s expensive or impossible to do. We’re not in that position. We’re a lot more complicated than a lot of these other companies. Other companies may have one project or it’s not constructed. So, the holding costs may be lower. But you just don’t want to get against the rope, because when you’re against the rope, people know you’re against the rope.

Matthew Gordon: I’ve gone through a period of learning about Uranium equities, speaking to some great influencers in the market, some fund managers. I’ve managed to speak to a couple of the utility companies. And I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago. It made me really nervous, actually, for the first time in this space. And it comes back to that line, ‘not all boats will float on a high tide’. They just won’t. I’ve been approached by a couple of groups to ask for my advice on a couple of junior uranium companies, who are struggling for cash and who are speaking to these finance groups to take them out. It’s like they’ve had enough. They’ve fought their fight and don’t want to go on, or don’t know how to go on. And that made me nervous, because it reinforced my thoughts. I’m a buyer of the macro, there’s going to be winners, but not everyone’s a winner. It’s clear because there are people struggling right now. And the longer this goes on, the more problematic it becomes. So, if this thing goes on another 6 months, I can see more than a couple of companies struggling because they don’t have the cash, or the ability to persuade a generalist fund to put money in. And the specialist funds have made their bets and they can probably see better than some of generalist funds, as to who is going to make it and who’s not.

Mark Chalmers: With a lot of these companies. Not only do they have no money, but they also have projects that are not proven. And in many of those projects need hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of capital investment, if not billions of dollars.

Matthew Gordon: When you start talking about things like getting some debt into the company to be able to be in a position to build out whatever it is that they’ve got, or be able to even pay for the Feasibility Studies (FS). Again, there’s no real plan there. Mark, you’ve been around the block. You’ve seen a few things and some of the companies I’m probably talking about. What’s your take on the market?

Mark Chalmers: I don’t envy them. I don’t envy them, because when you’re at the bottom of the bucket and there’s no water coming in to fill up your bucket, what do you do? And it goes back to, ‘there’s no shortage of uranium’. Uranium deposits out there in the world have not all been created equal. And if they don’t have any money for just daily operating expenses… In a lot of cases, those projects are not proven yet, they’ve never been commercialized. So, there’s a lot of technical risk for those projects. In most cases, it’s going to be far, far more difficult, costlier and take more time than they expect. And then you throw on top of that a new project. It’s going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. In most cases hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars. It’s a hole hard to crawl out of. And so, I don’t envy these folks at all. You’re at a huge disadvantage if you don’t already have proven projects, if you don’t already have projects that have the capital investments made. You’re way back in the back of the bus and when you’re in the back of the bus, and you don’t have any money, you’re not going to get up to first class.

Matthew Gordon: What I’m hearing is that exploration companies are some ways away. Certainly, not in this cycle from getting into production. So as an investor, do I put my money into those now because money’s cheap, but risk is high. There’re some companies with a possibility of being funded to get into production. But again, they’re not going to get into production anytime soon. The next 2-3 years, maybe if they’re ready to go today. But not many are. Would you talk to producers who are armed and ready to go?

Mark Chalmers: If you’re playing a sector like uranium, your safest bet is to play probably 2, 3, 4 of the better, more established companies, and you can do that in a way that manages your risk. We’ve seen the damage, or collateral damage, that’s happened to a lot of people back in about 2010/11 after Fukushima. With the deterioration in share prices. That hit us all. That hit Cameco, that hit Energy Fuels and everybody else. So, there is not such thing as no risk, but there is such thing as having less risk. And there is a saying, if you believe in a macro, which I agree a 100%, that you can play certain companies that have less risk and have probably the same upside as a lot of these riskier plays.

Matthew Gordon: You guys got hit, July 11th/12th with the Section 232 announcement. You guys got hit big time on your share price. You dropped off a cliff. You’ve recovered about $0.45 – $0.50 cents since then. What should that tell investors?

Mark Chalmers: That’s an example that certain events can clobber these stocks. I believe that there people were certain of a positive outcome on the Section 232. We thought, as well as many others, even that we talked to the government, that there was a high-likelihood that that was going to happen. It didn’t happen. We got hit, as did most others, particularly those in the United States. It’s a sector that in the up markets, it’s multiple bagger. In a down market, it can be a multiple bagger in the opposite direction. It is a tricky sector, but it still goes back to sophistication in how you make your investment. It shocks me sometimes that people come to me and say “oh, I’m getting in the uranium business and I picked X, Y and Z” and those are exactly the products that I would never have recommended to these people. Now, even in some of those cases, in the right circumstances, people can make money on those stocks. I don’t think there’s any absolute 100% the best plan. But I also think that a lot of people making these investments, they don’t like the super high volatility. And that there are just different elements of risk. And what people do, what percentage of their assets that they’ve invest in high risk returns, compared to what their ultimate horizon is and how they’re diversified, that is down to them.

Matthew Gordon: Can I just talk about your mill, because this the other bit, which it’s not one of my tick boxes, but it’s definitely a massive plus for you guys. It’s one of the only operating mill in the US. Is that right?

Mark Chalmers: Correct. If you go back like 30 years, there were like 35 mills, And White Mesa has basically been in good standing, has been completely operable since that point in time. There are two other mills. There’s a Shooter Canyon mill that ran for a few months or something back in 1979/80 or something, then shut down. And then there’s the Sweetwater Mill in Wyoming that ran for maybe was a year or two, also shut down 30, 35 years ago and hasn’t operated since.

Matthew Gordon: Looking at your mill, it gives you certainly optionality in terms of what you do. But for people without a mill, what are their options? How do they go about processing their ore?

Mark Chalmers: Well, they either have to build their own mill, or if in the region, they have to basically strike a deal with us to have access to our mill. And there are some examples of work that’s been done in the past with toll milling agreements or joint ventures. So, if you don’t have the mill, and you’re a conventional miner, you don’t have any options, you have to make some choices. I’ve had people tell me they don’t need to mill. They can ship it to China or to Brazil or somewhere like that. That’s farcical. It’s farcical. You’ve got the costs of transportation. The mill was correctly positioned for sustainability. And that’s a big issue that investors should feel comfortable that our mill has been around nearly 40 years and has survived these peaks and these valleys because of its flexibility. And, it’s been able to cash flow, and many times, even though the uranium price were too low to run it just for uranium production.

Matthew Gordon: What are your plans for the next 6 months if nothing happens in terms of the price discovery in the market or 12 months?

Mark Chalmers: If we don’t get relief through this government working group we will manage our expenses as tightly as we can. We’ll continue on with the macro environment we think is alive and well. We’ll continue pushing these different parts of our business that are less uranium price dependent like the alternate feed and the clean-up of abandoned uranium mines. Everybody needs higher uranium prices. This is really a critical crossroads that we’re at with the working group. We’ve survived the test of time. We’ll continue to survive the test of time. But it will be more difficult until uranium prices recover.

Matthew Gordon: And I keep asking every time I see you because I’m not quite sure what the answer is going to be each time.

Mark Chalmers: Well, I liked your comment that a lot of people have quit speculating on that. And I think that’s one of the reasons that these uranium share prices have been suffering. I think a lot of people are tired of speculating, including investors. Everybody seems to be wrong. You know, like you said, six months or two years or one year or whatnot, people been saying that…

Matthew Gordon: If you’re a fund manager, you don’t care if it’s one year, two years or three years. You’re getting paid your 2% and 20%. It’s okay. You can afford to be wrong for another three years, If you’re an investor like a Joe Schmo like me, where you’re putting your own cash into this stuff and you’re underwater and you don’t know what’s coming, you’re unsure. People have been telling the macro story for so long that you’re beginning to doubt whether that’s true or not. You jump up and down and go, hurrah, every time you hear someone talk about the macro story. But maybe you start having doubts. So, getting some sense of timing is important because it’s our hard-earned cash here we’re talking about.

Mark Chalmers: Absolutely. And I always say that whenever people have the most doubts, as is when you should be investing more. People like Rick Rule, it’s quite interesting to listen to some of his discussions and when he started getting interested in uranium. And it was the late ’90s. And he’ll tell you how many doubts he had. But then he will also tell you that he had multiple investments. So, I think the worst was like a 20 bagger or something. So, it is a very unique sector and frustrating. But when it comes, it comes and it comes big. And, there are there a lot of people that made a lot of money in this over the years and there is going to be a lot of money made again.

Matthew Gordon: I just want to make sure that people aren’t being misled and that they focus on the fundamentals, what’s important with regards to the company, assuming the macro is true. I want investors to make the right bets in the right companies rather than have their money frittered away by companies perhaps that are just struggling with G&A, let alone getting into production.

Mark Chalmers: There are companies out there, I won’t name names, that even if the uranium price goes to $100 dollars, they will not be successful. And I think that’s what you’re alluding to. You don’t want people to get in investments that will have no possibility of ever really making it. They might get a bit of a bounce off of an up market. But investing in broken business models isn’t a really good long-term strategy.

Matthew Gordon: I’m not alluding to, I’m trying to shout from the rooftops that in our assessment, having looked at these companies, looked at the numbers, done the analysis. I agree with you, whether $100 bucks or $70 bucks, there are uranium companies which are just not going to make it. They’re not designed to make it. They don’t have the people on board to show them how to make it. People need to ask the right questions.

Mark Chalmers: Being in the space, I have to be a little more careful when it comes to pointing out some of the shortcomings.

Matthew Gordon: I wanted to speak to bounce our thoughts off you. I’m not sensing any pushback. Appreciate your time and taking the call as well.

Mark Chalmers: It’s always a pleasure, Matt. I enjoy talking to you.


Company page: http://www.energyfuels.com/

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

Any advice contained in this website is general advice only and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situations or needs. You should not rely on any advice and / or information contained in this website or via any digital Crux Investor communications. We provide paid for consultancy services for Energy Fuels. Before making any investment decision we recommend that you consider whether it is appropriate for your situation and seek appropriate financial, taxation and legal advice.

Serabi Gold (LSE: SRB, TSX: SBI) – Steady Growth for Shareholders. At Last.

Having flatlined for 4 years, Serabi Gold are looking to double their production and get to 80,000oz by getting their recent acquisition to market. High grade selective mining. It’s an old story which is looking to getting going again and like most junior Gold miners for the last 4-5 years, the only thing holding them back was access to money. They have had their head down focusing on producing at 40,000oz at a steady state for the last several years. That is not an exciting level. Most small institutional funders are looking for 100,000oz per annum. So what has Serabi done to change things and make this story relevant again for investors? We get the back story and find out how they plan to sweat their current assets and more importantly how they intend to fund it.

With Gold above $1,500 they are finally making a reasonable margin, even for an underground operator. We find out how they have structured their debt and what happens next. What do you think of their plan?

Retail investors have started to get interested again. And a couple industry strategic players involved. It feels like a new story as shares have started moving in the right direction. That said what we like is that they appear to be sticking to what they know and are targeting growth from very similar assets. Existing greenfield and brownfield also look promising.

A very open and confident pitch by the CEO. They have always had a plan, and now with the cash and cash flow and they seem to know how to deliver it. We follow with great interest.

Interview Highlights:

  • Overview of The Company
  • Team Experience: Have They Got What it Takes?
  • Share Price and Shareholders
  • Company Strategy and Assets: How Are The Projects Coming Along?
  • Update on Coringa and M&A Plans
  • Market Conditions: How Will Free Cashflow Affect Their Chances?

Click here to watch the interview.


Matthew Gordon: Let’s kick off for the one-minute summary for people who haven’t heard the story before.

Mike Hodgson: 40,000 ounces, high-grade gold production in Northern Brazil. Para state. It’s a big artisanal gold field. We are the first operator in that part of the world. We’ve got great local relationships. We’ve actually put a mine into production. It’s taken a while. The company did it many years ago. The mine actually closed. We actually started it up as brownfield site we’re mining high-grade gold, 8g/t. Which really, I think sets us apart from the rest. People have got so used to 1g/t, 2g/t. We are 8g/t. We are underground high-grade, selective mining. And we’ve acquired about 18 months ago the Coringa asset, which is essentially a carbon copy of our current Polito operation. We’re going to put Coringa to production, make it 80,000 ounces. We’re growing organically, but certainly in a very controlled way.

Matthew Gordon: I’m interested in this story, because you guys have been in South America for a while. I’d love to understand a little bit about the team’s experience in mining in South America. What’s everyone done?

Mike Hodgson: Brazil is a country that probably is very dominated by large enormous surface deposits. I won’t pretend to say it’s been easy. We’ve actually had to address the fact that there aren’t very many small underground mines in Brazil. Therefore, there’s a people skill shortage. I suppose we’ve cheated a little bit. We actually are next door to Peru and Bolivia and we’ve got a very key people that come from there. I was the COO of Ovando Minerals in Bolivia before this job. I’ve spent much of my career working in the Cornish Tin Mines. So I’m very specialized in small underground mines and I worked for TVX before on a small underground mine. I can’t escape it, but clearly, I’m probably moderately successful at it. So we built a team, which involved key management in the mine, which came from Bolivia. And we brought over a Peruvian contractor to help us with the selective mining. Our ore body at Polito and the ore body that will be developed and put into production at Coringa, are high-grade subvertical narrow veins. Quality ounces is what it’s all about. Controlling dilution is what it’s all about.

Matthew Gordon: Apart from yourself, who on the team experience has that level of experience?

Mike Hodgson: Well, on the board itself is a gentleman called Eduardo Rosselot, an older colleague of mine. A mining engineer, a Chilanian guy. He’s been very important in terms of actually helping us with our funding. And the rest of the team in Brazil, we’ve got key Bolivian mine management. The Mine Superintendent is Bolivian and all the technical team are Bolivian. The key to our success is really this team of mining expertise and we have actually boots on the ground. That works very well. The Peruvian contractor we’ve now actually nationalized. They are now all Brazilian paid and on the Brazilian payroll. It’s a very important point because, there’s no real problem in terms of these people working in Brazil language wise, which certainly was something which concerned us at the very beginning. But just going back a step, probably people may or may not know that Serabi did put Polito in production 2003. It started probably the correct way. But back in the 2000s in London, where company originally listed, there was, let’s say a lot of people in the stock, who perhaps shouldn’t have been in the stock. They did really understand with junior mining. And I think the company did two things. 1. It chase scale to try to meet shareholder expectation. 2. It also changed the mining method because it was very difficult to find the right people for the job. So when we actually restarted this mine back in 2012/13, we got the right team in and the formula for success has been the mining. My saying always is ‘grade pays, toness cost’.

