Poland-focused coal player Prairie Mining (LSE:PDZ) sat flat at 21p on Monday after updating investors on its potential tie-up with JSW and various legal disputes.

In a Q1 update, the business reminded investors that – alongside JSW – it has signed an extension to the non-disclosure agreement protecting both firms as they discuss the structure and terms of any co-operation deal. Although this is now in place until the end of September, Prairie said that JSW has reported that it would like to agree on the basic terms of a potential transaction by the end of April.

The possible link-up was first announced last March and saw Prairie give JSW access to information on its hard coking coal project under the Debiensko-1 concession and its Jan Karski project in the Lublin Coal Basin. JSW has since been conducting an assessment of the feasibility and economics offered by both projects.

This has now completed and has confirmed that Jan Karski’s Lublin deposit contains semi-soft coking coal that it can potentially utilise. JSW’s work has also shown the technical feasibility and potential synergies of accessing initial seams at the Dębieńsko deposit. This would employ existing infrastructure at JSW's adjacent Knurów-Szczygłowice mine and potentially enable the production of hard coking coal within 18 months of permits being granted.

Jan Karski is a large scale semi-soft coking coal project located in the Lublin Coal Basin in south-east Poland. It is situated adjacent to the Bogdanka coal mine, which has been in commercial production since 1982 and is the lowest cost hard coal producer in Europe. According to Prairie, Jan Karski has the potential to produce a high-value ultra-low ash semi-soft coking coal with a coking coal product split of up to 75pc. Meanwhile, the Debiensko nine is a hard-coking coal project located in the Upper Silesian Coal Basin in the south west of Poland.

Elsewhere in Friday’s update, Prairie said it will defend its 50-year mining concession at Debiensko strongly. It added that it will continue to take all relevant actions to pursue its legal rights regarding the Debiensko concession amendment. This includes filing an appeal with Poland's Administrative Court.

The company’s efforts here come after Poland’s Ministry of Environment denied its request to extend the time stipulated in the Debiensko mining concession for the first production of coal from 2018 to 2025. Prairie believes the body’s decision is ‘fundamentally flawed’ and does not comply with Polish, EU and international law.

‘It demonstrates yet further evidence of the discriminatory treatment faced by Prairie as a foreign investor in Poland,’ the firm added on Friday.

On a more positive note, the firm said it remains in a financially stable position, with cash reserves of $8m on hand. However, it added that it formally initiated a legal dispute with Poland’s government in February. In Prairie’s words, this has arisen out of ‘certain measures’ taken by Poland in breach of the Energy Charter Treaty, the UK-Poland Bilateral Investment Treaty and the Australia-Poland Bilateral Investment Treaty.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

The Author has not been paid to produce this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

Shares in Arc Minerals (LSE:ARCM) sat at 2.3p on Friday after the business revealed that it has begun work on its potentially ‘game-changing’ exploration targets in northwestern Zambia.

The firm has started an exploration programme on the targets, identified by airborne geophysical work and follow-up analysis earlier this year at the copper-cobalt licence owned by Zamsort. Arc holds a 66pc equity interest in Zamsort together with a convertible loan that could increase its stake in the private company by a further 5pc.

The targets include Cheyeza West, located around 7km west of Cheyeza East where historical drilling has intersected zones of pervasive copper mineralisation. Chezea West is characterised by a historical EM anomaly that could represent a conductive unit like sulphide-rich sediment as well as well-defined radiometric anomalies.

Another target identified by the work is Lumbeta, which stretches for 11km and is associated with the crest of a fold. According to Arc, these formations can act as mineralisation traps and form high-grade deposits. Upon announcing the discoveries in February, Arc’s executive chairman Nick von Schirnding said they could represent a ‘potential game changer for the business’.

In Friday’s update, Arc said infill soil sampling has begun over the new target areas, with 1,200 samples already completed. This work will reduce the spacing between profile lines from 1km to 200m, allowing for more defined drilling of targets. Arc added that the prospects have continued to exceed expectations to date and will be drilled as soon as weather conditions permit.

