12 Mining Companies to follow in 2023
Mining shares have presented investors with a particularly irksome paradox in this most frustrating of years. ‘Future-facing commodities’ like copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium are urgently needed for the electrification, renewables and storage required for the energy transition, and to meet the ongoing semiconductor supply logjam. But metals remain a cyclical trade, highly sensitive to immediate global economic conditions. No surprise then, that this has been a poor year on the markets for miners, particularly for speculative small cap ventures.
So it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. Copper stocks have stuttered this year but demand for this absolutely critical transition metal is forecast to double, or even triple, in the next few years. An EV can use three times the amount of copper as a combustion engine and renewable energy projects tend to need five times as much of the metal as traditional gas, coal and nuclear power plants. But very few substantial new mines are being built. Demand could soon outstrip demand by nine million tonnes a year, a shortfall that would require 30 new mines comparable to Anglo American’s major new Quellaveco mine in Peru. Visible copper stocks are running at record lows.
Or consider another essential battery metal, lithium, prices for which hit record highs of $70,000 a tonne in 2022, an eight-fold increase in less than two years.One lithium new start quotes figures forecasting an increase in lithium demand from 350,000 tonnes in 2020 to 2.5 million tonnes in 2030 and more than seven million tonnes in 2040. European demand is expected to increase more than 20 times to 2030, but the continent is perilously reliant on China, which processes 60pc of the world’s supply, and South America’s ‘lithium triangle’ – Chile, Argentina and Bolivia – which produces most of the rest.
The IEA estimates that soaring EV battery demand will require 50 new lithium projects, 60 nickel mines and 17 cobalt developments by 2030. But current investment is nowhere near the scale required. Since 2015 EBITDA enjoyed by the mining majors has more than doubled but expansionary capital has been depressed: growth investment was at less than a tenth of earnings last year compared to the fifth or higher routinely seen during the commodities boom of the 2000s. Exploration spending on commodities other than iron is still half the peak reached a decade ago, and most of that is looking for gold rather than key battery metals. Companies are much more likely to investigate existing sites than spend on ‘grassroots exploration’, which is close to a record low.
Present economic conditions don’t help, but there are deeper structural reasons for under-investment. Opening up new deposits is becoming more technically and politically challenging: tough environmental regulations mean it can now take decades rather than three or four years to secure approvals and permits. And the industry is still reverberating from the aftershock of the last super-cycle. The China-driven 2009-2012 boom was followed by the 2013-2016 bust. The big miners have adopted a post-crisis mantra of ‘value over volume’, returning money to shareholders in the form of dividends or buybacks rather than investing in painstaking – it typically takes 15 years or more to develop a mine – risky projects that could deliver metal into a downturn. The six biggest miners returned more than $60bn to shareholders in 2021, a pattern that on current trends will be repeated this year.
The supply crisis has provoked manufacturers dependent on green metals to some desperate interventions. The established EV supply chain, for example, in which battery producers, cathode manufacturers and mineral processors sit between the car companies and miners, is being disrupted as carmakers go right down the chain to the mines themselves to secure supplies cheaply and ensure emissions standards are met, following in the footsteps of Henry Ford, who set up rubber plantations, steel mills and coal mines to supply his growing automotive empire. Tesla – as usual – has made most the headlines, signalling it will become directly involved in the mining and processing of critical raw materials when the supply chain is unable to meet its needs, but Mercedes-Benz, GM, and Stellantis – owner of the Peugeot and Fiat brands – have invested in early-stage mining companies in an attempt to secure resources.
Mining small caps, then, provide a critical role in taking the risks necessary to open up new mines, seeding opportunities on behalf of the big companies with the financial firepower to turn them into operating mines. Of course, though the transition metals shortfall is the industry’s central drama, there are interesting sub-plots. One is the curious spike in the demand for coal driven by the energy crisis, consumption of which is up 1.2pc this year, eclipsing the previous record set in 2013. Another is the mercurial path of the price of gold, adrift in a market that operates according to a different logic from other commodities. Demand for physical products like jewellery has held up through the present turmoil, expected to increase from $230bn in 2020 to $307bn in 2026. But expectations that gold might offer a haven from geopolitical and economic uncertainties – as it did for a time during the pandemic – have been outweighed by economic factors that have made the yellow metal less attractive, notably central bank interest rates and the strength of the US dollar. Gold has, however, prevailed as a store of value against digital currencies. Bitcoin is currently two-thirds down on its November 2021 peak of $48,000, whereas gold rose around 10pc. Indeed the precious metal is up by 375pc over the past 20 years, though the journey as been volatile, to say the least. It’s also worth bearing in mind uranium, the value of which has risen by more than 30pc over the past year as nuclear is increasingly accepted as a critical element of the global decarbonisation process.
A complex picture then. Here we pick out a few mining small caps doing the hard work of pushing the industry forward through exploratory ventures that may catch the eye of the majors.
Companies covered include :
#CGH #CGO #EEE #FRG #HE1 #JAN #LND #LEX #PALM #POW #SRES #VAST
Chaarat Gold Holdings
Chaarat Gold Holdings (AIM:CGH) has two development assets set in the spectacular mountain ranges of the Kyrgyz Republic in central Asia, and a producing gold, silver, copper and zinc mine at Kapan in southern Armenia.
The company says its wholly owned interests in the Republic’s Tulkubash oxide and Kyzyltash sulphide deposits together have the potential to produce an annual 300,000 to 400,000 ounces of gold for at least five years. Its Armenian mine has produced copper and zinc concentrate for nearly 20 years, and is expected to produce at least 50,000 ounces of gold a year over the next decade.
CGH is working to develop its Oxide Gold Project at Tulkubash into an open-pit mining heap leach operation. This summer the company announced a revised Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) for Tulkubash, based on a drilling programme undertaken last year. Proven and Probable Reserves increased by 11pc from 20.9Mt to 23.1Mt, with a slightly increased grade of 0.87g/t, and contained gold ounces in the Ore Reserves were revised up by 13pc to 647 thousand ounces (koz). Contained gold in the Measured and Indicated Resources is 789koz, and gold grade increased by 14pc from 0.86g/t to 0.98g/t. The 2021 campaign identified several additional new target areas. To date, some 5km of a prospective 24km trend have been systematically drilled. CGH says it needs $115m to fund the mine’s construction. The company raised the $30m equity portion of the funds last year, and is ‘in advanced discussions with financing counterparties who are completing their due diligence requirements and financing documentation’ regarding the $80m debt finance element of the project.
CGH’s other Kyrgyz project, the Kyzyltash sulphide deposit, is a more speculative venture. The company estimates that Kyzyltash, with the potential to produce 200,000 to 300,000 ounces of gold per annum, could one day overshadow Tulkubash, but would only be viable as a more expensive refractory extraction operation.