Matthew Gordon: You raise interesting point. There have been, and possibly still are, some people have been in this a long time, long suffering. The share price has been flat for a couple of years, but it’s recently picked up again. You must be quite pleased?

Mike Hodgson: We’re delighted. A little bit of brief history on that. It comes back to some of the people that I’ve been around with, like Eduardo Rousselot one of our Chilean directors. He was really instrumental back in 2012 when we want to reopen this mine. The markets were terrible. There was no money out there for exploration. There was no money for resource growth. There was only money for cash flow. And it was hard to find. Eduardo introduced us to the Fratelli Group, one of our biggest shareholders. These guys put money in at risk where nobody else would. And they backed us.

Matthew Gordon: And they’re still there?

Mike Hodgson: They’re still there. A big shareholder. They basically went through 50% because they did want trading freedom. But frankly, there was no one else coming in any way. So that’s where they were. We reopened the mine very successfully, got up to 40,000 ounces pretty quickly, were we’ve now been for about 3 years. They underwrote the entire financing, took all the risk. The problem with that was our stock was incredibly tightly held. We had no retail.

Matthew Gordon: Not no retail. Not enough retail.

Mike Hodgson: Very little retail. There’s no liquidity. Everything was great about our company except the capital structure in a way. And we thought, well, we’ll fix that.

Matthew Gordon: What have you done about that, because I note Greenstone are now in there.

Mike Hodgson: There were ticking along quite nicely, doing 40,000 ounces. Operationally terrific. Corporately still with some problems. But back in 2017, we actually acquired the Coringa asset. Now the Coringa asset was from a company called Anfield, which has now been rolled into Equinox, one of Ross Beaty’s companies. Before that, it was actually in the hands of a company called Magellan. And we’ve been trying to buy this asset for a long time, because it’s a carbon copy of Polito. We’ve been mining Palito for a number of years. We know we’ve got all the relations in the region, we’ve got the methodology, the formula…

Matthew Gordon: Before we get into the project, because I do want to come on and cover that. I just want to stay with the shareholder component and what the thinking is.

Mike Hodgson: The buying of Coringa actually was a catalyst to do another capital raise. We bought Coringa for $22M and we funded $5M out of cash flow, but then we obviously got to find another $5M and then the final payment. $22M in total. We did a capital raise in March 2018. And that point Greenstone came on board. And River & Mercantile in London.

Matthew Gordon: Just explain to people don’t know Greenstone, because they are pretty well known in the industry…

Mike Hodgson: Greenstone are a private equity fund, London based, they’re invested in probably 10 or so stories. Pretty much a multi-commodity.

Matthew Gordon: A very technical team.

Mike Hodgson: They whey work with us very well. They obviously liked Clive and myself for a long time. They’ve been trying to get into Serabi for a long time. And they’ve been looking for the opportunity and acquiring Coringa was the opportunity for them to come in.

Matthew Gordon: They know what they like. And they are very selective. It’s a very strong team.

Mike Hodgson: They came in around that financing in April 2008. A group called City Financial came in. And also we had a Swiss family office that was still actually in the story. Now this year, obviously, we know the City Financial ran into some problems. And the Swiss Family Office also wanted to liquidate their position, which at the time wasn’t welcome news. So, 6% of our stock was just basically dumped on the market in the Spring of this year. And our price went £0.40 to £0.23. And we thought that was a bit of a nightmare. Turned out to be an absolute blessing in disguise, because that stock just got picked up by retail guys. So, for once, and you’ve seen our graph of our liquidity, it’s amazing. We’ve just flatlined for about 4 years, doing all the right things, but not getting any love. No appreciation. And then all of sudden, retail guys get a hold of it. We’ve gone from like 9% retail in London to probably 16%-17%. And it’s happy days.

Matthew Gordon: It helps. It is really important for new people coming in to look at the corporate structure of a business before they invest. We’ve talked in the past about the paralysis that can come with too much institutional investors. Either one individual or multiple institutions who sit and hold, and don’t trade.

Mike Hodgson: With Greenstone, in that financing in 2018 didn’t really do a lot for liquidity. I liked this expression, ‘it gave us an amount of democracy at least’.

Matthew Gordon: What does that mean?

Mike Hodgson: These days, I don’t know. At least we had two big shareholders on the Board now. So there was a natural balance now. We got three shareholders now over 10%. And two of them sit on the Board. So there was a bit more democracy there. Fratelli came down from 52% to 32%. So that was good. That raise didn’t bring in liquidity really. But obviously, the selling of this stock in the summer helped.

Matthew Gordon: So you now recognise the importance of retail, family office and HNWIs?

Mike Hodgson: We have tried so hard to get retail into this company. It’s just been institutions coming in. We’ve only done two raises.

Matthew Gordon: So now you got a better retail in there. I want to spend some time with you and understand what’s going on in terms of the business plan, the strategy, how you’re going to deliver it, where you’re going and who’s going to actually deliver that? So describe if you can, what is the plan? We know where you’ve come from, you’ve done a great job describing that. So today you’ve got a couple of assets. So you got to deliver those.

Mike Hodgson: Technically, on their current operation, Polito. Basically is one plant, which is plant-constrained, which is actually pretty unusual these days. Because most companies of mine-constrained. Now, the good thing about being plant-constrained is it brings discipline. You’re always treating it with the highest-grade possible.

Matthew Gordon: Just be clear to people what you mean by that.

Mike Hodgson: Well, grade is king. We’ve now had a head grade around 8g/t for ever. So that’s what we work with. And being plant-constrained means we’re not just throwing tonnes at the plant. We’re actually throwing quality ounces at the plant. That’s the important thing. Palito is in a very steady state of production. Two ore bodies feeding a central plant. 500t per day between 7-8g/t. That’s what we do. And we’re kind of limited at the moment. We don’t really want to expand the plant, because our ore bodies, as you can see from the presentation, they are high-grade, narrow veins. So all our business is to actually mine these veins as well as we possibly can, minimizing dilution as much as we can, to get quality out of the mine. And then basically through the plant. Inevitably even doing this where the best possible way we can, we still get some dilution into the into the system. Over the last 18 months we’ve actually been testing ‘ore sorting’. I know this is a big buzzword these days. I’ve just come back from Beaver Creek and it is all the rage. It won’t solve all our problems, but certainly help a lot.

Matthew Gordon: What is that going to help with?

Mike Hodgson: There’s ores and waste. The gold is inside the sulfides and outside that is just pure waste granite. The ore sorter is actually a waste remover. It sorts on either color, or on density. The difference is really, really good. The intention is to pass our lower-grade material through the ore sorter. And it’ll screen out waste. First of all, it’ll take waste out of the system. That will save us about $1M a year. But more importantly, it actually liberates about 20% of space in the plant. We can actually add more high-grade ore and make a little plant go from 40,000 ounces per year to 50,000.

Matthew Gordon: And very low cost presumably.

Virtually no cost. That almost goes straight to the bottom line. From today we’re 40,000-ounce operation probably making about $4M-$5M a year.  It’s positive cash flow. We put in the ore sorter.

Matthew Gordon: It doesn’t cost a lot. Comes out of cash flow.

Mike Hodgson: $1M

Matthew Gordon: So no dilution. And improve efficiency and productivity.

Mike Hodgson: That’s the first thing that we’re doing at Palito. Down in Coringa, our other new asset, which we are developing. That is actually build ready. When we bought that asset, Anfield did a terrific amount of work there. They spent a lot of money. And they built camp. They bought a process plant. They bought all the toys. A lot of the mining equipment. They did a lot of work. They did the studies, which is great. People ask me all time, why did Equinox sell the asset. Scale! Too small for them.  At the time they probably thought the asset was going to be a lot bigger and was going to be their platform to build a gold mining company in Brazil. And they were looking for something a lot bigger than Coringa could be. Although it’s a very tiny deposit, it doesn’t really work for anybody else except us. We’re in Tapajos. We’re the only hard rock producer. Coringa’s 200km down the road from Palito. There’s little point two companies having to 50,000 ounce mines, in the same region where there’s very little else. They belong in the same stable. So the marriage occurred. We bought the asset. We’re now working our way through the permitting process. We’ve just submitted our new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or statement yesterday. We should get a public hearing in around well, after that’s been protocoled and approved, which hopefully will take about less than a month. We will get a public hearing when we actually go to the local community, and hopefully get approval. And I think because we have been in the region for 10 years with the same authorities. We’re not exactly the new kids on the block.

Matthew Gordon: So just on that. We’re starting to build a picture of the types of facilities, mines, operations that you are comfortable with. And they are similar in profile.

Mike Hodgson: Very similar. I don’t think you can actually have a deposit more similar.

Matthew Gordon: Sorry I did mean to ask, in terms of the ore sorter, what’s the timing of that and more important what is the timing of when the benefits of that start flowing through?

Mike Hodgson: The sorter has taken a while to get. But it’s now at site. It’s being all the infrastructure around. It’s now being fabricated and installed. We will switch it on probably in November 2019. We hope to be doing its job in January 2020.

Matthew Gordon: So imminently it will start to contribute towards the bottom line?

Mike Hodgson: We’re going on guidance. We’re about to close Q3/19. It’s been just the same as Q1/19 and Q2/19. Another 10,000-ounce quarter. So we’re bang on guidance to do our 40,000 ounces for the year. And I think next year we’ll hopefully be making a hole in 50,000 ounces because of the ore sorter.

Matthew Gordon: So that that’s going to hit the bottom line from Q1/20?

Mike Hodgson: Yes, it will. And we’re sitting here today, 40,000 ounces making about $4M – $5M. That’s going to go up very handsomely with the ore sorter. 10,000 ounces of very little incremental cost. With just a little bit more process cost.

Matthew Gordon: Something to look forward to end of Q1/20. So now we’re going to talk about Coringa, because it meets the profile, it’s a similar looking system. More of the same. You know what you’re about. So tell us about what’s happening at Coringa.

Mike Hodgson: Repeat the formula. Coringa, obviously, our big news recently was the publication of our PEA, which was great. It really just demonstrated what we absolutely expected.

Matthew Gordon: You made a few tweaks to it?

Mike Hodgson: Yes, it’s going to be a 40,000-ounce deposit. The process plant is there. A little different to Polito. This process plant was bought from a mine in Para. It’s actually much bigger, so there’s no capacity issue with this plant. It’s a very similar deposit to Polito. We are just working our way through the permitting process at the moment. One thing that we do have already is we have the mining license, which is something Equinox never got to. We can start the mine tomorrow, subject to funding. We are going to start going underground. Why is this important? It’s important because we want to first of all, we want to establish the continuity, because Coringa degree is a greenfield site. It’s drill holes. 1. We actually want to establish that continuity. 2. The indications are in a lot of the drill holes that actually the widths at Coringa are probably a little better than Polito. And I think there’s an opportunity to maybe semi-mechanise this deposit, which would be great. Great for cost per ounce. And 3. we want to take a nice big bulk sample because Copringa is 200km away from Polito. We will truck that bulk sample up to our ore sorter at Polito. And we will let you run it through and see how it performs. I would suspect that the ore sorting is going to work very well and therefore, although we don’t need the ore sorter from a capacity issue at Coringa. Why process granite? Why not put an ore sorter in there? Again, it’s all about grade, grade, grade. Get that grade up as high as we can and the get the ounces from processing as little material as possible.

Matthew Gordon: What was the timing on all of this?

Mike Hodgson: We want to actually start the underground development in before the end of the year. In Q1/20. Now, we can start the mine. What we cannot state at Coringa yet is the process plant and the construction. We’ve got to work our way through the process. Now, that’s why the EIA has gone in. We hopefully will get what’s called the Preliminary Licence by the end of the year. That is basically the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) followed by the positive public hearing by the end of the year. If all that happens, that will be great. Then we can actually launch into what’s called the construction licence. We then bring in an engineering company to come and do the basic engineering, which is basically the design work for the erection of the process plant. That will probably take around 6 months. So we would like to think we’ve got the construction licence by early Q3/20 next year. Which means that we can start building.

Matthew Gordon: Construction towards the end of next year is what you are aiming for?

Mike Hodgson: I would like to think we’ll start August time we will be starting to build. And having just done it at Polito.

Matthew Gordon: You are talking to the same departments and government bodies. You have established relationships. The track record. You expect those sorts of timings based on what you previously experienced.

Mike Hodgson: Exactly. These are the guys that gave all of this for Polito five years ago. We’re just doing it again with Coringa. So they’re very comfortable with us as being the only game in town really. But the good thing if we do start the mine first to actually assess and maybe improve the mining, optimize the mine plan by this underground development. And maybe optimize the flow sheet by adding in an ore sorter. We’re just going to improve those PEA numbers even more. And the good thing about that is I think people will note that in the PEA, we’re talking about a CapEx number of $25M, there’s 20% contingency as well. And let’s face it, that study was completely based on Polito. It’s the one thing we have 100% confidence in is costs.

Matthew Gordon: True. I’d say you more than most. Because most PEAs have a variance of +/-30%. You’ve based it on what you’ve done previously.

Mike Hodgson: I thought that the consultants were being rather penal. 20% contingency on costs on a mine that’s just up the road is identical to the one we’re going to do. So we’re pretty confident that the $25M, we can chip into that. And there’s also the All In Sustaining Cost (AISC) is coming in at about $850 and this 20% contingency on that. So, we’re looking forward to Coringa really bringing our costs down.

Matthew Gordon: Now, that’s because most of your costs are staying at Polito.

Mike Hodgson: So that’s why it’s loaded.

Matthew Gordon: The blended number?

Mike Hodgson: $900-$950.

Matthew Gordon: A nice number. Is there much you can do about that? I know you’ve got various fixed costs which you can’t affect.

Mike Hodgson: The gains are basically if we can actually get some mechanised mining in there. The gains are going to be will an ore sorter work at Coringa too? These are the real nice little gains.

Matthew Gordon: Is there a number you’re chasing?

Mike Hodgson: I think we’re pretty tough to do underground mining much less than much less than $900, maybe high $800s. That’s gonna throw off a nice bit because it wasn’t so quick.

Matthew Gordon: We’ve got three locations. What’s that combined number look like? You’re heading up towards original size production.