Von Schirnding added: ‘I am very pleased to have completed the follow up work on the new anomalies and to have commenced the soil sampling programme early having been able to access Cheyeza West during intermittent dry periods.  As soon as weather conditions allow we shall be deploying rigs to Cheyeza West in the first instance and start our drilling programme. The Cheyeza West and Lumbeta anomalies, as highlighted on the attached map, are around 10 order of magnitudes larger than anything previously looked at in the Zamsort project area - and is a potential game changer for Arc Minerals.’

Friday’s progress comes just days after Arc revealed that it had completed the construction of a demonstration pilot plant at Zamsort’s Kalaba prospect. The business said the plant was completed under budget at its part-owned Kalaba prospect and has been commissioned successfully with the initial production of copper/cobalt sulphide concentrate.

Kalaba is a copper-cobalt licence covering nine of 30 high priority targets ranked by a previous JV operated by Anglo American. It is found near First Quantum’s Sentinel and Kansanshi and Barrick’s Lumwana mines. The project has an existing near-surface estimated copper-cobalt oxide resource of 16.59Mt at 0.94pc copper and a historical exploration target of 150Mt. This makes it one of the most significant projects of its type in Zambia.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

The Author has not been paid to produce this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

Canadian cobalt developer Global Energy Metals (TSX-V:GEMC) revealed that it has increased the size of its recently-announced $500,000 private fundraise by $250,000 on Wednesday in response to high demand. The firm, which is raising the money to support a phase one exploration programme at its two projects near Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, said it will now issue 15m units rather than 10m to raise $750,000

Each unit distributed in the non-brokered, private placement will comprise one $0.05 share and one three-year warrant exercisable at $0.10. Upon first announcing the raise last week, Global Energy said it had also approved the settlement of up to $181,500 of debt by issuing shares at $0.05 each to certain creditors.

The company, which announced plans to co-list in London earlier this year, will use its placing proceeds to advance its Lovelock and Treasure Box projects ‘immediately’. The two properties are located in Churchill County, around 150km east of the Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.  Lovelock covers around 1,400 acres and is said to have produced 500ts of cobalt and nickel mineralisation between 1883 and 1890 when it was last in operation. Global Energy believes exploration work and modern drilling techniques could unlock a large amount of potential value at the site.

Treasure Box, meanwhile, is adjacent to Lovelock and hosts mine workings from limited copper production, which occurred until early into the 20th century. A historical diamond drill hole at the asset reportedly intersected 1.52pc copper over 85ft, with mineralisation beginning at surface.

Nevada progress

Last month, Global Energy announced that it had made its first option payment towards acquiring an 85pc stake in both Lovelock and Treasure Box. It issued 384,627 of its shares to the projects’ current owner Nevada Sunrise and paid $20,000 to the underlying vendor.

Speaking to MiningMaven in February, Global Energy’s chief executive Mitchell Smith said the acquisition gives the business a low-cost entry to an exciting jurisdiction close to the world’s largest battery factory:

‘Some of the grades at these sites are exceptional. Historically, grades were reported as high as 14-15pc cobalt, which is just unheard of. It shows there is a real opportunity in this significant land package covering two past producing mines. Given our proximity to Tesla, this could really provide us with unique access to the growing demand for domestic cobalt supply in the US.’

In its March update, Global Energy also said it is reviewing exploration plans for Lovelock and Treasure Box. It said its first-stage exploration programme would assist it with an ongoing, extensive review and reinterpretation of historical data at both sites.

‘There has been a tremendous amount of attention placed on the US for it to stop being merely a bystander in the global battery arms race and start developing more domestic supplies of battery metals such as cobalt, nickel and copper to supply its homegrown battery factories, including Nevada-based Gigafactory 1,’ said Smith. ‘The Lovelock and Treasure Box projects are prime examples of US-based battery metal projects that are very prospective and strategically located in close proximity to a domestic end-user with a large appetite for the critical materials used in EV and energy storage technology.’