CGH’s Q3 operating update said that although EBITDA had been affected by the strength of the dollar and lower commodity prices – down 54pc to $1m – the company remains on track to meet full year production guidance of 56-62koz. All-in-sustaining cost was largely unchanged year on year at $1,362/oz vs $1,366/oz in Q3 2021. An updated JORC Mineral Resource Estimate for Kapan indicated 722,000koz in the Measured and Indicated categories, up from 584koz reported in June 2021, a 25pc increase. The updated MRE will be used as the basis for the updated 2022 Ore Reserves Estimate.
The Tulkubash project remains ready for a final investment decision once project financing is finalised. Financing discussions continue with various parties, but CGH cautioned that ‘the current macro-economic environment and volatility in financial markets has cautioned potential financiers and is likely to postpone decisions further.’ Metallurgical test work programme on Kyzyltash core drilled in 2021 has been completed, results showing ‘good recoveries for all three of the technologies tested.’ The company continues to work to pay down the debt it took on to acquire Kapan, reducing the principal outstanding for the Kapan acquisition loan by a further $2.2m to $12.1m. CGH continues discussions with various parties on project financing for the Tulkubash project.
In the autumn the company was engaged in a flurry of speculation regarding companies it may acquire. Early stage discussions regarding a possible offer for Shanta Gold were confirmed before CGH said it had ‘not been possible to reach an agreement.’ The company ‘will continue to proactively seek and evaluate various opportunities to diversify its asset portfolio and grow inorganically, as well as pursuing organic growth through Chaarat’s own significant resource base.’ CGH then said it was in discussion regarding the potential acquisition of Lydian Armenia CJSC from Lydian Canada Ventures Corporation, although there ‘is no certainty at this stage, that the proposed Acquisition will be completed.’
Given the continued take-over speculation CGH’s share price has been choppy in Q4, touching nearly 15p before falling back to 10.9p at the time of writing, taking the company’s market cap to £75m. Earlier in the year, before being knocked back by the dip in commodity prices, CGH was riding at nearly 20p. Progress at Tulkubash, or conclusion of the Lydia Armenia deal could reignite CGH’s value.
Contango Holdings (LON:CGO) continues to unlock the potential of its coking coal project in Zimbabwe with the award earlier this year of its first offtake agreement.
CGO acquired a 70pc interest two years ago in the Lubu Coal Project in the Karroo Mid Zambezi coal basin in Hwange, a well established Zimbabwean mining district. A resource of 1.25 billion tonnes is projected, with 702Mt Indicated and 510Mt Inferred. The Project’s high grade 28CV metallurgical coal – which can be ‘cooked’ to produce the coke used by steel and ferro-alloy makers – will be sold to producers across southern Africa. Regulators granted an Environmental Impact Assessment Certificate earlier this month.
Production commenced in March in pursuit of an initial mining rate of 5,000 tonnes per month. Production through Q2 this year will be stockpiled pending installation of a wash plant, ensuring sufficient feedstock to ensure continuous supply. CGO is targeting margins of at least $300 per tonne in ongoing discussions with potential off-takers. The company achieved a significant summer breakthrough by securing its first offtake agreement with AtoZ Investments, a specialist coal trading company based in South Africa. AtoZ will buy 10,000 tonnes of Lubu’s washed coking coal each month, paying Zimbabwe’s prevailing market price of $120 per tonne. CGO says it will be able to deliver on its first sales – scheduled for Q4 2022 – at a rate of 10,000 tonnes of washed coal per month. It intends to expand its processing facilities to 300,000 tonnes per annum in H1 2023, funded through internal cash flow.
CGO entered into another Lubu agreement earlier this month, an MOU with a ‘leading Multi-National Company’ outlining ‘a framework for collaboration across not only coking coal, but also in the manufacture of coke and follows several site visits and a preliminary analysis of a 50kg sample’. The intention is to undertake a stage-gated due diligence exercise which will look at all aspects that would underpin either a coking-coal offtake agreement, or the possibility of establishing a coking plant adjacent to the mine. CGO aims to conclude the first phase of the due diligence exercise in Q1 2023 after which a decision will be made if, and how best, to proceed.
Shortly after taking its stake in Lubu CGO acquired the Garalo Gold Project in Mali, a $1m purchase consolidated by the £0.75m acquisition of the adjoining Ntiela licence, on Garalo’s western boundary. A report published early last year identified several new exploratory zones in addition to the resource’s headline G1 and G3 targets, allowing the resource to be upgraded to the 1.8 to 2Moz range. The report, which indicated gold structures similar to the nearby 2.8Moz Kalana deposit operated by Endeavour Mining. Exploration has clarified the prospect’s geological structures and potential for resource expansion, with a view to establishing a large standalone gold mine with multiple open pit operations across both permit areas.
CGO is producing coke for a world that is still developing the technology necessary to move away from coal-driven steel production. Established steel making processes are going to take some time to green, mills continuing to rely on carbon-intensive blast furnaces loaded with mineral, lime and coke. The defined southern African markets CGO is targeting, and Zimbabwe’s regulated market price, shelter it somewhat from the the inherent volatility of the coking coal sector, which ebbs and flows with the health of the global economy.
CGO is currently funded for its programmes to bring Lubu into production and undertake drilling at Garalo-Ntiela. The company raised around £2m through a Convertible Loan and the exercise of warrants last year, and a further £2.5m by way of a November placing. After the placement CGO held cash of £3,341,157.
CGO’s shares are down from highs of 9p at the start of the year to 5.10p at the time of writing: with cash in the bank, progress at Lubu and a supply crunch market favourable for coal the £25m market cap is one to watch in 2023.
Exploration and development company Empire Metals (AIM:EEE) has continued to consolidate its presence in Western Australia, the company’s ambitions to open up what may prove a rich seam of new gold and copper prospects receiving a huge boost in October when analysis indicated the presence of a ‘Giant’ copper mineralised system.
EEE has shifted focus over the past two years, turning from the Caucasus to building a portfolio in Western Australia’s prolific mining regions. The company acquired a 75pc interest in the Eclipse Gold Project in 2020, a mine located 55km north-east of Kalgoorlie that has recorded historic production of 954 tonnes at 24.6g/t gold, and has has an agreement with Maher Mining Contractors to explore, develop and mine within a granted area on Maher’s Gindalbie Gold Project, located near the historic gold mining town of Gindalbie, adjacent to Eclipse. Gindalbie was an active gold mining centre around the turn of the last century: total recorded production to the end of 1913 was 44,622 tonnes of ore for 40,643oz gold (at an average grade of 28.33g/t gold).
Earlier this year EEE was able to report encouraging intercepts following 1,676 metres of drilling at Gindalbie and positive assay results from drilling at Eclipse indicating that gold mineralisation associated with targeted shear zones extends 300 metres further from the previously reported extent of mineralisation along the Eclipse shear. Five of the six holes intercepted mineralisation within the shear, and results indicated that the Eclipse lode remains open at depth. EEE has continued reverse circulation drilling at the combined Eclipse-Gindalbie Gold Project, where four of 13 holes reported significant intercepts with the best of the drill holes intersecting three new mineralised zones.