Mike Hodgson: So the two are the two mines, Polito and Coringa. They’ll both be doing about 40,000 ounces each now as well as that. The other thing that we’ve been doing is basically on mine site exploration in and around the Polito and Sao Chico ore bodies. One of the use of proceeds of the capital raise that we did in 2018, when Greenstone came on board, was we flew an airborne geophysical survey, over the whole tenement. 40,000 hectares of that wasn’t cheap, but the results it threw off were great. The thing lit up like a Christmas tree. Again, what we’re looking for is, are these sulphides which show up with airborne geophysics very well. And we have artisanal mines all in our property. They’re not a problem. They only mine that top 10m They are their exploration tools. They’re great. So a combination of those and anomalies etc are really important. We use the airborne geophysics as a high-level filter. And then wherever we have anomalies, we go on the ground to do follow up ground geophysics and geochemistry, and just basically this risk reduction before we actually drill. And we’ve actually got some fabulous anomalies, both in geochemistry and ground geophysics in and around Sao Chico, which is our satellite ore body. And where we are now drilling at Sao Chico in the immediate mine site area looking for strike extensions, which is going very well. And then we’re going to move on to these discovery drill programs on these anomalies, which are only 3-4km away from the actual Sao Chico deposit itself. We can turn exploration success into production growth very quickly, particularly at Sao Chico. So the third part of our our strategy is to continue Polito as it is, add the ore sorter. Develop Coringa, advance the permitting and actually get underground at the same time. Finally, on the organic growth, its mine site exploration and maybe a little bit more in and around our current producing assets Polito and Sao Chico. So all in all, base case 80,000 ounces, we think we can with a bit of exploration success in and around our backyard’s, we can get to 100,000 ounces in the next 2-3 years.

Matthew Gordon: Well that’s the magic number.

Mike Hodgson: It is but it frustrates me a little bit because, I think the most important thing is cash flow. Free cash flow. Everyone’s obsessed with 100,000 ounces.

Matthew Gordon: It’s more an indicator of scale and opportunity. I think the picture you’ve painted today is an interesting one, in the sense that, you know the type of structures that you’re after and the types of projects that you are comfortable with and have the knowledge of developing. You’ve got to get Coringa going. But it also says potentially future M&A is we know what we’re looking for. We’re very, very specific. I know you’ve got the organic stuff. Is there much M&A thinking going on?

Mike Hodgson: I just think we recognize that we’re not ready for that yet. I think I think at 40,000 hours it’s hard. You have really got the currency, and we’ve got a project to build already. So that’s where our focus lies. I think once we’ve got Coringa permitted and we’ve got the funding in place, and we’re building it, we’re really on our way to 80,000 ounces. I think at that point we’ve probably got the firepower to have some serious conversations. And, you alluded to our costs. At the end of the day, it’s underground mining. It’s not the cheapest mining on the planet. Open pit brings that. So, I would like to think our next acquisition would be if we do one, or merger it’s a blend of underground high-grade with some scale to get our costs down.

Matthew Gordon: is there much of that in Brazil.

Mike Hodgson: Yes, there’s more of that than there is the underground. I think we’re the best small underground miner in Brazil.

Matthew Gordon: I’m a buyer of that.

Mike Hodgson: We won’t do a deal for the sake of doing the deal.

Matthew Gordon: That’s what I mean. There’s dilution in that. It’s a new type of mining for you. And there are many carcasses on the side of the road in Brazil. Step forward with caution.

Mike Hodgson: Our ex-chairman always says to me, sometimes the best deals you do are the ones you don’t do.

Matthew Gordon: Keep your money in your back pocket. But I like sweating your own assets with this organic growth. If you’re in an area that’s prolific and well-known, why not.

Mike Hodgson: The area has seen 30Moz of artisanal gold mined. There’s been no systematic exploration in this part of Brazil, which scares a lot of people off. But for us, it’s a blank canvas. And I really do think the ore sorting, and our approach is going to be a bit of a paradigm shift to this part of the world. We do not market ourselves as a Brazilian mining company. We market ourselves as Para mining company. Because Brazil is a collection of 26 states. State government rules over Federal government big time. You’re not going to solve any problems in Brasilia. It’s all in Bélem in the State capital. And again, we’re in Polito. We’re going to try to develop Coringa using that relationship. This is a great place to be.

Matthew Gordon: So let’s talk about the market. Obviously you are producer, so you’re seeing the benefits of the gold price, which is great. Explorers and developers are not seeing it. Most of them aren’t seeing it. You are. Which is great news for the bottom line. More free cash flow. But you’ve got things to spend it on?

Mike Hodgson: We always have. We’re saving as much cash at the moment. We have a final payment to actually fully acquire Coringa at the end of the year. We’ve just got the cash. We’ve basically got that in the bank. Which is good. So we’re just trying to build as much as cash as we possibly can through the end of the year. So make sure Coringa is 100% ours. Which it will be and then we derive forward.

Matthew Gordon: You’ve got the cash to acquire the asset. You’ve got incremental free cash flow in with gold as it is today, long may that continue. Is that enough to allow to do the things that you want to do. Certainly around growth organic, for instance?

Mike Hodgson: It’ll be tight. It all depends on where the gold price is going to be. I look at Coringa and we’ve got we’ve actually got we’ve had it we’ve got a great relationship with Sprott Asset Lending. The only equity raises we’ve done the last 5, 6 years, have been the equity raise to put Polito back in production. And obviously the what we did last year to get Coringa. In the meantime, we’ve just taken on some debt.

Matthew Gordon: So that’s Sprott?

Mike Hodgson: Sprott Asset Lending out of Toronto. We basically borrowed $8M. We paid $8M back out of cash flow. They thought we were legend Most people do an equity raise to settle the debt. We earnt a huge amount of trust with these guys and they are absolutely ready and waiting when we’re ready permitted with Coringa.

Matthew Gordon: So again, I just say it sounds like you know what you’re doing with it goes to your cash position with the acquisition and the debt and so forth. So maybe that’s one we can pick up on the next update when you have delivered a few of these things. Because I guess you’ll be in a position to know where you’re at, and what you want to do. But, just just on this market condition at the moment. Have you got any views? Is it going to sustain? Do you have an opinion?

Mike Hodgson: Well, we had a board meeting today. Everyone around the table had a different view.

Matthew Gordon: Well, who knows?

Mike Hodgson: Do you?

Matthew Gordon: Well, no, absolutely. Absolutely not. But I’ve heard some really quite strange $3,000 type numbers being put out there. Obviously that sells.

Mike Hodgson: I just went to Beavercreek to the Metals Summit. We are all of the gold bulls? 85% of our costs are in Brazilian Real. Once we’ve got the double whammy. We’ve got we’ve got the gold price growing and 6,300 Real ounce. I mean a year and a half ago it was just over 3,000. There always used to be a natural hedge between the Brazilian Real. When gold strengthened, the Real was was weakening or vice versa. We never really got the double lift.

Matthew Gordon: A lot of people are getting that.

Mike Hodgson: Record levels in Australia. Record levels in Canada. All the resource-based economies are actually getting this.

Matthew Gordon: But it’s question of how long it lasts?

Mike Hodgson: At the end of the day, you look at the macro economics. China and the US and all that, it probably bodes quite well for gold with all this uncertainty, I think. But, people with much better pay grades than I, have got it pathetically wrong. Well that’s probably why, the time is good. Our share has gone to three times, and the market’s there at the moment. I hope he’s gonna be there when we finally need it.

Matthew Gordon: It’s been a good chat, good introduction, because we haven’t spoken before. Our listeners and subscribers have not heard the story before. I know you’ve been around for a while. I wanted to speak to you. I like the robust, relentless, can do attitude of the business. And its share price has been what it’s done for the last few years, but it’s on the move. It’s doing all the right things it seems to me. I want to see that you continue to deliver what you say you’re going to. Do you want to leave us with maybe a few reasons why new investors should be looking at Serabi now?

Mike Hodgson: We’ve now got a record. There’s liquidity. You can get stock now, which is great. For a long time, you couldn’t. So that’s a plus. And there’s a lot more steam in this price. We’ve got a real great economic tailwind at the moment. We’re going to be meet guidance. And next year it’s going to get a little bit better.


Company website: https://www.serabigold.com/

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Pan African Resources (AIM: PAF) – A Dividend Paying Gold Producer

Interview with Cobus Loots, CEO of Pan African Resources (AIM: PAF).

We don’t tend to like investing in Gold producers as they rarely perform for shareholders. But we like this one, a lot. The CEO is brutally and refreshingly honest. He spends lot of time pointing out the difficulties in mining and operating in South Africa.

However, they make it work. They have a long track record of producing Gold and paying dividends. Last year they suspended the dividend payments as their debt borrowing for the new plant was the focus, however, they are planning to pay a dividend (subject to shareholder vote in November). The Audit Results are out today. The numbers are extremely encouraging and show a tremendous growth across the company. Cobus Loots talks about how they have done it and what the growth targets are in the short term. We were impressed about the way they think about capital allocation. Investing in their assets, they want to repay the debt on balance sheet, paying a dividend and how to deliver growth.

They still have a lot to do but we think this team is rigorous in its planning and methodical is how it delivers its projects.

Interview Highlights:

  • Overview of the Company
  • Audit Report: Great News?
  • Safety & Why It is Important to Pan African Resources
  • Productivity & Production: What Numbers Are They Looking At? Can They Lower Their AISC?
  • Paying a Dividend: Why Now?
  • Mining in South Africa: Benefits and Risks
  • Company Financials and Share Price: What’s The Outlook?
  • Future Plans for The Company

Click here to watch the interview.


Matthew Gordon: I’m looking at your executive officer statement. We had a chance to quickly scan through this. Some great numbers on there, you must be very pleased.

Cobus Loots: We are quite pleased. And I think this was a great improvement on pretty much all fronts.

Matthew Gordon: Definitely. Give us a one-minute summary of the business for those new to the story to start with.

Cobus Loots: The company is Pan African Resources PLC. We’re a UK company, but with a South African base, with all of our operations currently in South Africa. We have two large gold mining complexes. The first being Barberton Mines. Barberton Mines has been going for almost 130 years. So, gold mining started in Barberton in 1886. We’ve made some major improvements in recent years at Barberton. So, we have the underground mine that we’ve been mining, and will continue to mine for quite some time. And then we also have a tailings plant that produces ultra-low-cost ounces. The other complex is Evander Gold mines. The largest operation that we have now as part of the Evandar is the Elikhulu plant. That also produces very low-cost and low-risk gold ounces. And then we have an underground operation that we are also in the process of developing further at the moment.

Matthew Gordon: Can we talk about some of the growth stories that I’ve been reading about, eg: Egoli and Royal Sheba. But let’s start with these numbers. You’ve produced some exceptional numbers there. What stands out for you?

Cobus Loots: What stands out is the fact that we improved our safety performance at the year past. That’s critical for us on a number of fronts. If we can’t produce safety, we cannot produce. I’m very happy to report that all of our safety statistics have come down in terms of incidents in the last year. That’s a result of principally the Elikhulu tailings plant, which inherently is just a lower risk operation, but then also a massive focus on safety schemes, safety initiatives across the group. The safety box is never ticked. We have to continue to work on safety, but it was a good performance. Operationally we exceeded our production guidance for the year past. That’s obviously quite a positive. Actually, from all operations we had an improved performance. On the cost side from an All In Sustaining Cost (AISC) perspective we reduced our costs quite substantially. I’d like to say we are the lowest cost producer in South Africa as a group, certainly amongst the lowest cost at the moment. But not only that, we also internationally very competitive. So, AISC came in at $980 an ounce. The international benchmark at the moment is just over $900. So, $980 versus $900. Not bad. And there is potential for us to bring down that cost further in the year to come. So overall, good performance. I’m also very pleased by the fact we are proposing a dividend for approval at the upcoming AGM. And that’s positive. We had to suspend the dividend last year as a result of obviously gold price. What was happening at Evander, the substantial capital we were incurring on the construction of Elikhulu. So, I’m quite happy that the dividend is back. We’ll be at a more modest level, but it’s still to 1% yield is not to be frowned at.

Matthew Gordon: Good news it seems to me, but not without a lot of hard work from your team. And I noticed the first thing you focused on there was safety, which again is unusual. People usually to stick that at the back of the presentation. Why is it such a big deal for you guys?

Cobus Loots: If you analyse it coldly, the world is changing. If you can’t produce gold safely, it makes it very difficult to produce. Our people are our primary asset. That’s an addition to our ore bodies and all of our other infrastructure. So, we need to take care of our people from a health and safety perspective. Safety first, health also very important. So, without our people, well, we can’t achieve what we’ve achieved in the last year.

Matthew Gordon: Good. Nice to hear. Let’s talk about productivity. You’ve increased your forecast, so you’re going to be producing at what level by the end of next year?

Cobus Loots: We’re guiding 185,000 ounces for FY20, which as going to you said, is quite a be a big improvement on the 172,000 that we did last year. So that’s off the back of a number of projects. So, 1. Elikhulu will produce now for a full year. We commissioned Elikhulu in September 2018. So, we really only had the benefit of nine months of production from Elikhulu. You obviously ramping up also. So now you’re looking at a full year of production from Elikhulu which includes the enhanced or increased capacity via the ETRP. It’s a tailings block. So, we’re saying 65,000 ounces from Elikhulu. We’re saying 20,000 ounces from what we call the Evander Pillar project at the Evander underground, and then 100,000 ounces from Barberton. So, that makes up of our increased production guidance of 185,000 ounces.

Matthew Gordon: That puts you firmly in the mid-tier producer range. And if you look at what gold price is doing in the last couple of months, you’ll start to see the benefit of that in terms of margins, because of the amount that you’re producing. I make that point for investors, because there’s an assumption because gold is up that the junior explorers and developers will benefit. And they don’t. It’s the producers who will benefit far more quickly because of sales. You talk about the lower AISC, which I thought was interesting. You are striving to drive towards that $900 mark. You’ve clearly made some headway into that. What do you attribute that to and how are you going to continue driving the AISC lower?

Cobus Loots: The first contributor to the reduction of AISC has most definitely been our tailings business. We commissioned Elikhulu in the last year. It’s quite a large plant. It processes 1.2Mt of tailings p/m. And that’s where we get our 65,000 ounces of gold for the next year. The great thing with Elikhulu is it produces at an exceptionally low AISC. We should be at $650, if not lower. We then have the Barberton tailings retreatment plant (BTRP) that does also 20,000 ounces. So overall, we have 85,000 ounces that are what we like to call ultra-low-cost production. This provides a stable base load, for our portfolio, and allows us to survive pretty much in any gold price environment. And it brings down the groups AISC quite significantly. Those are the tailings businesses. There’s quite a lot of optimization happening underground at Barberton. We’re simplifying the infrastructure. We’re doing a lot more development which allows us further access to high-grade ore bodies. We’re looking at the marginal side of the business to see if we cut some ounces and reduce costs? There are a number of initiatives also ongoing to further reduce the AISC for the group.