Global Energy focuses on offering security of supply of cobalt, which is a critical material in the rapidly growing rechargeable battery market. It is building a diversified global portfolio of assets in the sector, including project stakes, projects and other supply sources.

The business’s flagship asset is the Millennium Project in the world-renowned Mt. Isa region of Queensland, Australia. It executed the final agreements to take a 100pc interest in the project in November.

Millennium is a multi-zone, near-surface cobalt-copper sulphide system with several kilometres of potential strike length. It is located near established mining, transport, and processing infrastructure and offers easy access to a very skilled workforce.

The growth-stage site contains a defined zone of cobalt-copper mineralisation.  Here, a 2016 JORC Resource estimate identified 3.1MMts of inferred resources containing 0.14pc cobalt and 0.34pc copper with gold credits.

Global Energy is now looking at ways to increase the size of its deposit. Results from a first phase exploration campaign at two zones called Millennium North and Millennium South exceeded grade and thickness expectations. The firm will now carry out a second phase of drilling to examine both areas further.

Alongside Millennium, Global Energy has acquired two further discovery sites called Mt. Dorothy and Cobalt Ridge.  These are collectively known as the ‘Mt. Isa projects’. The areas expand Global Energy’s Australian land position by nearly twenty times but have yet to be exploited. Exploration to date has returned high-grade cobalt intercepts at both, allowing Global Energy to line up numerous targets for further investigation and test work to define a resource.

Finally, the business currently owns 70pc of the Werner Lake cobalt mine in Ontario Canada. It joint venture partner Marquee Resources is enjoying much success in its ongoing exploration campaign at the asset.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, owns a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author.  News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

SolGold (LSE:SOLG) sat flat at 37.7p on Wednesday after revealing further drilling progress at its Cascabel project in Northern Ecuador. The firm said it has now carried out nearly 190,000m of diamond drilling at the project, with work on the greater Alpala trend this year providing further growth to the size of its resource.

Elsewhere, it has discovered previously unknown, high-grade and medium-grade mineralisation within existing low-grade inferred resources areas at the site. The business said these highlight the ongoing upgrades to its existing resource base in both the indicated and inferred categories at project areas called Trivinio, Alpala North, Alpala Northwest, and Alpala South.

Alpala lies upon the northern section of the prolific Andean Copper Belt, the base for nearly half of the world’s copper production. According to SolGold, the project area hosts mineralisation of Eocene age, which is the same age as numerous Tier 1 deposits along the belt in Chile and Peru. SolGold owns an 85pc interest in Exploraciones Novomining S.A, an Ecuadorean company that in turn owns 100pc of Cascabel.

The business will now commence geotechnical, hydrogeological, and sterilisation drill testing at the asset ahead of releasing a preliminary economic assessment report.

The company’s chief executive Nick Mather said: ‘The drilling campaign continues to deliver to our expectations with these latest results revealing previously unknown mineralisation and providing a clear indication of the growth potential that exists through the extension of the Alpala resource.’

Wednesday’s update comes after SolGold’s said it was ‘surprised and disappointed’ by Cornerstone’s swift dismissal of its takeover bid in February. The firm said Cornerstone – which owns the remaining 15pc of Cascabel, lodged its response fewer than three hours after SolGold’s approach, raising questions around how well it had considered the potential offer.

SolGold had proposed the conversion of each Cornerstone share into 0.55 of a SolGold share, equating to an immediate 20pc premium for Cornerstone holders at the time. It added that the consolidatory move would benefit Cornerstone shareholders significantly by removing the company’s ‘funding challenges’ concerning Cascabel’s development.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

The Author has not been paid to produce this piece by the company or companies mentioned above

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author.  News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

African Battery Metals (LSE:ABM) has been on something of a roller coaster ride over the last few months. After its shares were suspended at the end of 2018, in the face of financial uncertainty, a successful refinancing programme allowed the company to return to trading in February with no debt and a healthy cash runway. Alongside this newfound financial security, the organisation has also undergone a significant management restructuring that has seen Paul Johnson and Andrew Bell both become executive directors. 