EEE further extended its Australian footprint this year taking a 70pc interest in three prospective copper-gold projects from Century Minerals. In April EEE raised £1.7m to support exploration across the three projects, and ongoing drilling at Eclipse and Gindalbie.
Exploration at the new prospect’s Pitfield Project got underway in June, geophysical surveys confirming strong magnetic stratigraphy and alteration within the project area. The survey indicates ‘a significant structure’ along the western boundary of a magnetic anomaly that closely aligns with a surface copper feature stretching over seven kilometres, offering ‘potential for the presence of magnetite which could be associated with a regional scale alteration event.’ EEE notes that ‘Pitfield is located immediately adjacent to the historic Baxters copper mine at Arrino which produced 106 tonnes of copper at a grade between 20-30pc.’
Those high hopes began to receive confirmation when a review evaluating recent geophysical surveys and the historical exploration database at Pitfield confirmed the licence has ‘all the hallmarks of a “Giant” copper mineralised system, potentially containing multiple sediment-hosted stratabound copper (SSC) deposits’ – globally significant geological systems which deliver around 20pc of the world’s copper production and are often very large and high-grade deposits. An ‘exceptionally large, magnetic anomaly, extending over 40km’ has been identified at Pitfield in a setting that compares favourably with the sandstone sub-type of SSC, exemplified by the massive Udokan Ore Region in Russia. EEE will accelerate exploration activities at Pitfield in Q1 2023 including surface mapping, Induced Polarisation (IP) surveying and geochemical sampling with multiple exploration targets already identified.
Managing Director Shaun Bunn said: ‘We previously held a strong belief that Pitfield had the potential to contain a major copper deposit with world-wide significance. The results of this expert review, which drew on the findings of the recently completed geophysical surveys, confirm the accuracy of the historical data we inherited and have identified the regional geological features consistent with a Giant copper mineralised system. This makes Pitfield an exciting exploration target for a SSC deposit and an exceptional project for us to focus our exploration efforts on.’ Exploration activities are now underway focusing on under-explored areas of the Project and the generation of new exploration data that will add significantly to the company’s understanding of the size and nature of the prospect.
EEE’s most recent interims to 30 June 2022 reported a net cash balance of £2.4m. The £6.94m market cap’s share price is currently 1.5p, slightly down on the 1.9p touched in the wake of the Pitfield news. With the possibility of further good news from the Project on the horizon EEE is one to look out for early next year.
Firering Strategic Minerals
Firering Strategic Minerals (AIM:FRG) continues to develop resources in the Côte d’Ivoire prospective for rare metals including lithium, nickel, columbite-tantalite, tantalum and niobium, securing a breakthrough agreement for the fast track development of the its flagship Atex Lithium-Tantalum Project with Australian minerals company Ricca Resources last month.
FRG joined AIM late last year with a market cap of £11.3m, raising £4m to fund exploration of the Project, in which the company currently has a 77pc interest. It says Atex, where 2021 grab samples indicated high-grade lithium oxide (up to 4.91pc) and tantalum (up to 1,610ppm) ‘could be the next major lithium resource in West Africa’. Lithium and columbite-tantalite are crucial components for EV batteries, and are also used in mobile phones and laptops.
After IPO FRG launched a two-year exploration programme to develop the potential of a resource that, if proved, will allow for pilot production of tantalum and niobium, leading to a large-scale coltan production facility supported by a €7.5m debt facility currently under negotiation with a Togo-based investment bank. FRG foresees a portfolio of ethically sourced mineral projects in the Côte d’Ivoire, supplying fast-growing end markets. The IPO also funded a €0.23m 51pc controlling interest in a licence application held by Alliance Minerals Corporation SARL adjacent to Atex. Early-stage due diligence showed Atex’s potential minerals extended into the Alliance licence. FRG has the option to purchase a further 29pc stake for €0.61m.
Drilling got underway late last year to determine the extent and depth of Atex’s lithium-bearing pegmatites – crystalline igneous rocks with coarse textures – and to define potential coltan resources. Phase 1 involved 4,000 metres of auger drilling and 2,100 metres of diamond drilling to identify prime lithium and coltan targets for resource definition, and Phase 2 a further 1,500 metres of auger drilling and 4,900 metres of diamond drilling. A few weeks later FRG announced the first regional detailed geological map of Atex, undertaken by consultants SEMS Exploration, which confirmed ‘the presence of a much larger pegmatite field’ than initial estimates.
FRG has made steady progress this year in clarifying Atex’s potential. First phase auger drilling was completed in January , with 1,283 drilling and soil samples forwarded for assaying. In April FRG reported that Atex’s assay results had identified areas of interest related to potential lithium-cesium-tantalum (LCT) pegmatite mineralisation:drilling got underway in June. The scoring of results based on percentiles ‘shows prospective areas/pegmatite that are very consistent to mapped pegmatites, specifically towards the southwest’. A Tantalum Pit Sampling Programme has commenced on and around the hill to define the design for a pilot Multi Gravity Separation plant.
The breakthrough agreement with Ricca commits the larger company to fund the advancement of the Atex Project and the adjacent Alliance licence (once granted) for up to $18.6m. The investment gives FRG the opportunity to fast-track the exploration of the Project through to a maiden Mineral Resource Estimate and Defined Feasibility Study. Under the agreement Ricca will complete a four stage earn-in of up to 50pc of the Project, beginning with a $1m cash consideration and the granting to FRG of $0.6m worth of Ricca’s shares. FRG CEO Yuval Cohen said: ‘The investment by Ricca will reduce our funding risk through studies and towards production. The partnership also reduces capital costs and brings with it the support of a management team at Ricca with highly relevant recent experience developing a West African lithium asset.’
FRG followed the announcement with a positive set of initial assay results from Atex, which included an intercept at 64 metres grading 1.24pc lithium. Two out of the four scout drill holes showed grades of lithium above 0.5pc. The company said the ‘exceptional’ results were ‘amongst the best intercepts recently reported by our global peers and confirm the presence of lithium in our pegmatite system.’ The second phase of the exploration is being prepared with Ricca.
While the company’s primary focus has been on Atex, FRG has also advanced its near-term tantalum ambitions towards pilot production. The first metallurgical sample was dispatched to gravity mining consultants Coremet Services Pty Ltd for metallurgical testing, and a technical flowsheet design of the tantalum pilot plant is being completed.
In addition, FRG has widened its focus to include another critical metal, nickel, reaching a low-cost Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA) with AIM and TSX-V listed Altus Strategies Plc for the purchase of a 100pc interest in the Toura nickel-cobalt licence application located in western Côte d’Ivoire. The consideration was €15,000 in cash on completion and a Gross Revenue Royalty of up to 1.0pc on nickel and cobalt sales from the Project. The licence is located adjacent to the Foungouesso and Moyango project that has produced an estimated one million tonnes of nickel laterite ore per annum. FRG says it has ‘other licences under application throughout the underexplored Cote d’Ivoire, which when granted, will be pursued in the future … Building a strong portfolio of producing mineral assets in West Africa is our core aim.’