Matthew Gordon: But that does tend to suggest that the Barberton costs are quite high.

Cobus Loots: If you look at our results presentation, Barberton underground actually has put different shafts with different cost structures. The flagship underground business is Fairview. Fairview has been going for many years. It’s an incredibly high-grade ore body. It’s on average more than 10g/t, but we get pockets of +100/gt. The principal ore body that we mine at Fairview is the MRC. It has a life currently of 20 years. And we’ve been doing a number of improvements to infrastructure to ensure that we can continue to mine successfully, safely and profitably in years to come. So, Fairview by itself is still a fairly low-cost producer. Then we have a more marginal ounces at Sheba and at Consort. So those are the answers that we have to focus on and reduce that all in sustaining costs.

Matthew Gordon: With regards to Sheba, what’s the chances of that making some kind of contribution this year?

Cobus Loots: Sheba has certainly contributed in the year past, but the focus is increasing that contribution. It’s a project that we’ve been speaking about for some time. We want to get the first gold out of Royal Sheba in the year to come. Sheba should do better this year.

Matthew Gordon: Let’s talk about dividends. But you’ve announced that you’re going to pay a dividend, it’s got to be voted for. I’m assuming the shareholders will accept. What made you do that?

Cobus Loots: It’s a modest dividend versus what we’ve paid in the past. It’s still in effect a yield versus having your money in a bank and in some jurisdictions earning a negative interest rate. I think that makes it attractive. If you consider the way that we think about capital allocation. 1. the first is investing in our assets. We have to continue invest in our assets, otherwise we will not be able to continue to generate returns. 2. is balance sheet, because of the project Elikhulu that we constructed in the last year, our balance sheet is highly geared, certainly more than what we’d like to see. So, in the next year, we’d like to repay quite a lot of the debt we have sitting on the balance sheet. 3. it is providing a cash return to our shareholders in the form of dividends. 4. once we’ve taken care of those we also look at growth.

Matthew Gordon: Mining is tough. Mining in South Africa is really tough. But your track record of bringing projects online is good. We talked previously about doing business in South Africa and what it was like. And you said, ‘yeah, it is tough, but we deal with it. We’re used to it’. Tell people about that conversation because I thought it was fascinating.

Cobus Loots: Well, I’ve concluded that gold is so precious because it’s so difficult to mine regardless of where you are actually doing your mining. South Africa has a fairly negative perception internationally and some of it is justified and some of it potentially is not. We have a long history of mining, certainly gold. More than 50% of all the gold that’s been mined in the world has come from our country. We have great infrastructure. We have access to power. We have access to technical skills. We have a good constitution. We have a good legal system, etc. But then you’re faced with the con’s also. You have unemployment. The economy is not doing great. There’s uncertainty in terms of mining legislation. We have power challenges, electricity issues. So, that sort of makes for an interesting mix. But as you point out, we’ve been able to mine successfully in South Africa for many years. We’ve been able to bring great projects online in South Africa in recent years which demonstrates that we have the ability to operate. One thing that’s certainly come to the fore in the last year is that Africa generally is a difficult place to do business. You look at regulatory issues in Tanzania. You look at terrorism in West Africa. You have to accept that mining in Africa does come with challenges and you have to equip yourselves and skill yourself to be able to deal with us and be successful and operate successfully and sustainably.

Matthew Gordon: You bring up points which most CEOs try to avoid discussing, which I appreciate. It’s also on page 7 of the presentation whene you talk about the underlying risks and how you’re dealing with them. It’s quite attractive when a company is refreshingly honest about the issues that they are dealing with. What it is hard to argue against is your track record of continually delivering the answers. What’s also important is driving that share price up. You have had your share price affected negatively. So what are you doing about it?

Cobus Loots: Well, if a share price does badly and we continue to sort of fret and worry about the share price, that it doesn’t really get us anywhere. So now we have a saying that ‘we focus on those things we can control and then the share price will take care of itself’, as it has done to some extent. I don’t want to speculate about the future, but now we’ve repositioned ourselves as a low-cost producer, even in a global sense. We have a long life. We have great projects where we can further increase production with fairly benign investments. I think we’re well positioned. We are safe producer. We are investing into our communities. We’re making a difference where we operate. All of that makes for a good mix. And if we deliver pretty much what we said we will do, the share price should take care of itself.

Matthew Gordon: As a producer, you’re benefiting from a higher gold price. Certainly, next year’s numbers will should, if it continues, benefit from a higher gold price because your margins are quite good. They’re definitely improving. I want to see them continue to improve. And I’m sure you do too. Let’s see what that looks like in the next the next few months. The one thing which I look for when I’m analysing a company is an understanding its financial health. You have debt at the moment. Which project are you using that for at the moment?

Cobus Loots: Well, that was the $130M Elikhulu project this last year. The project-based testament to what you can get done in South Africa. So, to put $130MIL into the ground in 12 months is not insignificant. This plant can cheat 1.2Mt of material a month. We currently produce for 65,000 ounces at an ultra-low AISC in the year ahead. So that’s to demonstrate that you can get things done in South Africa.

Matthew Gordon: And have you got more plans to raise any more money for capital expansion programs or are you done?

Cobus Loots: We are funded as far as the existing projects are concerned. So, there’s no need for us to go to market. I think the shareholders want to see us deliver on what we said we would do. 2019 was a first or second step in doing that and 2020 should be more of the same.

Matthew Gordon: So, margins are improving. Cash flow is starting to improve, are you starting see the benefit of it now?

Cobus Loots: Well certainly at the current gold price we are definitely seeing the benefit. That’s another positive around being based in South Africa. We have generally a Rand cost base, which is our local currency, which means that inflation is higher than what you’ll find in U.S. dollar terms. Wage inflation is higher than what you see in dollar terms. Electricity inflation is higher than what you’d see in dollar terms. So that’s sort of generally then puts a squeeze on margins. Where there’s a benefit is when you find a local currency, the Rand, blow out a little bit more to the dollar. What it’s done in the last months. So, then you see the margins actually go up quite a bit more than what you would find in dollar terms for your African producer. You can look to hedge. But what I’m saying is that the negative on cost inflation is offset when you find a large depreciation in Rand, which is what we have seen in the last month. So, $15,000 gold price is good for us, 700,000 Rand per kilo gold price, which is what we look at is even better for us at the moment.

Matthew Gordon: And then there’s just one other aspect – you’ve covered off safety and you’ve covered off the CSG component, but there have been some disturbances in-country. One of your sheets talks about arrest rates. Why declare that one? What’s that got to do with your ability to mine?

Cobus Loots: Well, illegal mining is a serious issue, and not only in South Africa and the rest of Africa. But you do find the guys being in South Africa quite militant, aggressive, armed. It’s meant that we’ve had to up our game a little, to professionalize further. We’ve spent a lot of money on security in the last year, more so than in years past. And that’s to protect our assets and to make sure we can continue to mine safely and sustainably into the future. So, yes, it’s endemic in South Africa. The fact that you have really high rates of unemployment. That’s going to create discontent. It’s going to create sort of people that have nothing to lose. And hence are desperate and that’s understandable. And so, we do what we can. If you look at our operations, contractors and employees combined, we employ 3,500 people. So, rule of thumb each of the workers and contractors look after up to 10 other dependents. So, 35,000 people that’s depended on our business. So, that is a big responsibility for us and it’s also a big responsibility for government to make sure that we can continue to operate. And we have been seeing the support from government, both nationally and locally, in terms of making sure that we can continue to operate.

Matthew Gordon: It is not just restricted to Africa either. We’ve been speaking to some companies in South America also struggling with illegal workers and all the issues that brings. You’ve got to be sensitive, but you also need to be able to continue to mine. If I may finish off with what you’ve done with your current assets, you’re sweating those assets and working them hard. And that’s reflected in the numbers we see. We look forward to seeing some guidance as to what that is looking like during the course of the next 12 months, obviously. And the final question is always, so any plans for any acquisitions?

Cobus Loots: We continue to look at acquisitions. It’s always a good thing because it teaches you. I always say in looking at other people’s businesses, you learn quite a bit about your own assets and what you can do differently. So, to some extent we’ll be busy with Royal Sheba, as a product of us looking at assets elsewhere. So, it’s not a priority for us. If we only sweat our own assets and we develop as we’ve set out in our plans for the year ahead, you should see a nice appreciation in the value of the business. So, an acquisition is not an imperative for us. So, we’ll continue to look, but we are certainly by no means desperate. And we’ve always said if you can develop your own portfolio, that really is first prize. Elikhulu being case and point. Egoli potentially also part of Evander, being a second example of what we will look at in the year ahead.

Matthew Gordon: And I’m guessing, given you’ve got experience in underground mining and tailings, if you were looking, you’d be looking for some similar kind of setup that would be optimal for you.

Corbus Loots: I think generally it’s difficult for us to justify going out of Africa. Southern Africa in a way makes more sense because it’s close, it easier to manage. Well, I wouldn’t want to limit the company by only that. So, you know, does it make sense a risk adjusted return basis. That’s what we would look at.

Matthew Gordon: Cobus, thanks very much. I know you’ve got a really busy day today with these numbers out and you’ll be speaking to lots of people. Thanks for making the time for us. Appreciate that. Please stay in touch, because I think you’ve built, or you are you continuing to deliver on your track record. Refreshingly honest.

Cobus Loots: Great. Thanks for having me.


Company website: https://www.panafricanresources.com

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European Lithium (ASX: EUR) – A Giga Factory JV with a Junior Lithium Developer?

Interview with Tony Sage, Non-Executive Chairman of European Lithium (ASX: EUR, FRA: PF8, VSE: ELI)

Can European Lithium plug in to the European EV and battery revolution? They talk about how they think they can attract EU debt funding and a strategic equity partner. Will that partner be prepared to pay more for buying local / greener? Tony talks to us about the realities of how junior miners attempt to get funding and why he believes European Lithium is in a unique position in Central Europe. We are interested in understanding the terms and conditions to their recent €10M convertible note funding facility. If you are a shareholder, do you like terms?

We get his take on the Lithium pricing cycle and timing for recovery. Their Feasibility numbers need the price of Lithium to rise significantly to be economic. Do you agree with him?

We are also fascinated by the fact that European Lithium sits on the ASX (ASX:EUR), Frankfurt Exchange (PF8), Vienna Stock Exchange (ELI) and NEX UK (EUR). Find out which exchanges work for them and why.

Interview Highlights:

  • Overview of the Company
  • The Background Story of European Lithium
  • New Shareholders: Who Are They Targeting?
  • Lithium Market and Geopolitics
  • Standing Out: Can They Get Financing in Today’s Market?
  • Cash Position
  • What Are The Board Preparing For? What Are The Main Concerns Going Forward?

Click here to watch the interview.


Matthew Gordon: Why don’t you kick off with a 1 minute history of the business.

Tony Sage: mine was developed by the Austrian government back in the 1980s. They were looking for uranium but they found Lithium. Unlike any Western company, they actually went out and built the mine straight away without doing all of the work that is required before you start building a mine. What they did is they followed the Lithium from the ceiling of the opening and just followed it all the way down. It’s a beautiful structure inside the mine. But unfortunately, when we took over in 2012, there wasn’t data to prove how they found it. So what we’ve done in the 6 years that we’ve owned it, is mine it So we mined 1,500t. And we also drilled. So that proved, as all Western companies need, is a JORC compliant resource. So we know we’ve got 11Mt of ore there. That that will last 22 years as a mine life. And we completed in that time frame a PFS. So a Pre-Feasibility Study has been completed. It was completed by one of the leading engineering groups in the world, DRA. So that’s basically the premise of our story.

Matthew Gordon: How this has come about? You’re involved with Cape Lambert. Cape Lambert is a shareholder in this project.

Tony Sage: It’s a very interesting background. It started off with a cocktail party. One of my colleagues met The Count of that district in Austria, near Wolfsburg. And they got talking and he’s introduced himself. He was in mining. And The Count said, ‘I’ve got a mine on my property’. That’s where it started. So in 2012, we had a look at it, and invested in his property. We paid him a lot of money for access. And then over time, he enjoyed what we were doing, and he became a shareholder of the company. I didn’t have the funds myself personally. So I used my investment vehicle, Cape Lambert Resources, and we invested some money in. And since then, we’ve got other investors in. In 2012, Lithium wasn’t flavour of the month but in 2016, it became flavour of the month. We kept it private for 4 years. And then we listed it on the Australian Stock Exchange back in 2016-17. At the time Lithium was exploding around the world. But in Australia, there were 41 separate ASX listed Lithium companies at the time. And a lot of those were in Australia, some of those were in Africa, and obviously some in South America. So we were being drowned out by all of the Australian ones. So if you’re an Australian investor, and you say I want to operate a mine in Austria, I would just say you’re crazy. Mining doesn’t happen in Europe. So listing in Australia was an error of judgment. But we got the money when we listed, and we were able to progress the project. But then in 2017, we listed it in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and Berlin. And from that moment on, it exploded. The investor base moved from 100% Australian shareholders to now 55% shareholding base in Europe. And most of those European shareholders are German or Austrian. There’s a splattering in UK, France, Switzerland. So we realised we hit on something extremely good. If you look at a lot of the social media, our company is clicked a lot more than some of the bigger companies in Europe because of 1. EV, 2. it’s a unique story that a mine is going to be actually reopened 20 years later in a little country called Austria.

Matthew Gordon: I do want to say over the management since experience and so forth, but you talk about shareholders and the split between Europe and ASX. Obviously, it’s a European asset. So you’d hope that people would be interested in Europe, but just looking at your share price. Lithium companies across the world have been absolutely hammered. In fact, what is the Lithium price at the moment?

Tony Sage: We’re going to produce is Lithium hydroxide, at its peak was $22,500 per tonne. And you’re looking probably at $15,000 – $16,000 a tonne now. So it’s dropped a lot in the last 12 months. The actual raw Lithium price, got to just over a $1,000 a tonne. It’s probably trading at $450 to $500 a tonne now. Hydroxide has gone down about 35% over the last 4 months.

Matthew Gordon: Most of the numbers I’ve seen from you is using $16,000 a tonne. So obviously that’s taking a bit of a hit. I’ve read various things from JP Morgan that suggest that it’s going to go lower. What do you think?