In the first part of our interview with Johnson, the AIM veteran discussed Bell and his reasons for approaching African Battery and their plans for the outfit’s existing portfolio. Here, he discusses the pair’s recent deal with AIM-listed Katoro gold and their plans to make the most of today’s ‘very poor’ funding climate for early-stage resource opportunities as they line up African Battery’s future.

Haneti opportunity

Johnson and Bell revealed African Battery’s first foray into new territory under their leadership last month, announcing an investment and option agreement with Katoro Gold (LSE:KAT). Under the contract, African Battery will be able to purchase up to 10m shares in Katoro at 1p each with three-year warrants attached. It also has the right to purchase up to 35pc in Katoro’s 100pc-owned Haneti nickel project in Tanzania, for a total consideration of up to £125,000.

Haneti comprises tenements covering an area of around 5,000km2 prospective for nickel, platinum-group-elements, cobalt, copper, gold, and lithium. Previous work has identified grades of up to 13.6pc nickel at the project, and an exploration programme this year will aim to confirm the existence of disseminated or massive sulphide mineralisation in the area. Alongside Haneti, Katoro owns a further two gold projects in Tanzania called Imweru and Lubando. Together, these host a JORC-compliant resource of 754,980oz gold.

As well as giving African Battery exposure to a new nickel project and a new jurisdiction, Johnson says he and Bell felt that Katoro’s looked undervalued:

‘Like all resource firms, Katoro has suffered recently. Its market cap currently sits at just £1m, which is unbelievably low considering that it has a large amount of gold in its portfolio, a potentially high-impact nickel project, and cash in the bank. We see plenty of upside on the stock, and think its market cap could go substantially higher.’

Johnson also highlights parallels between Katoro and Haneti’s previous owner Kibo Mining (now Kibo Energy), into which Metal Tiger entered a joint venture in 2014 when he was chief executive. Shortly after Metal Tiger made a £150,000 equity investment and launched the 50:50 project focused on its uranium-prospective portfolio in Tanzania, Kibo’s shares shot up from below 1.5p to more than 10p in intra-day trading.

This rise, which occurred very quickly, came after Metal Tiger’s investment supported Kibo in the delivery of a highly positive definitive mining feasibility study at its Rukwa coal to power project. With the deal earning Metal Tiger a significant profit in short order, Johnson hopes that alongside having an option over Hanet, African Battery can make a lot from its Katoro shareholding.

Broadening horizons

Alongside the Katoro deal, March also saw Johnson and Bell lay out their plans for African Battery’s future in a strategic and operational plan. The company said that the funding climate for early-stage resource opportunities is still ‘very poor’, thanks to depressed market conditions. As a result, it believes vendors are willing to undertake transactions on unusually reasonable terms. Using some of its remaining cash balance, the firm plans to take advantage of this by reviewing and – if appropriate – acquiring new opportunities that complement its existing portfolio and provide additional risk diversification.

In the update, African Battery said it has already received direct approaches from third parties with assets in battery metals, precious metals, and other commodity groups. As well as looking at new commodity groups, the firm said that, although it intends to remain focused on Africa, it would be willing to enter new jurisdictions if an attractive enough opportunity arose.

‘We are obviously very focused on reviewing what we can do with the existing portfolio,’ says Johnson. ‘However, we are also considering investment opportunities that can boost our balance sheet, bolster our financial strength and expose us to strategically attractive areas for future business development. For example, it would be good to get diversification across a wider geographical spread in Africa, rather than focusing solely on the West of the continent. There are a number of attractive opportunities out there in stable jurisdictions before offered at good valuations.’

Aside from maintaining and expanding African Battery’s portfolio, Johnson said another core goal for Bell and himself is to restore value for long-term shareholders. He highlights his stints at Metal Tiger, Greatland Gold, and Thor Mining as evidence of his ability to implement a successful business turnaround strategy.