After falling to around 6.5p FRG’s share price leapt back to the company’s IPO price of 15p after the Ricca news. The price has since fallen back to 9p, making the £8.3m market cap an enticing prospect: cashed up, with a resource that has so far lived up to its potential.
Helium One (AIM:HE1) holds licences in Tanzania prospective for helium, a lesser known commodity that nonetheless constitutes an essential building block of the infrastructure of the global economy.
The company holds 18 fully-owned prospecting licences covering more than 4,512km2 in three project areas at Rukwa, Balangida and Eyasi. Rukwa is currently the most significant, with a Best Estimate Un-risked Prospective Resource of 138 Bcf, potential outcomes ranging from 30 Bcf to 521 Bcf. Helium concentrations of up to 10.6pc have been recorded in the field’s surface seeps, well above the grades of around 0.1 to 0.3pc yielded when helium is produced as a byproduct from hydrocarbons. Eyasi and Balangida are at earlier stages of development. High-grade helium has been measured on Eyasi’s surface and surface geochemical exploration carried out last year identified structural leads. Balangida is a single prospecting licence covering an unexplored area of approximately 260km2.
Helium One says Rukwa’s P50 resource of 138 Bcf has the potential ‘to supply the entirety of global demand for over twenty years, or 10-15pc of global demand for more than a century’, a projection backed by academic research drawing on sample data collected from all three project areas. The study indicated that the ‘Tanzanian East African Rift contains most, if not all, of the prerequisites for an economic helium province’, and that data from gas seeps in the west and east branches of the Tanzanian section of the East African Rift System contain helium concentrations of up to 10.5pc.
Helium is valuable for the exceptional qualities that make it essential for many of today’s most advanced technologies. As well as being extremely light, it is colourless, odourless, and inert, one of the ‘noble’ gases that does not react with other substances. It has the lowest boiling point of any element, only changing from a liquid to a gas at a temperature close to absolute zero. In the popular imagination it is best known for powering airships, as a breathing gas for deep sea divers, and, of course, for inflating balloons. But it is also essential for a wide range of cryogenic, scientific and manufacturing processes. These and other specialist applications make helium one of the world’s most critical commodities, generating a global market estimated to be worth more than $6bn a year. Like other critical materials, such as lithium, cobalt, and vanadium, it is in short supply, reliant on a few key producers. Supply has been further constrained by sanctions on Russia: Gazprom has been constructing a new plant with the capacity to produce 60 million cubic metres a year.
HE1 began its maiden exploration programme at Rukwa last year, culminating in two exploration wells, the first in Africa to target primary helium. Though the results did not yield as much data as some investors had hoped, the drilling carried out on the field’s Tai prospect did indicate ‘a working helium system’, with quality reservoirs, thick sealing units, and helium gas shows at multiple prospective intervals. Preparations undertaken this year for the programme’s Phase II included a 220-line kilometre 2D seismic campaign targeting the northern extensions of known structural highs believed to act as charge focus areas for helium migration. A multispectral satellite spectroscopy study over the entire licence area identified abundant near surface helium anomalies, and an Electrical Resistivity Tomography survey over selected targets has further defined potential shallow helium plays within the top 200 metres of the Rukwa basin. A drilling rig has been secured for Phase II operations targeted in ‘Q1 2023’.
HE1 has also begun further investigating the potential of the Eyasi and Balangida assets, analysing data indicating the basins’ potential for salt deposits in the younger stratigraphy, and the likelihood Balangida may contain volcanic tuffs with the capacity to be effective top-seals, and offers potential for other high-value noble gasses including argon.
HE1’s last annual report stated cash of $4,906,153 to the end of H1 2022, but a fundraise undertaken earlier this month brought in gross proceeds of $12.3m to tide the company through Rukwa’s Phase II. Following the raise the £38m market cap’s share price fell back to 6p from 8.5p going into December. There’s no doubt this is a speculative venture, but investors interested in a slightly different commodity play might want to keep an eye on HE1 this year as it moves into a critical phase of its work to define the scope of what might prove to be a highly valuable resource of one of the world’s scarcest gases.
Prospective battery metals miner Jangada Mines (AIM:JAN) has kept a relatively quiet market profile over the past year, continuing to work to define the potential of the company’s headline Pitombeiras Vanadium Titano-Magnetite (VTM) Project in South America. But with the publication of a full Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) on the horizon that brings the possibility of moving ahead to production, this is a somewhat unheralded prospect to look out for next year.
JAN is closing on a production decision at the fully-owned Project covering just over a thousand hectares in north-eastern Brazil, where exploration indicates vanadium mineralisation analogous to that of the Bushveld Complex (South Africa), the Skaergard Intrusion (Greenland), and the Kachkanar massif (Russia). Vanadium is a core material for the emerging market for storage batteries able to compensate for the intermittency of renewable power sources
JAN spent 2021 clarifying the extent of the Project’s VTM mineralisation, particularly over a structural trend underlying three targets, Pitombeiras North and South, and Goela. The work led to an upgraded MRE of 8.26Mt, with 62pc of the resource now classified at the higher confidence Measured & Indicated Mineral Resources category. In summary, the Mineral Resource classification stated Measured & Indicated Resources of 5.10Mt at 0.46pc V2O5, 9.04pc TiO2 and 46.06pc of Fe2O3, and an Inferred Resource of 3.16Mt at 0.44pc V2O5, 9.00pc TiO2 and 45.86pc of Fe2O3. A promising Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) forecast a post-tax Net Present Value (NPV) of $106.5m, a 317.8pc post-tax Internal Rate of Return (IRR), and three-month payback. Encouraging metallurgical test results indicated a ferrovanadium-rich concentrate containing a minimum of 62pc Fe, the benchmark for saleable FeV-rich magnetite concentrate. The extent of the Project’s titanium dioxide resource promises further value.
JAN went on to commission a DFS, and this spring published an an major staging post towards the full Study, a technical report which the company said had de-risked the project, identifying ‘no legal, technical, or geological impediments to proceeding to mine development, construction, and production’. The report – which as a DFS could only include the 5.10Mt in the Measured and Indicated resource categories, and not the 3.16Mt in the Inferred category – forecast a ‘robust economics’ encompassing a 100.3pc post-tax IRR, a $96.5m post-tax NPV, CAPEX of $18.45m, and a payback time of 13 months. It estimated annual production of 186,000 tonnes Fe/V2O5 and 66,000 tonnes TiO2 at a production/processing rate of 600,000 tonnes per annum. A life of mine of approximately nine years would generate $415.2m total gross revenue. The Study is being finalised to include the TiO2 resource – assessment of the Fe/V2O5 component has been completed to a DFS standard, but the TiO2 constituent remains at a PEA level. The final report will set out a comprehensive development route to a direct shipping ore mining operation embracing all three commodities. However, the defined route to production outlined in the report was sufficient for full offtake discussions to begin. JAN expects to secure in-country offtakers, thereby containing operations and transport costs. The company believes increasing global demand for TiO2 will strengthen the Project’s economics further, acting as a hedge against likely variations in the iron ore price. The VTM Project may prove JAN’s access to a market serving a well documented economic mega trend: the development of storage batteries able to compensate for the intermittency of renewable power sources.