Tony Sage: We look at benchmark. We look at Roskill, but we also look at the broader world. China has just announced, it wants to build 1M electric buses. Now you just think about the amount of Lithium required for 1M electric buses. The slide started when one of the biggest producers out of Chile said that they were going to double production, because they had an agreement with the Chilean government to increase their production. It didn’t happen. But that was the initial scare. From that date that was announced the Lithium price actually fell about 15% on the day. Lithium stocks all around the world just went down 10%, 15%, 20% because they thought all this production was coming off. However, 1. that production is not coming on. 2. you’ve got countries like China, who are now announcing that they’re going to be a 1M electric buses. Now, there’s not enough Lithium around today to produce those 1M buses in the timeframe they want. The price will go up.

Matthew Gordon: You’re projecting that. I think like most supply demand stories, there’s two sides to it. We accept that the demand is probably going up because of the whole EV story.  But likewise, as soon as the demand goes up, new entrants come into market or production, which is sitting idle at the moment or on a very low level, goes up. JP Morgan would suggest that there’s going to be double the amount of production out of South America alone into the marketplace. So that is going to affect pricing. It’s a question of where it settles. Production is not going to stay as is. It would be insane to think that. I think people will be attracted to come into the Lithium market again. It’s a question of can they do it economically. And we’ve spoken to a lot of Lithium businesses. You’re right, in the ASX lithium is a dirty word at the moment because people’s shares are underwater. It’s a question of when does the price start to move again? You’re going to get through this cycle into the next cycle. Can you get financed at current levels?

Tony Sage: I think we can. I wouldn’t be pushing ahead, spending already $12M-$13M on the Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS). Spending another $10M on the definitive or bankable, unless I was very confident. We’ve been in discussions with project financiers, quite large ones, European-based. What you’ve got to understand is the broader geopolitical situation. You’ve seen it now with Rare Earths. China has said to the world, we’re not going to export any more Rare Earths. At the moment China produce over 80% of the Cobalt required for EVs and 85% of the Lithium for EVs. Now, if they’re going to build 1M electric buses. And of course, with cars and obviously battery storage… how many batteries do you think they’ll be exporting in 10 years time? So the EU has made Lithium and Cobalt critical minerals. There’s only a few players in Europe that can produce in Europe. 25% of the world’s Lithium ends up in Europe. They produce none at the moment for electric batteries.

Matthew Gordon: Let me understand the terminology. You say critical minerals need to be produced from within Europe. Or have they got the ability to buy out in the wider market?

Tony Sage: Well, OK, let’s go into Hydroxide and Carbonate production. All comes from China. They’ve built one plant here in Western Australia. Who owns it? The Chinese. At some point like they have done with Rare Earths, they could say for their own critical needs, that they can’t export any more Lithium Hydroxide or Cobalt Hydroxide, or Cobalt Carbonate or Lithium Carbonate. At some point, it might not happen, but the security countries like America and Europe as a whole need to have is some production in their own backyard. Ours isn’t going to anywhere near create the supply that is needed by BMW, Volkswagen.

Matthew Gordon: So again just so I understand. Are you talking about production or are you’re talking about processing?

Tony Sage: I’m talking about production of Lithium Hydroxide or Carbonate in Europe.

Matthew Gordon: Right. Because it’s a fairly abundant resource, isn’t it? That’s the problem.

Tony Sage: It is. But mining it economically is the key point. So it is abundant everywhere. So, for example, we just take Pilbara Minerals, for example, 4 weeks ago, they were in big trouble. They got rescued by the Chinese because the price has fallen down, because they’re in a remote location. We’re in Wolfsburg, right near the railway line, 40km from Graz, where Samsung have a battery factory. We’re in an industrial area in Europe where we can export to any country in Europe by train for very little compared to having it from Australia or South America, shipping it to China to get produced in China. All China does buy it for $450- $900 a tonne, and sell it as Hydroxide at $16,000 a tonne to battery makers in Europe. The EU have recognized that. They’ve recognized that with Rare Earths. They were scared by the Rare Earths announcement by China on 2020 no more export. So they’re madly, as with the Americans now, trying to find Rare Earths. But it’s the same problem that will be with Lithium Hydroxide and Carbonate. Forget the raw stuff. I mean, there isn’t a plant in Chile that produces Hydroxide or Carbonate. They ship the raw product to China to get the Hydroxide.

Matthew Gordon: Are you’re saying that Europe is coming up these protectionist policies to be able to produce and process their own Lithium in their own backyard?

Tony Sage: Encouraging policies, encouragement for European mines to be able to produce Hydroxide, Carbonate for the European market.

Matthew Gordon: An encouragement! We’ll talk about the funding program launched by the German ministry, which you mention, in a minute. But if I’m Gigafactory producing batteries, I’m going to go to the cheapest supplier, aren’t I? I’m going to go to the South Americans. So how do you stack up against that?

Tony Sage: Well, 1. the freight cost. We’re not paying $22 – $25 a ton to ship it from there to Europe. 2. if you look at and read our Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS), our cost structure is very good. The number is $6,500 -$7,000 a tonne, whereas 12 months ago we could have got $22,000 for it. Now we can get $15,000. It’s still a very big margin of profit, excluding financing costs, for our shareholders. So we believe we can produce for the European market a safe green, very green supply of Lithium Hydroxide to the European market without any problem with geopolitics. If the suppliers, for example, as we saw 7 months ago, the Argentinian government slapped a tax of 10%-12% on every export, including Lithium. So if you’re a Lithium producer in Argentina, you’ve just dropped 12% of your profit.

Matthew Gordon: Yes, but they’re also producing at $3,000, so they got some margin. Lowest quartile producers.

Tony Sage: Well, in Chile they are, Argentina not so. But in Chile. Yes. Chile is very un-environmentally friendly.

Matthew Gordon: Meaning what?

Tony Sage: Well, they’re producing this from brines, which takes up a lot of water. And which is causing all the grief with the local population. And they don’t want any of those mines to be increased, because if you’ve seen a brines production facility, it’s pretty ugly to the environment. So environmental, ours is all underground. So we can get a big green tick and we’re producing Hydroxide for EVs or other environmentally friendly industries. So I think we get 1. a big green tick 2. the German car manufacturers for example, I think one got into a bit of trouble investing in a Cobalt mine in DRC.

Matthew Gordon: That’s a well-trodden path with regards to Cobalt and DRC and child labour and so forth. Let’s stay away from that. Let get into this. So what I want to understand is how does your project get financed today? I know you did a raise earlier in the year. What are the terms of that. $10M was mentioned. But it was a bit more complicated than that, wasn’t it?

Tony Sage: So it’s a financing facility that we can draw down on. It’s complicated because it depends on the share price at the time. They get a 10% discount to the market. Say we are trading at $0.10. They get it at $0.09. And they don’t do it all at once. So we’ve got the facility there. They can do it when they feel like. So, we’ve only drawn down on that facility $2M and so we got $8 million left.

Matthew Gordon: And you can drawdown in $1M tranches upon conversion of all the notes from previous rounds. That’s the way it works?

Tony Sage: So when they finished when they finished selling those to recoup their money, we can then draw down the next one.

Matthew Gordon: Got it. So it’s a real stagger. It’s not $10M per se. It’s a facility, as you said.

Tony Sage: It’s a facility and it can last 3 years.

Matthew Gordon: So let’s come back to financing, because that’s where the fascinates me. At $15,000-$16,000, you’ve shown your what the economics are here for you. But if I’m a banker, I’m discounting today’s price by up to 40%. So it becomes a question of, can you persuade people that your thesis about price going up is true? And if you can, that’s great. If you can’t, then what are your options in terms of getting this thing finance? Once your DFS is complete?

Tony Sage: Well, 1. the DFS will say whether we’re robust enough. So if the DFS comes out saying this is a very marginal project, I wouldn’t go to any bank with this. That’s one scenario. We’re expecting the opposite because the Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) was very robust. So I’ll have a very robust DFS. So I go to the bank and I will say, ‘this DFS proves there’s a 40% margin in this. How much can you project finance this?’. They will say, ‘this much’. We will seek some EU funding, whether it’s a soft loan, whether it’s a…

Matthew Gordon: Tell us about that? You talk about the German ministry putting a battery production funding program together of €1Bn. That’s quite a lot of money. But how much of that would be applicable to you? How much of that €1Bn would be set aside for mining?

Tony Sage: Unknown. If we, for example, link up with a battery manufacturer, as a joint application for use of these funds, it might be a larger number. As a miner, by ourselves, I don’t think we would be able to do it. We’d have to link up with maybe an end user. I’m just throwing out names. An automotive maker in Germany or a battery maker in Germany. We can partner up and then apply for that. But separate to that there’s EU funding. It’s called Horizon 2020, and under that, there is a direct application for us as a critical mineral for Europe. We may be able to get a soft loan. So that soft loan might be €50M at a very attractive interest rate, which is probably almost zero repayable over X amount of years. So at the same time, say the number is $400M that we’re looking for. We would do $70M of that in direct equity, and the rest in project finance and or funding from a source like Horizon 2020, or from the €1Bn fund from the German government.

Matthew Gordon: How does someone like Horizon 2020 assess your project and the economics of a project like this.

Tony Sage: The credibility of being the… the PFS is done and the DFS is coming. We would have to present a case to them that 1. it’s very good for Europe. 2. it will create jobs in Europe. 3. it is green. We’re not going to hurt the environment by doing what we’re doing. The three key criteria in Horizon 2020. We take every one of those boxes.

Matthew Gordon: It’s interesting that none of those criteria are about the economics.

Tony Sage: No. Again, it’s about creating jobs. If you look at virtually any government around the world, it’s not really about economics. It’s about creating jobs. This is a fiscal investment by the EU into something that’s going to create jobs and solve the problem, albeit in a small way of producing a critical product for the European industry, rather than being reliant on China.

Matthew Gordon: So potentially that type of money is quite important, because it’s… I’m not saying dumb money but it’s money which is a different set of values or needs from institutional money, who does care about the economics, because they’re buying shares in your business, presumably on the equity side, and want some guarantees that you’re going to be able to mine economically and pay back the debt. So have those conversations been had? How do you know that Horizon 2020 is interest in investing in something like you?

Tony Sage: Well, because we’ve applied, and we’ve talked to the right people at the right agency. And we will await the outcome of the DFS. They’ve got a stringent programme as well. We’ve got to have a document that shows that we will be economic. We will create jobs in a low job area, especially for youth near Wolfsburg in Austria, where we are. So that would create long-term 300-400 jobs, short-term 1,500 during the construction phase. So we are going to create jobs in that. And if you go to the local government in that area, we’ve got two sets of competing mayors who want us to build the plant on their side of the fence. So we’ve got so much support from the local government. We’ve got so much support from the Austrian government. So now it’s one step higher, which is the EU in total. And they’ve got so many other factors to look at geopolitics, which we’ve talked we’ve touched on environment, which we’ve touched on. And most important jobs.

Matthew Gordon: Most important for them. But I’m talking about shareholders wanting to come in and invest.

Tony Sage: But if we get that money. That’s a big chunk of shareholders who will go, ‘wow, that’s great’. That’s $50M, $70M. How are you going to get the other… $300M. $70M of that is going to come directly as direct equity. So that’s roughly 25% of it. We’ve done the numbers with banks. What they’re looking at for the project finance side, and they can project finance probably 60% of the project.

Matthew Gordon: So let me get this straight. I want to get the numbers right. You say $400M required. You’re getting potentially, let’s just say for a second argument, $50M of debt from Horizon 2020 on a 70/30 debt / equity split.

Tony Sage: Half of that.

Matthew Gordon: So I’m just trying to think as a retail /high net worth /family office investor looking at your company going, ‘I think this is a great story. I’m going to invest. How do I feel about Horizon 2020 coming in?’. I guess if they’re putting $50 million towards the debt. Great. But it’s still costing the company, whatever nominal rates that these people are charging…near zero. You’re suggesting. That’s great news. Do I look at that as some kind of endorsement of the project? I guess not. It’s about job creation, and is it green etc. So I’d need to some see who else would be involved with this, is what I’d be thinking. You talk about advanced stage discussions with some of the off-take agreements as a means of… would that be pre-funding in terms of the off-take? Who are some of the names involved with this who would give me some comfort around the validity of the project?

Tony Sage: We’ve signed NDA’s with these companies. But rest assured that a large German automakers and builders of batteries themselves is another company. And let’s go for one other one, which was in the industry of producing electronic tools. Now, the reason I don’t pre-sell the off-take now is, once this DFS is done and people see how robust the project is, you’ve got other suppliers around the world that will say here’s a foothold into Europe. So if we’ve already sold our off-take pre the DFS, we won’t be a takeover target.

Matthew Gordon: Ok.

Tony Sage: If I don’t and the DFS comes out, here we are. There’s a small player in Europe is only going to produce 11,000t of Hydroxide per annum. They are in Europe. They’ve got all these contacts. Wouldn’t it be great to have in our portfolio? So if we’d already sold the off-take is very much more difficult to have that story. I’d like to be in a position where we’re completely transparent. We’ve got no-offtake partner now. We don’t want one now. And we will wait until the DFS is done and we can sign 4 agreements today, if I wanted to. And a couple of those are outside of Europe, but I don’t want to sign one now for that reason.

Matthew Gordon: And I appreciate the insight into the strategy and the thinking. That’s well-noted. So, if I look at the project now, $16,000, which is what you’ve done the numbers on, and let’s say it’s roughly give or take that on any given day at the moment, you’ve got a 25% IRR, which is reasonable. But you’re right on the margin in terms of price in the market at the moment. So you’re looking for this price appreciation to drive not only the IRR, but the NPV of this project up. Are there institutions that you’re talking to or begun conversations with, in anticipation of what the DFS is going to tell you?

Tony Sage: Yes, we’ve got a couple of institutions already in the stock. They bought through the last equity raising we did. So they’re sitting back. I’m going to be completely honest now. Virtually everyone, the two major banks, European banks, and two off-takers want to wait for the DFS. The Chinese obviously don’t care about the DFS. They’ve seen the PFS. But we don’t want to send concentrate from Austria to China for $400-$600 a tonne, and it comes back in to Europe at $16,000-$17,000 a tonne. So we can take easy money now and breeze through the next 6 months, or we can hold tough like we have. Be true to what we want to be able to do, which is finish the DFS. And then go to the two major banks that we’ve talked to and say, ‘right, this is it now. You’ve asked us to be our clients. Can you raise X amount of dollars on the IRR based on this final report from DRA’.