‘African Battery has been through a period of difficulty, and it is now down to us to restore confidence in the company. There are a lot of people with personal money invested that have suffered a large capital loss. So, alongside making money for the investors that entered alongside us, we have got to try and make back as much of that cash that long-term shareholders have lost on paper as possible,’ he says.

Both Andrew Bell and I have enjoyed turnaround success at numerous businesses over the years, with good examples being Thor Mining, Metal Tiger, and Greatland Gold. We enter African Battery in a far more comfortable position than many of these examples. The company has no debt, a good strong cash balance, and some existing interests with value that can be taken forward. What’s more, we are at the bottom of the market, or at least close to it. That is the scenario you want if you are going to make a recovery. It is really a case of doing the same thing as we have done before: maintaining our strong core business model and grabbing new opportunities as and when they become available.’

Where next?

With one asset left to review and new projects on the agenda, the next few months are likely to see African Battery deliver plenty of newsflow for investors. What’s more, by a revitalised balance sheet devoid of debt and replete with cash complements this forward momentum. If the business’s two experienced bosses can strike the right chord with the retail market by meeting all of their strategic and operational goals, then the company could be poised for exciting growth.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

The article expresses the views of the Author solely and does not necessarily express the views of MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd or their connected parties who are not responsible for its content or accuracy

News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance. Readers are recommended to seek the advice of appropriate professionals when considering investments in small capital.

Arc Minerals (LSE:ARCM) rose 1.9pc to 2.6p on Monday morning after announcing that it has completed the construction of a demonstration pilot plant at one of its copper/cobalt licences in Zambia. The business said the plant was completed under budget at its part-owned Kalaba prospect and has been successfully commissioned with the initial production of copper/cobalt sulphide concentrate.

Kalaba is a copper-cobalt licence covering nine of 30 high priority targets ranked by a previous JV operated by Anglo American. It is found near First Quantum’s Sentinel and Kansanshi and Barrick’s Lumwana mines. The project has an existing near-surface estimated copper-cobalt oxide resource of 16.59Mt at 0.94pc copper and a historical exploration target of 150Mt. This makes it one of the most significant projects of its type in Zambia.

Kalaba is owned by a private company called Zamsort, which is in turn 66pc owned by Arc. Alongside this equity position, Arc has issued a convertible loan to Zamsort that converts into an additional c.5pc stake.

Arc is now finalising detailed oxide resource tonnages, grades, and mining line with the completion of the block modelling of Kalaba’s overall oxide resource. The block model assessment of the ore body will be the basis for a review of operational and mining strategy at the site. This will include the cost-benefit potential of upgrading the oxide ore feed into the plant aimed at materially reducing consumption of acid and related input costs.

Arc said that initial production at its demonstration plant would incur no mining costs because feed will be drawn down from an existing stockpile of 10,000ts at 2pc copper. Finally, the organisation said it is also looking at the potential of using the plant to enhance revenue streams through the production of separate copper and cobalt sulphide precipitates.

Arc’s executive chairman Nick von Schirnding said: ‘I am very pleased to report that we delivered on our commitment to complete the construction and commissioning of the small-scale demonstration pilot plant at Kalaba. We have now completed the plant under budget - for less than half a million dollars.  It is also an important step regarding Zamsort's previous commitments in terms of its exploration licenses. In the meantime, we have made major progress regarding our next phase of exploration and our newly identified targets. A more detailed update on this will be made shortly.’

In February, Arc announced that it had identified two ‘potentially game-changing’ new targets on Zamsort’s acreage in Zambia. The business released the initial results of an airborne geophysical and soil sampling programme at the copper-cobalt licence owned by Zamsort.

The work revealed seven new anomalies, the largest of which are Cheyeza West and Lumbeta. Cheyeza West contains a 3km-by-3km anomaly outlined by very high copper values in the soils enclosed by the wider 10km-by-8km Cheyeza anomaly. Furthermore, a co-incident electromagnetic anomaly over the core has indicated conductivity within the host rock.