Though driven by the VTM Project JAN continues to review other opportunities in the battery metals sphere, and has a cluster of other interests. The company supplemented its Pitombeiras interest just last year by taking a stake in Fodere Titanium, now worth nearly 8pc, a UK green tech startup seeking to commercialise the production of titanium dioxide and vanadium from waste materials. Fodere has secured capital to begin building its first industrial production facility (which will have a capacity of more than 22,000 tonnes) and is currently in discussion with prospective customers from the titanium, vanadium, iron, and steel industries. JAN also has a 0.72pc interest in TSX-listed ValOre Metals Corp, pursuing the palladium, platinum, and nickel Pedra Branca Project in Brazil, and a 9.5pc stake in AIM-listed Blencowe Resources, a venture holding an emerging portfolio of key battery metals projects located in northern Uganda. The company had cash of just under $3m at the end of H1 2022.
JAN’s share price took a knock after the publication of the VTM Project’s Technical Report – which some investors were concerned indicated a delay in moving to production – from which it has still not recovered, falling from 10p to just over 4p at the time of writing, taking the company’s market cap to £10.53m. But the company’s ongoing work to define its potential indicate the considerable promise of a venture – with an NPV of $96.5m, an IRR of 100.3pc and $415.2m total gross revenue – positioned to serve one of the energy transition’s key markets. Current prices for JAN’s commodity basket are at significant premiums to those used in the evolving DFS. With the full Study incorporating the Project’s titanium component on the horizon, and the prospect thereafter of a detailed roadmap to production, this may be the right time to consider taking a position.
Landore Resources (AIM: LND) continues to delineate the potential of its flagship gold resource at Junior Lake, which is also prospective for nickel, copper, cobalt and other battery metals.
Junior Lake Property (100pc owned), together with the contiguous Lamaune Iron Prospect (90.2pc owned), covers a 30,507 hectare site in the Canadian province of Ontario, with ready access to Thunder Bay, the main supply hub for the region’s miners. The Property’s known mineral resources and prospects are located within an Archean-age greenstone belt some 0.5 to 1.5km wide and 31km long.
LND’s current drilling programme is focused on the Property’s key asset, the BAM Gold Deposit, situated within a geophysical anomaly midway along the belt. An upgraded Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) increased its in-situ resource to 49,231,000 tonnes at 1.0g/t for 1,496,000 ounces of gold, a 47pc over the previous estimate. The updated MRE includes 30,965,000 tonnes at 1.0g/t for 1,029,000 ounces gold in the Indicated Category and 18,266,000 tonnes at 0.8g/t for 467,000 ounces of gold in the Inferred Category.
LND is currently completing planning and preparation requirements for the continued expansion of the Deposit, including deeper drilling on several potential underground mining targets, together with infill and extension drilling. Drilling will re-commence ‘in early Q2’ to further delineate the newly discovered western extension shoot and begin drilling on ‘the highly prospective Felix area along strike and to the west of the BAM Gold Deposit’. The company is also planning to commence Pre-Feasibility studies in H2 2022 on the Project.
But though, as its name indicates, the Deposit is best known for its gold prospects, Junior Lake has always been prospective for other metals. Historic drilling at the Property’s B4-7 Nickel-Copper-Cobalt-PGE Deposit and Alpha Zone, some 600 metres southwest of the Deposit, has found polymetallic nickel-copper-cobalt-platinum-palladium-gold mineralisation, the most recent resource estimate stating 3,292,000 tonnes at 1.20pc Nickel Equivalent (NiEq) in the Indicated category and 568,000 tonnes at 1.26pc NiEq in the Inferred category for a total of 46,661 tonnes of contained metal. The VW Nickel-Copper-Cobalt Deposit is estimated to offer 1,084,000 tonnes at 0.71pc NiEq in the Indicated category, and 180,000 tonnes at 0.68pc NiEq in the Inferred category for a total of 8,920 tonnes of contained metal. An exploration target has been identified down dip from the B4-7 resource which may contain a potential 1.5Mt to2.0 Mt of sulphide mineralisation of similar grade range to that which has been outlined to-date, a potential 18,000 to 24,000 tonnes of contained metal.
This summer LND commenced an exploration programme, consisting of 7,500 metres of drilling together with further soil sampling, on Junior Lake’s prospective Felix-Lamaune areas located along strike from the BAM Gold Deposit and the B4-7/VW Nickel-Copper-Cobalt-Palladium-Platinum deposits (Ni-Cu-Co-PGEs).
21 drill holes for 3,800 metres were completed at Felix, one hole intersecting significant palladium-enriched nickel mineralisation over 21.74 metres reporting 0.10pc Nickel, 0.12pc Copper, 0.01pc Cobalt, 0.34g/t Palladium, 0.11g/t Platinum from 115.1, including 1.45g/t Pd and 0.51g/t Pt over 0.7 metres. A 3,700-metre diamond drilling campaign at Lamaune area is exploring a zone of significant palladium-enriched nickel mineralisation including an intersection of 5.48 metres of 0.33pc Ni, 0.15pc Cu, 0.02pc Co, 0.28g/t Pd, and 0.08g/t Pt from 85.0m. Assay results have so far been ‘outstanding’.
LND launched a Strategic Review earlier this year considering the sale of its Canadian operations, or the Junior Lake Project, potential joint venture arrangements or strategic partnerships. International mining and exploration companies were invited to express interest, a number of which were progressed, with a short list provided with access to an extensive data room. The Review will continue till the end of the year. LND has been particularly encouraged by interest in the company’s lithium assets, in October entering into an agreement with ASX-listed Green Technology Metals Ltd for the buyback of 50pc of the LND’s 3pc net smelter royalty interest over the Root Lake Project. Early-stage discussions are ongoing with several parties regarding Landore’s Junior Lake Northern area, which contains known lithium occurrences.
As at 30 June LND had £740,405 cash and no debt. The company’s share price has subsided somewhat this year, falling from 26p to 16p, taking its market cap to £19m at the time of writing. LND’s ongoing Strategic Review offers a near term trigger for revaluation.
The value of Lexington Gold (AIM:LEX) has swelled in 2022 as the company made robust progress towards its goal of opening up US gold rush mines with contemporary drilling technology.