Matthew Gordon: Those are an investment banks as opposed to debt providers. And the current investors are going to be very different from the types investors you’re looking for going forward, aren’t they?

Tony Sage: Absolutely. Yes. Completely different. At the moment, we’ve got, in Australia, we call them mums and dads; in Europe they are called family houses. So we’ve got a lot of family house investors in Europe based in Austria and Germany. We’ve got a little bit of investment, now that we’re listed in London on the NEX. And a few are coming through that. The reason we did that is to broaden our investments spread of investors from Europe, and a lot of family houses in London, and a lot of municipalities can’t invest unless you’ve got some sort of listing in London. So we chose the NEX because it was the quickest to get on. And since we were on, it doesn’t trade very well, because most of the family houses buy on the Frankfurt Exchange where we trade millions and millions a day.

Matthew Gordon: It’s cheap and quick on NEX, but doesn’t necessarily trade or give you the volume of liquidity you need. So how much cash are you sitting on?

Tony Sage: $1.7M in the bank right now. Our next drawdown is $1M, which should come through by the end of October, halfway through November. And that will continue. So in another 3 or 4 weeks, we can draw down another $1M or so on.

Matthew Gordon: So they let you know how they’re doing with regards to selling down the shares.

Tony Sage: Well, we see it because they have to come through us to convert their shares. We’ve obviously got the share register, so we know when they are selling it. So we’re okay for now. Would we want a different funding, partner? Maybe. So, there’s lots of different options on the table. We’re not going to say we’re stuck with this one, but this one will suit us for the time being until we finish the DFS.

Matthew Gordon: You mentioned part of your strategy is, you don’t necessarily want to take off-take partners on board yet, until you get clarity on the DFS, because then you’ll understand what your options are. You’re a small Lithium player. You’re in Europe. That’s a USP for you or your positioning it as such anyway. What are you doing? Some companies choose to hunker down until there is price discovery. The price gets back up. Or some people like charge on at 100 miles an hour. Some people JV. What’s going on with the board’s thinking. What are the things keeping you awake at night Tony?

Tony Sage: Well, the biggest one right now, believe it or not, is geopolitical. Because everything affects everything in this world. Trump’s fight with Xi Jinping, everyone should be worried about, the whole world should be worried about.

Matthew Gordon: We are. That’s why Gold has gone up.

Tony Sage: Yeah, $1,500. I’ve been reading reports over $3,000 an ounce by mid-next year. But if I’m thinking purely of business, that is my number one concern. China already has proven with this Rare Earth announcement that it will try and hold the rest of the world to ransom if it doesn’t get its way. Trump is belligerent on the other hand, and he wants his way. So, that negotiation is very important for a lot of things in commodity prices around the world. So that’s one thing that keeps me awake at night. I think part of the reason that the US now says, ‘I want to buy Greenland’, because I know there’s a whole lot of Rare Earths in Greenland. So that one maybe a parody or a joke from him. But he’s quite serious about getting investment in Greenland. And I think now with the Prime Minister going to visit Trump. He’s come out and said, ‘we want to really be involved in Lithium, Cobalt, Rare earths’, anywhere in the world with any Australian company. So geopolitically I think there will be a resolution coming up, whether it’s in Trump’s favour, China’s favour. Who knows? But that will settle a lot of the nervousness. You’ll see Gold maybe come down a little bit. But I think everyone then will think, right China’s ready to go again. We just saw the spurt in iron ore prices, for example. It went from $60 a tonne back to $125. Because they’ve got rid of their stockpiles and they needed it very quickly. If there is some sort of resolution, China will need to fiscally spend money again and that will increase the Iron Ore price. But that goes on to other things. If they’re building 1M buses, they still need Iron Ore. But they still need Lithium. I look at the whole of the world and think about things that can happen, cannot happen. For the board, we’ve got a very good project in a very good country. The government of Austria wanted to go ahead. The local government there wants to go ahead. We’ve had no environmental issues come forth for us. Being in Europe, you see every time there’s a new mine set up, there’s greenies everywhere trying to stop it. Ours is not like that. It’s all underground. I think we’re in a unique position to go ahead, finalize the DFS, have a document that we can present to project financers, institutions that will take chunks in an equity raising and obviously go to the $1Bn fund people out of Germany and also the Horizon 2020 out of the EU. I’m looking forward very positively and I believe that the Lithium price will start to move upwards from January next year.

Matthew Gordon: We shall see. I think lots of people want to see some movement there. And then it’s a case of what happens next. Do we get a slew of Lithium miners coming into market or not? And how do you take advantage of your unique position in Europe and capitalize on that? Tony that’s a great first introduction to the company. I would love to stay in touch and see how you get on.

Tony Sage: Thank you very much.


Company website: https://europeanlithium.com/

If you see something in this article that you agree with, or even disagree with, please let us know in the comments below.

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Small Uranium Companies May Need to Change Strategies to Survive – Dustin Garrow

Dustin Garrow, former Paladin Director, and industry advisor to Uranium companies, Uranium ETFs and Uranium Funds, was involved in writing the WNA Nuclear Fuel report, especially the uranium chapter. A lot of investors on social media are seeing the findings of the report as a signal for a recovery in the uranium price. We ask Dustin Garrow if this a realistic assumption.

Analysts say there needs to be production at higher price. This report says ‘yes there needs to be more investment in the fuel cycle and particularly uranium. So everyone is saying the same thing. The Demand forecast marginally positive. Dustin tell some of the factors for altering the data from companies to show a more realistic outlook.

Will some of the junior uranium companies fall off the cliff if the price discovery takes longer than hoped. How will their strategies need to change?

Certainty is still not here, but the mood is more positive. Dustin Garrow saw 10-12 investment groups which is more than have attended more many years. Not a lot of the US utilities. He talks about conversations with generalist investors. And also an update about the 90 Day Working Group.

The report has previously had a reputation of being vague. But a lot of hard work has gone in to making it a little bit more commercial. But still avoids talking about the economics! It doesn’t talk price. Surprised, we were. But it does now discuss long-term contracts and term market.

Did you know that the EU and US represents over 50% of the uranium requirements. 1.9 billion pounds of uranium, and 90% was on long-term contracts.

Interview Highlights:

  • WNA Expectations
  • WNA Fuel Report: What Will it Do For The Market?
  • Current Mood in The Market: When Will Price Discovery Happen?
  • Struggles of Raising Funds in The Junior Space
  • Investment Hacks: What Should You Look Out For Before Investing?
  • Buying Physical Uranium: What Should You Know?

Click here to watch the interview.


Matthew Gordon: It has. We, like you, have been trotting around, meeting people, interviewing people at the WNA Symposium London, getting a sense of what the mood is. What do you want to get out of it?

Dustin Garrow: I think an important part is the biannual market Fuel Report from the WNA. I happen to have been involved in the uranium chapter. And the initial reactions have been very positive from outside organizations and people. I think the report reflects more of the concern of some of the fuel cycle participants. And it goes not just to uranium, but also the conversion side. I think the industry perspective now is more in line with what I’ve been seeing, particularly in the uranium side, on the supply issues that are looming.

Matthew Gordon: The WNA Fuel Report comes out every two years. It has had a reputation of being just a little bit vague. It paints a broad picture. But this year, a lot of hard work has gone into it. And we’ve met some of the authors of that. You were involved as well. It’s just that little bit more commercial. It’s getting to where it needs to be. You were involved with the uranium component. What was the brief?

Dustin Garrow: I’ve been involved in the report for many series of it. It was originally designed as an internal communication document. It wasn’t nearly as critical as to how it was put together. And the other thing is you can’t talk economics, can’t talk prices for anti-competitive reasons. But then it became the industry position, as particularly more investor groups, began to look in the uranium side. So, there’s been that lengthy transition. Still can’t talk economics. But it now it addresses things like the need for long-term contracts. There is still a big hurdle at this point. A lot of companies are at the starting gate in various forms, but without the utilities committing to more than a 2-3 forward year agreement, they can’t raise financing. It’s now being recognized, the term-market, it’s role in this industry. I looked at the US and the EU deliveries since 2000. There’s really good data on both the regions, which represents more than 50% of uranium requirements. Over that period, they’ve taken delivery of 1.9Bn lbs of uranium and 91% was under long-term contracts. So, the idea that the utilities rely on the spot market just doesn’t reflect reality. They still buy about 20Mlbs a year in the spot.

Matthew Gordon: It talks about long-term contracts which is a really important part of the industry for sure, but it’s not giving any indication around price because it can’t be anti-competitive.

Dustin Garrow: So you say things like ‘adequate’. And that depends on the specific company. What’s adequate for a Cameco is not adequate for a new build project somewhere else. But it’s a crucial element in the progression of the production facilities.

Matthew Gordon: If I look at people like TradeTech or UXC, they can get into this. And I think is important for commercial reasons that they can get into this. They sell those reports into utilities funds etc. But these interviews are for the ordinary guy like me and you, who want to buy shares in equities. What does this report do for them? Does it give certainty to the marketplace so therefore, people start behaving in a different way and therefore the equities react?

Dustin Garrow: What’s important is a lot of the investment analysts have concluded that there is a need for more production and it will be at a higher price. It has to be because of the economics of the new production facilities. The WNA, without talking the economic side, is saying, y’es, there is a need for more investments in the fuel cycle and particularly uranium’. So now everyone is saying the same thing. Now the contrarian would say, ‘well, now it’s time to look over the other direction’. I think one thing that was brought out in the WNA Fuel Report is the demand forecast. Recently the WNA had a low-case which had demand eventually dropping off. Well, now even the low-case is a positive I think it’s 0.1% growth. But it’s not a drop off. So, across the three cases, the reference case is about 2% growth per year and the higher one is 3.5%

Matthew Gordon: How did that how did they marry this up with the supply case? Most companies will overstate, will be a little bit hopeful about what they’re going to be capable of doing, but they are restricted by a number of factors.

Dustin Garrow: I think what what’s another important thing is there’s more judgment being put into the WNA Fuel Report. In other words, you can take the public statements of all these companies and say, ‘well, his history suggests that it’s going to take longer, it’s going to be slower’, or whatever and more of that’s going in the report.

Matthew Gordon: That’s great news.

Dustin Garrow: So, it’s not like, ‘oh, no, you’ve got to say just public information’. So, there’s some judgment that goes into it from people…Frank Haney, who ran the working group. He’s retiring next year after 50 years in the industry. So, we have some long beards involved.

Matthew Gordon: So that’s the WNA Fuel Report. Generally, very positively received. It’s certainly an upgrade from where it’s been, a lot of hard work gone into it and a lot more realism. Let’s talk about mood. I’ve been speaking to people and I’d say the general mood is positive, without necessarily being certain. It’s better than it was 6 months ago when we first started discovering the world of uranium. I’ve had some fantastically wide-ranging views on when price discovery happens from 3 months through to 18 months. Now everyone’s got a different business model, and everyone has different needs. But the people sitting in the middle are thinking maybe it’s going to happen next year. What are you hearing?

Dustin Garrow: I thought it was interesting that at the WNA symposium I think there were ten or twelve investment groups represented. We’ve never had that before. We’ve had maybe 2 or 3.

Matthew Gordon: And these are generalists?

Dustin Garrow: These are these are the guys that are either going to buy physical or buy inequities. They’re the guys that are going to put the money up for the industry. And someone said last night at a dinner I attended… when you’ve been around in this business so long, you walk in a room and you sense the mood, and it is on that positive side by the producers, either real or those that plan to come into production. The meetings that I’ve had outside of this symposium had been very positive. It’s not, ‘oh, well, what about the Japanese? They’re never going to’…It’s more like, ‘I’m on board now. When is it going to happen?’. The Section 232 in the United States… we had the July 12th memorandum from the President, which some people interpreted as, he had no interest in helping the domestic industry. But if you read his statement, it was ‘at this time’. And now the 90 Day Working Group will come out with some kind of remedy. But it will be uranium conversion, enrichment and probably be pretty neutral regarding the utilities. What’s going to be their exposure? But the point being, it’s not going to affect the general market. It’ll be kind of played out in support of the US government. But I think some of the utilities, particularly in the US, have the big unfilled needs, are saying, ‘well, I still don’t know what’s going to come out’. We’ll have that answer by mid-October. And then I think that they’ll start making their procurement decisions.

Matthew Gordon: We’ve had similar conversations. I think quotas, tariffs, subsidies. No-one knows.

Dustin Garrow: I think that’s all off the table. There will be some form of government support just directly. It won’t limit imports of other origins or anything like that.

Matthew Gordon: Let’s step back and see what happens there. But I think that’s going to be very interesting, obviously, for the US uranium companies. One of yours, Energy Fuels, obviously waiting to see what’s happening there.

Dustin Garrow: I think that activity in the term-market is what’s going to help raise the spot price. So, it’s not going to be the spot price goes up and then there’s term activity. The utilities are already doing their due diligence. They’re contacting suppliers. How much have you got? What timeframe? What kind of pricing are you looking for? That’s a precursor for them coming out. And like one of the US utilities was just in the long-term market, 2021-2025… So, again, they’re starting the process that they’ve not been willing to do because of the price differentials for a number of years.

Matthew Gordon: So, you were at the Eight Capital dinner last night. What were you hearing? What were the questions that are being asked?

Dustin Garrow: Well, no one’s saying, ‘well, is the price going to drop?’. What are the factors that are going to move it up and when do we see those asserting themselves? Now, some of us, we are die hard optimists. We could start to see it before the end of the year. But I think by first quarter, keep in mind, there’s a big conference in Nashville at the end of October, where there’s only like 3 US utilities here. They’ll all be in Nashville; the producers will be there. I think there’ll be much more discussion because we’ll know what the working group recommendation is or outcome. So, we could see some of them will say, ‘well, I’m going to get out there now. I’m not going to wait’. And we could start to see an uptick in term-contracts.

Matthew Gordon: Based on your assertion that you think it’s pretty soon, a lot of companies are going to like that news. Not saying it’s going to happen, just that they’re going to like your view. If that doesn’t happen… we’ve been speaking to a few people and we’ve been interviewing a few people. So, we’ve got a broad sense of what’s happening with it with a junior uranium space. A lot of them are needing to raise capital to keep going. They may get to the end of the year, but that’s it. Do you feel that the funds or the institutions that you’re talking to are ready to have those conversations with these juniors or are they going to struggle?

Dustin Garrow: I think some, because they have a good business plan, good projects, they’ll be able to maybe live on the drip for a while. They’re not going to get that big multi $100M financing done without term-contracts. I think they may be optimistic on how long that takes. It’s not that the price goes up, the next day the phone rings and all the utilities sign big contracts and by the end of the week away you go. It can take months and months. And at some point, the Cameco’s enter the market. And at some point, you’re going to see a lot of activity once you get to a certain degree.

Matthew Gordon: That’s great saying that because I think if I look at the retail following that we’ve got within uranium. Very passionate, very optimistic and patient group of people, very knowledgeable too. But they shouldn’t expect an immediate pop in price. There’ll be a gradual escalation on price. Is that what you’re saying? That could be as well as long as 12 months before it gets to where it needs to be? When does it get to $50?

Dustin Garrow: Well the term-price at $30 we could see $40 very quickly, because I think that’s the next plateau. A bit of contracting by some, then another pop up to $50. Well, how long does that take? Are we dictated to by the utilities when they come on the market? So, yes, by some time. First half of next year should you see a lot of term-contracting activity. And it’ll affect the spot-price. I think we’re within a 6-month window.

Matthew Gordon: I’m going to go back to my institutional days. I’m looking at price, if it hits $40. Most of these companies are still under water at $50-$55. So, in a meaningful way, it doesn’t matter if it is $20 or $40, but for the funds, if they see contracts in place, they have security. They still have to take a guess on what the future holds. And that the company can get product to the utilities. They’re got to say this will get to $55. That’s only break even for some of these companies. Some these companies need to make more than that to be able to pay back anything they have borrowed. So, there’s still a lot of uncertainty in terms of ability to raise capital. Is there not, at this point?

Dustin Garrow: Yes. That’s why some of them are out meeting, a lot of meetings, a lot of discussions and preparation for them. Then you go out and you do your whatever amount of term-contracting. I think the financing is available, but with the right conditions.

Matthew Gordon. We’ve been meeting and talking to a lot of the funds and institutions, and they’re generalists who, as you say, are coming back in and having a look at what’s going on. They’re having to get back up to speed, to understand what’s happening in the market, and they’ve going to take a view on what the future looks like. But, yes, I think the money is there, under the right conditionas. But that is going to come down to 2 quite important things that I’ve discovered in the past 6 months, management teams who have produced uranium and got it into market. Not many of them, right? And then, of course, the basic fundamentals of mining, is this a good asset? Can you get it out of the ground, let alone get it into market?

Dustin Garrow: Well, as you know, we’re having more specific questions. In other words, will a rising tide lift all boats? I think some of the investors that have either been in the space or more sophisticated, whatever, are saying, well, now of this group of companies, where should I place my funds? I think probably the primary question that I’m getting back is, ‘I’m on board, I think it’s great, next year. But where do I place my funds?’ And part of it is, like you say, management teams, the experience. And that’s hard to come by these days. Very difficult. There’s just not many veterans left. And uranium is a unique commodity because of the political, social issues surrounding it.

Matthew Gordon: I’ve been calling it in the past few days ‘Mining +’. Mining’s hard enough. Then you have the uranium component, which is a political hot bed. And some of those geopolitical concerns. But without getting at the macro, we all agree that the general consensus is it’s positive, a huge infrastructure needs filling. But if we come back to the management team. There’s about 50-55 companies in the uranium space at the moment. As the market recovers, you’re going to have new entrants coming in. It’s hard to imagine that any of them are going to have relevant uranium experience.

Dustin Garrow: It will be difficult.

Matthew Gordon: So, again, for our Subscribers, that’s something that they need to consider when making an investment decision. A new story doesn’t necessarily equate to capital appreciation, because these new entrants are unlikely to get into production with new management teams with no experience. Not impossible, just unlikely.

Dustin Garrow: During the last uplift, there were like 400 / 500 companies. I was at PDAC and everybody was tacking up a sign. ‘We also do uranium’, on top of everything else. And geologists with some drill logs they were they were getting funded. I think this time around it will be more difficult, because the questions will be asked, ‘who is behind it?’, peal it to the next layer and. And who’s going to do this? I want names. And that’s going to be a difficult part of the equation for some of the companies to convince funds. And it goes into the term-contracting. The utilities will say, ‘I’ll do a 200,000lbs /300,000lbs contract. I’m not going to do 500,000lbs. I don’t know you guys. I don’t know your project. It’s not built. So, I’m going to be cautious’. So, that means junior companies have to even do more contracts than maybe an established producer, of which there aren’t many left.

Matthew Gordon: Yes. A few things going on there. If you don’t have anyone who’s produced or been involved with producing uranium before, as an investor, you’ve got to think twice because it’s complex. It is not just drilling holes in the ground, finding it, digging it. It’s not that simple. There’s what happens afterwards. The bit that you’ve got a huge track record on was, I’m not selling you by the way… I’m just referencing that you have huge experience in this, the contract side of things. That’s not easy because, time comes into this. There are buying cycles. Term-contracts are 5, 7 years, aren’t they?

Dustin Garrow: They come in cycles. And just as a quick side note, when we did the bankable contracts for Langer Heinrich, the banks laid out very specific requirements. How much volume? At what price? Over so many years. So, we had to then construct a contracting plan that met all those needs. And sometimes you have holes and the banks go ‘fill the hole before I’m going to press that release of funds’. So, there’s more to it than like I said, the phone rings and you pass around contracts and you’re done. Won’t happen that way. It’s not to say these other companies can’t be successful. It just may take a bit more time. They may have to be more flexible in contracting.

Matthew Gordon: I think the phrase I heard yesterday was that ‘they don’t know what they don’t know’.

Dustin Garrow: And it’ll come to their front door.

Matthew Gordon: And that takes time. And that takes money. And sometimes they can’t fix it. So, a lot of things to be cautious of as an investor in the uranium space, unless you get a team that’s been there, done it before. I think that’s important because a lot of people, generalists, I’m not talking about the wonderful uranium crowd that have been in there through thick and thin over the last two years. I’m talking about generalists coming back home when uranium does kickback, will need to understand that. It’s not a case of all boats float on a high tide. I fundamentally disagree with that statement. I think all boats float for a while. And then the inevitable happens, they sink. So that’s great if you get it on the way up. But if you’re if you’re left on the boat, you’re in trouble.

Dustin Garrow: TradeTech, one of the two long time industry consulting firms has just put out a study on production. And it goes beyond, ‘well, here are the costs’. They look at full cost because a new project’s not going to be built on cash costs only, but then they try to look at what are the impediments? What about the secondary licensing? What about the mine plans? What about contract? Have they gone out and approached the market? Are they ready to do that? So, it’s kind of a guideline, a cookbook, to look at and go, ‘well, you know, just because you’ve got the best technical project, you may not be in the first mover group. You may not veto the third’, because of where the projects located for a number of reasons. So, the industry is trying to help some of the consulting firms in that regard.

Matthew Gordon: But that’s fine for people like you and me. We can afford that report. I saw it yesterday. Great report. And we can interpret that and extrapolate what we want from that for retail, family office, high net worth. They’re not going pay for that report. They don’t have access to that. They’re going to have to trust the information that they’ve got access to. And that’s why I’m interested in talking to people like you, you’ve been around the block a few times. You’ve seen a few cycles, influencers who understand what’s going on in the uranium space. But it can also help bring to light some of these issues. What the company says and what the company is capable doing are sometimes polar opposites. They’re very far apart and that’s the difference between making money and losing money. And that’s important. This is investor’s money. That’s what I care about.

Dustin Garrow: I think money will be made in this space again. I think it will probably be on a more selective basis.

Matthew Gordon: Pick the right team. The right boat.

Dustin Garrow: Yes. And a lot of it’s the right team that can get things done.

Matthew Gordon: Are you seeing any good stories out there? Over the past 2-3 days and over the past six month I’ve heard different business models and I don’t mean physical or ETFs or equities. I just mean companies which are up or coming at it in a different way, which makes sense, or companies which have got all the fundamentals in place. What type of company would you invest in? Or advocate in investing in?

Dustin Garrow: I think you’ve hit the high points, those that can demonstrate some experience in the commodity and mining in general. That always helps. If they’re not totally cash starved at the moment, that’s a plus. It gives them a little more breathing room so they can go out and meet with utilities and lay the groundwork. And if it’s like, ‘well we can’t go out, we can’t talk to anybody, we don’t have any money’, then it’ll be tough for the utilities to put you on their supplier list. When they don’t see you and you may have the best widget, but they can’t see it. The utilities need yellow cake in the can. They aren’t that interested in your share price. They can’t stuff shares or certificates in their reactor. They want to make sure in 2023 on June 1st you’re going to deliver that 100,000lbs, because they work it into their fuel plan. So that’s what they’re after. And so it goes beyond just the investor side. You’ve got to convince the customers that you’ve got credibility, particularly with new projects. If you’re a new person on the block it’s it can be a challenge.

Matthew Gordon: I just talked about something which was buying physical uranium. There’s a company in the UK called Yellow Cake. You’ve got one in North America which is called Uranium Participation Corporation (UPC). How does that work? What is buying physical uranium?

Dustin Garrow: There’s really more than one model and I’ll talk UPC, Yellow Cake. They’re being characterized as sequesters of the uranium. UPC has held their inventory for 15 years. And Yellow Cake, the business model, as you know, I’m chief commercial officer for Yellow Cake. Is to accumulate that inventory at good acquisition cost. The current 9.4Mlbs we acquired at under $22. Buy it and hold it for an extended period, add to it when the stars are aligned correctly to where we go out and raise money, buy more. We’ve got the option with the Kazakhs. And it’s an investment that the investor can make up a bet on the market. In other words, ‘I think it’s going to keep going up. I will accumulate shares’. At some point they may say it’s $45-50, could come off. Then they’ll take a different decision. But it’s basically that store of value that they can make decisions on.

Matthew Gordon: And it’s based purely on the price of uranium spot that that day. ‘I bought it $25, it’s now at $40, I’m checking out’, because it just happens to be in the form of shares. You’re buying and selling physical product.

Dustin Garrow: But the material doesn’t like come in the market. Now there’s a different group, which there’s 6, 8, 10 investors that have bought physical. Now that means they hold the U308 at a conversion facility. They come in, they add to that when they think the price is going up. And at some point, I think when they say, ‘well, OK, I’ve doubled my money in six months and I’ll sell some of it off’. I think that happened earlier this year. So, that’s a different model.

Matthew Gordon: One is physically selling off, but that’s a group of institutional guys, presumably. The first one you described was there’s an inventory sitting there. So, you can you can buy shares in that. It will continue to sit there. And once you want to sell your share, you can sell it someone else. But the uranium still remains there. It’s not going into the market per se. It’s a security.

Dustin Garrow: Yes, it’s a lot easier than if you buy physical because then you get into the storage accounts. There’s fees, there’s all kinds of things. Not to say that’s a bad part of a three-legged stool, but it’s different. And I know the analysts are really struggling with ‘how do you model that?’. Cameco has mentioned it on their calls. But apparently late last year, that group bought 8-10Mlbs. Could have been more, could have been less. And I’m asked how and when will they sell? At what price? Some might sell at $35. They go, ‘hey, I bought it at $25 I’ll sell it’. That’s a great deal, I’ll go do something else. Others may say this thing’s rate going up quickly. I’ll hold to $50. They may sell at $35 and come back at $40. So, it’s a growing part of the spot market that to some degree you can’t model. It’s like, ‘well, how do we model this? We know what the utilities are going to do. We know the producer buying’. I contend you can’t model it. If it was one person you go, well, I can kind of figure out what they’re doing, but it’s now a diverse group all over the world. South America. Australia. North America.

Matthew Gordon: Right, so if I’m looking at something like Yellow Cake. You buy at $22. If the price goes down. There’s nothing you can do about that. So, the value of what you bought is less than what you paid for it. But your expectation by investors buying shares is that it’s going to go up. So, there’s no equity risk per se, it’s just purely on the products above the ground sitting in containers, Cameco’s facility or wherever it’s held. Whereas equities, a bit more exposure to all the risks below the ground and management decision making and availability of cash. So, it’s just a different risk profile.

Dustin Garrow: So, it allows you to participate in the uranium space by either Yellow Cake, UPC or physical. I understand one of the large banks that’s been involved in buying physical has been providing that service. You don’t have to get a supplier or storage agreement. We’ll do it under ours. So, there’s the entrepreneurial side of that, for a fee. So, then that takes some of the goodness out of it. And then it’s the equities. Everybody says, well I’m going to buy Cameco. Well yes. They’re a fundamental part of the business. But actually their upsides are limited by ceiling prices and defined price contracts. So, if the price goes to above $100, if you look at their sensitivity table, they start to hit a ceiling. Now, on the downside, they don’t go down below about $30. So, they’ve got a collar. And that’s part of their business model. I’m not sure everybody looks at that. They think, well, if the price goes to $200 it great but  in reality Cameco will hit their ceiling.

Matthew Gordon: It’s also not good because there will be a lot of entrants, new entrants in at that point.

Dustin Garrow: I mean but then the different strategy, different risk.

Matthew Gordon: So, to finish off because I know you’ve got places to be, you’re meeting lots of people today. You think uranium people should be looking at it, should be considering as part of their investment portfolio. General consensus is quite positive.

Dustin Garrow: Yes. More and more people are looking. I did a roadshow in April with yellowcake and it was mostly North America. And certainly, we did Boston, New York, but out on the West Coast. Los Angeles. San Diego. So, we see a broader spectrum of interest. And I think it’s waiting on the Section 232 though, we don’t know what that kind of means. But once the green light goes, even if it’s a pale green. I think there’s going to be a lot of investment.

Matthew Gordon: People will be waiting until then, I think generalists are waiting till then, see what that outcome is, whatever it is, some degree of certainty about how to move forward.

Dustin Garrow: Figure out what does it mean and then the utilities will react so you’ll see that term market start to pick up.

Matthew Gordon: Dustin. Good to see you face to face here in London. Enjoy the rest of your time here. I think you’re diving on aeroplane tomorrow. We’ll catch up hopefully in October.

WNA Nuclear Fuel Report Contributor, Julian Tapp, Talks Price Manipulation – Vimy Resources (ASX: VMY)

Chief Nuclear Officer and economist Julian Tapp of Uranium company Vimy Resources (ASX: VMY) did his own research in to the nuclear market and his findings told him that the WNA Report was inaccurate. So he got involved in putting this new and improved version out.

As an economist Julian loves getting in to the detail. He helps us understand what investors should be focused on. And who the winners and potential losers are. Can the 3 biggest players control pricing and effect the chances of juniors getting into production? Julian gives us his opinion. The pricing matrix is very delegate. Manipulation or markets?