LEX is developing four majority-owned gold projects across a 1,675 acre section of the Carolina Super Terrane geological feature running through North and South Carolina. The 179.66 acre Jones-Keystone-Loflin (JKL) Project combines the Jones-Keystone and Loﬂin Properties mined by small prospectors during the 19th century until the outbreak of the Civil War, and again up to the Great Depression. Pits, trenches, shafts and glory holes at several workings offer evidence of widespread gold mineralisation, with historic grades ranging between 0.5 and 2.5g/t. The Carolina Belle Project, in Montgomery County, just north of Candor, North Carolina, produced 50,000 ounces of gold until a 1916 dispute between the neighbouring mines ended further exploration and production. The Jennings-Pioneer Project, part of the Barite Hill Gold district in South Carolina, offers several greenﬁeld exploration prospects with well-articulated and potentially continuous zones of gold and base metal mineralisation identiﬁed from historic mines and surface workings. The Argo Project in the northwest corner of Nash County, north of Nashville, was last mined in 1894.
Exploration got underway last year, assay results from the JKL Project indicating broad unbroken zones of shallow gold mineralisation. A JORC Resource estimate was published last autumn, stating a resource of approximately two million tonnes at 1g/t gold for 65,000oz of contained gold, and highlighting the potential for additional discoveries. A systematic surface sampling programme at the Carolina Belle Project, the location’s first, indicated gold anomalies beyond already identified mineralisation.
Significant work has been undertaken at both projects this year. At JKL LEX began the summer reporting ‘significant shallow level intersections’ at the Project’s Loflin resource, which remained open in multiple directions, and promising assay results for the Project’s Jones-Keystone prospect. By August LEX was able to publish an updated JORC Mineral Resource Estimate for the Loflin prospect stating a Total Inferred Resource of 2,596,000t at 0.99g/t Au for 82,700oz of contained gold, 27pc up on the previous estimate. Re-sampling of composites from drilling at the Project’s Jones-Keystone prospect confirmed shallow, high-grade intercepts, results that ‘will facilitate the establishment of a significant maiden JORC Resource estimate for Jones-Keystone of potentially up to 100,000 ounces’.
There has also been encouraging progress at Carolina Belle. In March LEX reported that final assay results of exploratory drilling at the prospect had exceeded expectations. The results are being interpreted and incorporated into a 3D model to facilitate the design of a Phase II drilling programme to further target, define and expand on intersected gold mineralisation at three of the Project’s targets.
Last month LEX raised £0.5m to fund continued development, including the modelling, planning and design of next drilling programme at JKL; the JORC Mineral Resource Estimate for the Project’s Jones-Keystone side; the setting of a JORC exploration target for Carolina Belle; and trenching, surface and soil sampling work at the company’s other two Projects, Jennings Pioneer and Argo. At a time when other small cap natural resources companies have struggled to secure funds LEX was able to achieve a placing price of 4.75p at a 13pc premium to the company’s 30 day VWAP (volume-weighted average price – the ratio of the value of a security to the total volume of transactions) of 4.18p. The company’s interims for H1 2022 reported it had ramped up its investment in exploration by 41pc to $0.61m, but succeeded in cutting operating expenses by 22pc to $0.36m. Total assets were $4.78m (2021: $4.76m) and cash stood at $0.37m (2021: $0.95m).
2022 has been another year of solid progress for LEX, the blossoming promise of JKL and Carolina Belle pushing the company’s share price up since May from 2.5p to 5.70p at the time of writing. LEX has stated ambitions to follow in the footsteps of fellow Carolina Super Terrane explorer Romarco Minerals, which was acquired by ASX-listed OceanaGold after delineating a resource estimate of 4.5Moz at 1.8g/t. In the meantime investors seem to have more good news to look forward to, notably the release of the maiden JORC Resource for the JKL Project ‘expected in early November’, and further drilling at Carolina Belle.
Panther Metals plc (LON:PALM), focused on gold, copper, nickel and Platinum Group Metals (PGM) prospects across a cluster of Canadian and Australian assets, has forged ahead with another busy round of drilling programmes this year – prospective investors should be sure to regularly review the company’s fast moving RNS updates.
PALM went public with two prospects in Western Australia, the Marrakai and Annaburroo Gold Projects, covering a total area of 160km2. Both are situated within the Palaeoproterozoic Pine Creek Orogen,host to more than 250 gold occurrences and several operating gold mines, including the Rustlers Roost deposit containing 51Mt at 1.0g/t Au (1.6Moz). PALM went on to acquire the Merolia Gold Project, its first post-discovery opportunity in the region, a 145km2 tenement package close to the prolific Granny Smith, Sunrise Dam and Wallaby gold mines, which together have produced nearly 20Moz gold. Merolia is also prospective for nickel-cobalt sulphide mineralisation: a JORC Exploration Target sets a tonnage range of 30-50Mt at 0.6 to 0.8pc nickel and 400 to 600ppm cobalt. Last year PALM listed the company’s Australian operations as Panther Metals Ltd – to be referred to for everyday purposes as ‘Panther Australia’ – on Australia’s ASX, a move designed to delineate PALM’s respective operations in Australia and Canada. PALM continues to hold a 36.6pc stake in the subsidiary.
On joining the LSE PALM also had a significant Canadian asset, the Big Bear Gold Project in Ontario, subsequently extended through the acquisition of the Dotted Lake Property, a cluster of contiguous claims close to Barrick Gold’s prolific Hemlo mine, which has produced more than 22Moz of gold over the past 30 years. Analysis published last November indicated several gold anomalies, including a particularly promising 1.3 km long shear-related gold feature, helping PALM sell Big Bear to Fulcrum Metals for £0.2m (PALM will retain a significant interest through 20pc ownership of Fulcrum’s share capital and a 2pc net smelter return royalty.)
Last year the company significantly expanded its Canadian portfolio by taking a near exclusive exploration holding over the Obonga Project, also in the Thunder Bay region, prospective for gold, copper, lead, zinc, silver, and PGM deposits. Phase 1 drilling early this year at Obonga confirmed the discovery of a volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) mineral system at the Project’s Wishbone Prospect. PALM has also gained access to another Ontario greenstone belt through an agreement to buy the Shear Gold/Manitou Lakes Project encompassing the West Limb and Glass Reef gold properties on the Eagle-Manitou Lakes Greenstone Belt – an immediately adjacent project owned by Manitou Gold was sold for CAN$7m.
Back on the other side of the globe, Panther Australia defined a JORC Exploration Target for nickel and cobalt at the Coglia Nickel/Cobalt Project on the southernmost area of the Merolia project tenements, with a tonnage range of 30 to 50Mt at 0.6 to 0.8pc nickel and 400 to 600ppm cobalt. Final assay results for the Project reported ‘the highest-grade intercepts of Nickel and Cobalt in the entire Coglia drill programme’, including 1m at 3.97pc nickel and 1m at 7,900ppm cobalt. Attention has now turned to defining a JORC 2012 compliant maiden Mineral Resource Estimate.
In July the company reported ‘very high grade gold drill intercepts and visible gold in reverse circulation drilling chips’ at shallow depths at the Burtville East Gold Project and Eight Foot Well prospect in Western Australia, paving the way for a follow-up programme, including both diamond core and reverse circulation drilling, which has returned further high-grade gold drilling intercepts. The latest Burtville results posted in December identified multiple new gold-rich quartz lodes, with high-grade gold diamond drill intercepts and significant strike extension potential.