If you believe the WNA Nuclear Fuel Report is an important catalyst you need to understand what is in this report. Julian tells us why the report is more commercial and has more rigour in the process of putting the information together.

Interview Highlights:

  • WNA Expectations and The WNA Nuclear Report Overview
  • What is The Importance of The WNA Nuclear Report? What Needs To Be Improved?
  • Big Nuclear Players Could Affect Prices, So Why Don’t They? What Does That Mean For Junior Players?
  • Winners vs Losers & How To Tell The Difference
  • Vimy Resources: Can They Affect The Share Price Before Prices Change?

Click here to watch the interview.


Matthew Gordon: You’ve been meeting and greeting lots of people, sort of finding out what’s the mood is.

Julian Tapp: Everybody turns up for the WNA Symposium. So, you just hang around, talk to people, find out what the views are.

Matthew Gordon: What do you think the general mood is, positive or negative?

Julian Tapp: I think there’s a certain amount of optimism. I know it might sound odd but the past the past few reports, every time the WNA Report has come out, the forecast has got worse.

Matthew Gordon: You’re talking about the WNA Fuel Report. You’ve been involved in it. What was your role in that?

Julian Tapp: Yes, I have. Well, it is quite interesting. Going back a couple of years, when we did the (Vimy) DFS, I actually built a model to forecast world demand for uranium on a reactor basis. When I finished I wondered how it compared to what the WNA had done. I looked at their model and we got similar answers in aggregate. But regionally, there were big differences and wondered how they got those numbers?

Matthew Gordon: Why is that important?

Julian Tapp: I think actually their assumptions were wrong.

Matthew Gordon: That was a couple of years ago.

Julian Tapp: If you look at the current one, you’ll see that the projections are more optimistic. They’ve been raised, particularly the lowest scenario.

Matthew Gordon: What has been raised?

Julian Tapp: The forecast capacity of nuclear reactors operating and getting uranium over the next 20 years.

Matthew Gordon: Got it. And why is it better?

Julian Tapp: A couple of prominent reasons. Firstly, the assumption used to be that the French were going to reduce their nuclear capacity to meet 50% of electricity target by 2025. So, although the previous Fuel Report didn’t have them getting there by 2025, they were trying. Everybody now recognized Emmanuel Macron (French President) had kicked the can down the road. It’s 2035, if you actually listen to what he says. It’s isn’t ever going to happen. So for the pessimistic forecasts they put out, that lower case scenario used to have them losing 20Gw capacity. And that’s now not forecast to happen. In America there was an expectation that nuclear reactors, when they reach the end of their license life or when they just won’t get extended. And again, we had a lot of discussion about this. I kept saying when it gets the end of its life, it doesn’t get an extension if it’s not safe. But please tell me who thinks these reactors aren’t going to be safe after 40 years? They’ll be perfectly safe. Well, same argument where they get 60 years. Will they be safe? Now, sometimes you have to spend money to upgrade them, to keep them going. And if the economics are not good, maybe you wouldn’t pay for that upgrading.

Matthew Gordon: Are they safe? Have there been any incidents?

Julian Tapp: None. There’s never been a nuclear accident that was related to the age of the plant.

Matthew Gordon: That’s semantics. So, have there been incidents? Deaths?

Julian Tapp: Not in recent times. It’s interesting you should also ask that question. Even Fukushima. A vast majority of deaths were nothing to do with it, it was all to do with the tsunami. Now you will see people walking around saying “oh, there’s been one reported death.” Not true. There was a guy who worked at TEPCO who went to the site. He was like a radiation inspector and he got lung cancer.

Matthew Gordon: Unconnected?

Julian Tapp: Well, when you look at the time between when he was exposed and when he got the lung cancer, it was like two years. Usually it’s ten years between being exposed to radiation and radiation he was exposed to wasn’t high enough to trigger that sort of reaction. A different subject to be talked about but nuclear reactors are incredibly safe. A horrible way to talk about it, but if you look at the fatalities or deaths per thousand terawatt hours produced. There was a comment about it in the WNA Nuclear Fuel Report that comes from Lancet in 2007. They said that nuclear is safer than any other form of power. 90 deaths per thousand terawatt hours. I looked to that number and asked where did they get a number that high from. Do you know how much electricity is produced a year by nuclear reactors?

Matthew Gordon: Tell me.

Julian Tapp: About 2,500 terawatt hours. If you’re getting 90 deaths per thousand. Where all these deaths are coming from? Sometimes it’s because they included Chernobyl in the numbers. But I went and found that Lancet article, found out where they got their data from. Traced it all back to a French report in 1991 that assumed that very low levels of radiation spread over a large population would kill a small percentage of those people. The science has moved on from there. That’s simply not true.

Matthew Gordon: Let’s not focus on that, because I think that there’s too many reference points required to have a in-depth conversation. So, let’s come back to why is the WNA Fuel Report important for the industry?

Julian Tapp: I think it’s important for the industry, because love it or loathe it, it’s a reference document that everybody has a copy of it. Financial community, utilities, everybody gets it.

Matthew Gordon: But why this year is it more important? Obviously there have been some changes. It’s a little bit more commercial. Is that fair to say? I don’t mean in the sense that it’s commercial telling you what that nuclear industry is going to do but it’s a little bit more commercial in the sense that it’s giving people in the industry more information about what’s going on.

Julian Tapp: And I would say more rigor in the analysis. Don’t get me wrong, when I say it’s a little bit more positive. Nobody sat down and said it needs to be a little bit more positive. The way the forecasts are done are, literally country by country, reactor by reactor. Which ones are going to be built, which ones you don’t think are going to be built. They just all added up. And that’s was the answer.

Matthew Gordon: It’s on everyone’s desk, on fund managers desks, institutional investors desks, all the utilities, everyone who sits on this thing. What’s it going to do for them? Is it going to change behaviour or is it just a kind of the broad sentiment and things are better? We know the macro story. It’s fine. We’ll just park that. I’ve got that. Read the summary and move on.

Julian Tapp: I think there are a number of things in it. The first thing is since the last fuel report, Cameco have closed McArthur River. They’ve also shut in Rabbit Lake. Langer Heinrich is closed so there’s a new category of what’s called’ ‘idle mines’. And you need to pull them out because traditionally when mines idled, they put them in a basket with reserve projects that might come back at some point in the future. You know, the dynamics are very different from an idle mind than they are for a reserve project. They might get to be developed some time in the future. And that the economics around them coming back are very different. Mostly idle mines are owned by producers, that have other producing assets. And roughly 80% of the market is controlled by three companies. And they’re the three companies that have shut production down because market prices are unsustainably low. People say “oh, well, they’ll turn on this mine when the price gets to a certain level” but when the price gets to that level they will have just seen the profit on their existing mine go up a lot and what they don’t want to do is turn back on supply and see the whole thing collapse again. So, they’ve got a completely different way of looking. And I’m not suggesting that they collude in any way, but it’s the nature of economics. You have an oligopoly and there would be a classic description oligopoly. They’re going to look at the other guy and see what he’s doing.

Matthew Gordon: We saw recently with KazAtomProm and Camecos’ announcements, the marketplace is a little bit of jousting and a little bit of kidology, etc. around what they were saying or what they weren’t saying. Early days when I was getting into the uranium space, trying to understand it, because it’s not like mining. It is mining, but it’s not mining. I was intrigued by this potential control of will it be duopolies or oligopolies. And how you use that to your advantage. New entrants can come in and ruin things for everyone. You’ve got a group of juniors who can’t get the money that they need right now. So maybe this is a chance to take out some of the competition and starve the market of the supply. You can start affecting pricing. Those three companies can affect pricing. I’m not saying it’s a good thing to do or that they’re doing it, but they could do that. Why wouldn’t you?

Julian Tapp: I would say to you what the dynamics will be. They will keep these mines shut, until the price gets to a level where they will make the decision as long as the others haven’t broken. Because being oligopolies, they’ll be watching each other.

Matthew Gordon: There are going to be smaller players who are significantly advanced. Vimy potentially is one, where you’re quick to production. It’s potentially two years from pressing go, assuming it’s fully funded, and getting into production. You could get back into the market before some these big boys could de-mothball some of these operations. Surely?

Julian Tapp: Their lead time would be not dissimilar to ours. They can get back into production two years. KazAtomProm much faster than that. They don’t want to because when the price starts to rise, they’d much rather price kept rising than they turned on production and killed the rally. What about the juniors? When they’re looking around, what they do not want to happen is a 10Mlbs or 15Mlbs a year mine to get started.

Matthew Gordon: Well, that’s my next point. We’ve been told by the past couple of days by some other juniors who are quite close production, that are three years to production. So, if you’re saying the big boys can get into production before them, they’ve got no chance. These juniors have got no chance of being funded, have they?

Julian Tapp: Well, I’m not going to throw stones. If you look at Vimy’s DFS, I haven’t changed my mind since I did the economics behind that. My conclusion was these guys will keep their production shuttered till about $60 a pound. And let’s not discuss whether that’s contract or spot price. Just roughly when they think that $60 is like the sustainable price, they’re going to say if it goes any higher, there’s going to be too many entrants into the market. And once they’ve started, they’ll keep going. So, my view was the price would get to $60, but not go any higher.

Matthew Gordon: That’s price manipulation isn’t it?

Julian Tapp: No, it’s not. It’s perfectly rational behaviour.

Matthew Gordon: Sure it is, someone’s controlling it.

Julian Tapp: One would say, I’m prepared to keep supply cut until it gets to a certain point. And it’s perfectly rational for me to say at, look, if it gets to $70, I don’t know. Some big project in Tanzania is go getting to launched. I don’t want that to happen. I’m going to make sure these guys don’t get the signal they want, when it gets to $60 I’m making a handsome margin now. I just don’t want anybody else coming in

Matthew Gordon: That’s my point. If I’m one of these junior companies and I’m trying to raise money. I’m talking to the institutions and they’re cognizance that this could happen. I’m not going to find institutional investors to give me the money I need, because it’s not in my control. The pricing is being controlled at $60 bucks, is what you’re saying.

Julian Tapp: Yes but bear in mind also that for somebody like Vimy, in order to get finance, we have to we have to be writing some contracts. We’re talking about long-term contracts. Once you’ve signed those long-term contracts.

Matthew Gordon: I want to be clear, I wasn’t talking about Vimy. I was talking about some companies that are in a similar position to you but have got a longer lead time, which I think potentially could cause problems. I want understand winners and losers and what the factors are around that.

Julian Tapp: Yes, the longer your lead time, the more problematic. It’s not just because idle production could get in. But when you have a very long lead time, it’s more problematic in being able to write contracts. So, we’re in a position where we want to write contracts with utilities and you’ve got to write the contract and then go into production. The longer that window into production is, the riskier you’re going to be perceived to be to them, and the less willing they’re going to be to write contracts with you.

Matthew Gordon: Vicious circle.

Julian Tapp: Being two years away from production, it’d be much better if we could be one year away. And two years is fine. Because most long-term contracts deliveries aren’t normally for a couple of years. So, we’re in that window now where we know utilities are looking for deliveries, 2021, 2022, sometimes even 2023 for the beginning date.

Matthew Gordon: Let’s come back to the report, because the question I asked was what is the commercial use of that when people buy that, read that. What are they thinking and doing? And what I’m hearing is the sentiment is positive, but it’s not going to give people necessarily the commercial data they need to make a decision and on its own. Do you think the WNA needs to rethink the way that the report is being constructed again? Are you happy with the structure of it?

Julian Tapp: No I am not. I don’t think it’s any surprise to anybody. Everybody would like to see some discussion around price. Price put into the dynamic. So anti-competitive guidelines, nobody wants to sit down and agree what the price is going to be, which is what the guidelines are designed to stop you doing. It doesn’t seem to me sensible that you can’t have a discussion with people about, let’s say, what happens if the price stays at today’s level for forever? It’s how people do it with things, economic forecasts they don’t know. Let’s just assume the exchange rate stays forever. What does it mean? You know what happens? What interest rate can I use? Well, let’s just leave it at that current level and see what the model says going forward. So, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t put a price in, say, today’s price, spot price $25, $30 a pound. Run that out for the next 20 years. What does that do? That shows a really interesting picture. Basically, supply goes over a cliff and never comes back. So I don’t know if there’s a higher price that would be sensible. Maybe $50, maybe $60, run assumption again but you’re still a bit short. And then that’s the message doesn’t really come across at the moment basically that there’s a problem coming.

Matthew Gordon: If I look at people like TradeTech and UXC, you see the data which they gather and they put together and reports that they put out compared to the WNA, it seems a bit more robust, a little bit more goes into it. And they do talk about price. They need to and they do it on a company, country, industry basis. WNA needs to up its game, it seems to me, if it’s it wants to be a kind of commercial venture? So, what I’m hearing and seeing, and it’s not just you, there’s other people I’ve spoken to about this one. This report needs to do more, doesn’t it?

Julian Tapp: I think there’s measures to try to see what extra can be injected into it for next time round. I mean, this was an improvement on last time. I think there are various people who would like to see some pricing brought into it some way. If you be smart, you don’t have to sit and agree what you think the price is going to be. I said to you, you could use different price decks to show the impact. And to get better understanding. So, what you got now in the forecast is this unspecified supply, and nobody makes a judgment on who’s going to come into it, because you can’t without some sort of price assumption. Some of those are sitting at $80 a pound.

Matthew Gordon: Well, let’s how it’s going to be received. We’ll know in the next couple of weeks what people what people are thinking and we can get that feedback. Just to finish off on Vimy, you’re working there with Mike. Things are going well?

Julian Tapp: Very well.

Matthew Gordon: Confident?

Julian Tapp: Well when the price gets up.

Matthew Gordon: Do you think there’s anything your company can affect to help with share price? Or do we just wait for the price?

Julian Tapp. Look, there’s not much more we can do with the Mulga Rock project that can affect the share price. So, we’re going through the final stages of getting all the secondary approvals ready. That’s not regarded as a job stopper so when we’ve got them I’m not expecting a big uplift. Oh, you’ve got secondary approvals. So, in Angelaly, Northern Territory stuff we found a big haystack. Bigger than we thought it was the haystack. We think there are some valuable needles in there, we’ll continue to look for them.

Matthew Gordon: Thank you for your time, sir. Really appreciate that insight into the WNA Fuel Report. Fascinating what’s happening in the industry at the moment. And I like speaking to an economist. You look at it differently from everyone else which really helps.


Company page: https://www.vimyresources.com.au/

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