Elsewhere down under a technical update for Dotted Lake published in September detailed the Project’s potential for ultramafic intrusive hosted nickel mineralisation. And there have been positive findings from a gold focused soil geochemical sampling programme conducted at the Shear Gold/Manitou Lakes Project. A follow-up soil programme successfully delineated a further 300 metre strike extent of linear anomalous and high grade gold in soils at Manitou’s Barker prospect area. PALM is now looking ahead to exploration diamond drilling at the Obonga Project, supported by a £1.148m August placing, which got underway in October at the first of five prospect areas.
PALM’s most recent interim report, for the six months to 30 June 2022, stated total cash reserves of £71,517 (31 December 2021: £100,586), and a net asset value of £2,631,492. The company recorded a loss for the period of £65,793, down from £97,599 for the equivalent period for 2021. Despite PALM’s year the company’s share price has drifted down to around 4.5p at the time of writing, a two-third decline over the past 12 months, taking the company’s market cap to £3.33m. At this low price, and with so many possible value triggers, PALM is another to look out for next year.
Power Metal Resources
With so many interests at all phases of development it’s a challenge to know how best to assess the kaleidoscopic portfolio accumulated by Power Metal Resources (AIM: POW). But this year the company has sharpened its focus on a cluster of gold, nickel, copper and uranium prospects.
POW pursues precious, base and strategic metal exploration in North America, Africa and Australia, with interests encompassing projects at greenfield and drilling stages. The company develops prospects internally or through joint ventures until ready for disposal through outright sale or IPO. POW’s extensive portfolio covers uranium, gold, silver, nickel, copper, rare earths and base-metals: the company’s latest interim results and quarterly business offer essential overviews of its current holdings. Prospective investors should also make sure to follow POW’s fast-moving RNS and Twitter streams.
The wholly-owned Tati Gold Project within the Tati Greenstone Belt near Francistown, Botswana, is a key priority, drilling undertaken this summer yielding compelling evidence of gold. The first set of assay results – published earlier this month – for nine holes drilled over 490 metres along strike and down dip extension of quartz reefs associated with the historical Cherished Hope gold mine, reported near-surface gold mineralisation in the first three holes, including a ‘bonanza grade’ result. Results for the remaining six holes, published a few days later, reported ‘significant near-surface dolerite and quartz reef hosted gold mineralisation’. POW intends to ‘accelerate its activity’ to undertake drilling to more fully test the gold-in-soil anomalies, prove up more extensive gold mineralisation and develop avenues for future gold production from the Project. POW is in the final stages of planning further exploration at Tati.
The company has also posted encouraging results from its Molopo Farms Complex Project, a nickel, copper and Platinum Group Element (PGE) metals prospect in Botswana. POW now has an 87.71pc interest following the acquisition of the major of project holding company Kalahari Key Mineral Exploration Pty Limited. Preliminary survey results from two ground-based electromagnetic geophysics surveys conducted in August highlighted a large shallow dipping magnetic conductor which CEO Paul Johnson called ‘potentially one of the more significant the Company has released in its 3-year history as Power Metal.’ The company raised £1.08m the following month to support further drilling, which began later that month. The programme includes 2,600 metres of diamond drilling designed to further explore the location. Should the company’s drill programme at Molopo Farms in Botswana prove successful ’there will be an immediate cessation in the review of any new opportunities’ allowing POW ‘to devote more managerial & technical time as well as financial resources to that project.’
POW has assembled a considerable uranium portfolio, principally consisting in a set of 100pc-owned properties covering more than 800km2 of the Athabasca Basin, in Saskatchewan, Canada. The company’s most recent quarterly business update stated that its ‘primary acquisition focus for the foreseeable future is on further uranium projects … Outside uranium, Power Metal will only engage with exceptional acquisitions which complement the existing portfolio.’ Assay results have noted multiple locations of anomalous radioactivity across three properties so far, with rock sample assay results currently awaited. Detailed data compilation has been completed and external datarooms have been opened for third parties.
In addition to developing Tati, Molopo and Athabasca POW is prioritising the spin-out or disposal of a number of other projects. This summer the company announced the disposal of its Kanye Resources interest in Botswana to its joint-venture partner Kavango Resources, where drilling completed earlier in the year identified the potential for an iron oxide copper gold ore system at the Ditau project. The company has a 83.13pc interest in gold and base metals miner Golden Metal Resources, located in Nevada, currently preparing for IPO. Results are awaited from a recent Induced Polarisation survey at Golden Metal’s Pilot Mountain Project, which may host one of the largest undeveloped tungsten deposit in the US. POW has a 62.12pc interest in another promising gold venture through the company’s holding in First Development Resources, focused on Western Australia, which has the green light for drilling at the Wallal Project, targeting a large-scale gold-copper discovery.
POW is considering its next move in regard to several other projects. Molopo, Tati and the cluster of uranium interests at Saskatchewan are currently the POW headline assets, but prospective investors should keep a close eye on the full range of the company’s interests. With the POW share price around 1.3p there looks plenty of upside from this level in what looks a very interesting year ahead for the company.
Sunrise Resources (AIM: SRES) continues to position itself as a prospective supplier of pozzolan and perlite to California’s construction market, materials sourced from naturally occurring volcanic ash and pumice that offer the promise of a new ‘green concrete’ with a much lower carbon footprint than the industry standard Portland cement.
The company’s flagship asset is its wholly-owned CS Natural Pozzolan-Perlite Project in Nevada, a lunar landscape spiked by outcrops formed by significant deposits of the materials extending some 150 feet below the surface. Preparations are well advanced for a drilling campaign: drill holes and trenches have been completed; extensive analysis of a range of samples has confirmed their commercial quality; an environmental assessment has been completed; and the necessary permits have been secured from the US Bureau of Land Management. SRES’s internal tests using a 20pc substitution of ordinary Portland cement with natural pozzolan have demonstrated mortar strength well beyond regulatory requirements. The company has published a 27-year mine plan that includes a four-phase pit design targeting production of 14.5 million tonnes of pozzolan, starting at rate of 100,000 tonnes per year rising to 500,000, and 1.3 million tonnes of perlite starting at an annual 20,000 tonnes rising to 100,000.
Last year SRES acquired a second natural pozzolan project, at Hazen, also in Nevada. This is at an earlier stage than the CS Project, but in October SRES announced a collaborative arrangement with an existing processor of natural pozzolan for mining and test grinding of a bulk sample. SRES said that while ‘there is currently no obligation on either party to enter into a further agreement at this stage, this is an important collaboration. The other party has the processing facilities and marketing network in those regions targeted by the Hazen Project to commercialise the Hazen deposit in the future and the deposit is well located close to rail.’ The company said the agreement ‘does not detract from our focus on the more advanced CS Pozzolan-Perlite Project in Nevada as the two projects target different regional areas of cement and concrete demand served by a range of different cement and ready-mix companies.’
Though the company’s focus is on pozzolan, SRES also wants to market its perlite, a low density glassy volcanic raw material suitable for household and industrial applications, including garden pots that aid water retention and aeration, insulation and fire proofing, paint texturing, plaster and concrete fillers, and industrial cryogenic storage vessels. There are longer-term plans for a stand-alone perlite plant where both coarse and fine grades of perlite are directed to perlite specific applications.
Everything is finely poised then: SRES just needs to secure a buyer to allow production to proceed. Pozzolan, sometimes referred to as ‘Roman’ cement, was only displaced by Portland cement, a compound of limestone, chalk, clay and shale, in the early 1900s. But its potential as a building material has resurfaced as the world puzzles how to green a construction sector that produces prodigious amounts of concrete, second only to water as the most used substance on Earth. Pozzolan blended cements may be cheaper, cleaner and stronger: the mix reduces the carbon embodied in cements, increases production per tonne of cement clinker capacity, and ensures more robust structures. Whereas structures made with natural pozzolan have survived for millennia, many made with Portland are susceptible to ‘concrete cancer’ caused by the reaction of the cement’s alkalis with silica, which causes the concrete to expand and crack.
Demand for pozzolan is being driven by changing dynamics in the US concrete market, as well as wider environmental considerations. Until the past few years it was supplied primarily as a by-product of coal-fired power stations, notably fly ash. But that source has been closing over the past decade as North American coal-fired power plants have shut down in response to tougher environmental regulations and competition from cheaper renewables and natural gas. SRES is on location to address a particularly acute cut in the supply of fly ash on the west coast caused by the closure of the region’s largest coal-fired power station in Arizona, which has taken an annual 500,000 tonnes production of high-quality fly ash off the market. Trends in the US health market are also opening fresh opportunities for perlite producers. The material is a particularly effective medium for the cultivation of cannabis, a market rapidly growing in North America – and beyond – as the plant is legalised.
SRES has been engaged in discussions with several prospective customers this year, including two cement and ready-mix companies, a major fly-ash distributor, a large building materials company, and a cement clean-tech new start. The company’s efforts to target Californian markets received a major boost this summer when the CS Projects pozzolan was conditionally approved by the California Department of Transport, responsible for the award of public infrastructure construction projects across the state. The approval not only gives SRES access to public projects but is an important mark of quality considered by private customers.
SRES has undertaken modest drilling work on other holdings to confirm their value. In May the company reported ‘high grade assay results’ from sampling and mapping at surface at its Myrtle Gold-Silver Project, also in Nevada, where it holds 20 mining claims at the location of the historic Myrtle Mine where an ‘intrusive related gold-silver-base metal system is suspected’. The company has also reported drilling results from its 100pc owned Clayton Silver-Gold Project that have confirmed the presence of significant silver mineralisation with ‘a number of interested parties … currently reviewing data with a view to partnering with the Company in the further exploration of the project.’ Soil sampling at a further wholly owned Nevada asset, the Sundance Gold Project, in same area as the Denton-Rawhide Gold-Silver Mine that has produced 1.8 million ounces, has identified gold in soil anomalies undergoing further testing.
SRES’s most recent annual report stated cash of £96,126 and the intention to undertake another round of fundraising next year. Despite its modest size the £5m market cap has succeeded in bringing an innovative pozzolan-perlite prospect to the verge of production on a shoestring budget. If SRES can secure a commercial contract the company’s prospects for 2023 look bright.
Vast Resources (AIM: VAST) focuses on the rapid advancement of high-quality projects by recommencing production at previously producing mines in Romania, Tajikistan, and Zimbabwe.
The company’s Romanian portfolio includes the wholly owned producing Baita Plai Polymetallic Mine, located in the Apuseni Mountains, Transylvania, an area which hosts Romania’s largest polymetallic mines. The mine has a JORC compliant Reserve & Resource Report which underpins an initial mine production life of approximately three to four years with an in-situ total mineral resource of 15,695 tonnes copper equivalent with a further 1.8-3 million tonnes exploration target. The company is now working on confirming an enlarged exploration target of up to 5.8 million tonnes. VAST owns a second Romanian mine, the Manaila Polymetallic Mine, which the company is looking to bring back into production following a period of care and maintenance. It has also been granted a licence allowing it to re-examine the exploitation of the mineral resources within the larger Manaila Carlibaba licence area.
Vast has an interest in a joint venture company which provides a 12.25pc royalty over all sales of non-ferrous concentrate and any other metals produced from the Takob Mine processing facility in Tajikistan. Under the project agreements, the mine is to produce approximately 7,000 tonnes per month of ore containing no less than 1.5-2pc lead, 1.2-1.4pc zinc and 27pc fluoride. Historically the Mine contained 30g/t silver and 1-2g/t gold in-situ. In Zimbabwe, the company is focused on the finalisation of the joint venture mining agreement on the Community Diamond Concession, Chiadzwa, in the Marange Diamond Fields.
VAST continues to invest in Baita Plai to support the transition to mechanised mining. Long-hole stopping was successfully introduced in Q3 2022 to pave the way for significantly increased production volumes. A second milling circuit was installed to facilitate a significant increase in production. The company is also upgrading the processing plant at the operating fluorite and galena mine in Tajikistan. VAST is working to optimise the Manaila Polymetallic Mine through X-Ray Sorting Technology which would reduce transportation and production expenses. The company continues discussions to conclude the agreement with Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company regarding the right to mine diamonds for the at the community diamond concession.
VAST’s most recent annual report, to 30 April 2022, reported an increase in revenues to $3.8m from $0.9m, and cash of $0.13m. The company concluded a placing in October raising £1.467m for new working capital, boosting cash to £1,556,948. VAST has near-term liabilities of £933,020.
Mill feed production at Baita Plai increased from 14,452 tonnes for the year ended 30 April 2021 to 38,108 tonnes for the year ended 30 April 2022, and the company has continued to report strong production in its most recent update. As at 16 December production to date for Q4 2022 was already 15pc more than production for Q3 2022 and the company is expecting a total increase of 30pc or more over Q3 2022 by the end of this month. The average copper grade of 24pc being achieved represents an increase of 40pc against Q3 2022. VAST expects production figures to continue to increase in Q1 2023 and beyond. A potential increase of more than 350pc of concentrate sales in Q4 2022 versus Q3 2022 is forecast on the basis of the 335 Wet Metric Tonnes (WMT) shipped to date and the further 180 WMT booked to be shipped before the end of this month. A technical contractor has been engaged to review and reprofile mine resources in order to report an updated Resource report for Baita Plai to be incorporated into a new independent competent persons report in H1 2023.
VAST has had a rocky year on the markets, its value falling from 2.3p going into 2022 to 0.17p at the time of writing, taking its market cap to £3.99m. But with a producing mine, and new prospects on the horizon, at this price VAST may be worth watching in anticipation of a pickup in commodity prices.