Meanwhile, the Lumbeta target stretches for 11km and is associated with the crest of a fold. According to Arc, these formations can act as mineralisation traps and form high-grade deposits

Arc expects to release a more detailed update ‘shortly’ once it has assessed the results of the programme thoroughly with its external exploration consultants.

Von Schirnding said Cheyeza West and Lumbeta are close to ten times the size of Kalaba.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

The Author has not been paid to produce this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

Canadian cobalt developer Global Energy Metals (TSX-V:GEMC) has launched a private fundraise to support a phase one exploration programme at its two projects near Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada.

The firm, which announced plans to co-list in London earlier this year, said on Thursday that it had arranged a non-brokered, private placement with strategic investors for gross proceeds of up to $500,000. It will issue a maximum of 10m units comprising one $0.05 share and one three-year warrant exercisable at $0.10. Elsewhere, the business said it had also approved the settlement of up to $181,50 of debt by issuing shares at $0.05 each to certain creditors.

Global Energy said its placing proceeds will be used to advance its Lovelock and Treasure Box projects ‘immediately’. The two properties are located in Churchill County, around 150km east of the Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. Lovelock covers around 1,400 acres and is said to have produced 500ts of cobalt and nickel mineralisation between 1883 and 1890 when it was last in operation. Global Energy believes exploration work and modern drilling techniques could unlock a large amount of potential value at the site.

Treasure Box, meanwhile, is adjacent to Lovelock and hosts mine workings from limited copper production, which occurred until early into the 20th century. A historical diamond drill hole at the asset reportedly intersected 1.52pc copper over 85ft, with mineralisation beginning at surface.

Nevada progress

Last month, Global Energy announced that it had made its first option payment towards acquiring an 85pc stake in both Lovelock and Treasure Box. It issued 384,627 of its shares to the projects’ current owner Nevada Sunrise and paid $20,000 to the underlying vendor.

Speaking to MiningMaven in February, Global Energy’s chief executive Mitchell Smith said the acquisition gives the business a low-cost entry to an exciting jurisdiction close to the world’s largest battery factory:

‘Some of the grades at these sites are exceptional. Historically, grades were reported as high as 14-15pc cobalt, which is just unheard of. It shows there is a real opportunity in this significant land package covering two past producing mines. Given our proximity to Tesla, this could really provide us with unique access to the growing demand for domestic cobalt supply in the US.’

In its March update, Global Energy also said it is reviewing exploration plans for Lovelock and Treasure Box. It said its first-stage exploration programme would assist it with an ongoing, extensive review and reinterpretation of historical data at both sites.

‘There has been a tremendous amount of attention placed on the US for it to stop being merely a bystander in the global battery arms race and start developing more domestic supplies of battery metals such as cobalt, nickel and copper to supply its homegrown battery factories, including Nevada-based Gigafactory 1,’ said Smith. ‘The Lovelock and Treasure Box projects are prime examples of US-based battery metal projects that are very prospective and strategically located in close proximity to a domestic end-user with a large appetite for the critical materials used in EV and energy storage technology.’

Global Energy focuses on offering security of supply of cobalt, which is a critical material in the rapidly growing rechargeable battery market. It is building a diversified global portfolio of assets in the sector, including project stakes, projects and other supply sources.

The business’s flagship asset is the Millennium Project in the world-renowned Mt. Isa region of Queensland, Australia. It executed the final agreements to take a 100pc interest in the project in November.

Millennium is a multi-zone, near-surface cobalt-copper sulphide system with several kilometres of potential strike length. It is located near established mining, transport, and processing infrastructure and offers easy access to a very skilled workforce.

The growth-stage site contains a defined zone of cobalt-copper mineralisation. Here, a 2016 JORC Resource estimate identified 3.1MMts of inferred resources containing 0.14pc cobalt and 0.34pc copper with gold credits.

Global Energy is now looking at ways to increase the size of its deposit. Results from a first phase exploration campaign at two zones called Millennium North and Millennium South exceeded grade and thickness expectations. The firm will now carry out a second phase of drilling to examine both areas further.

Alongside Millennium, Global Energy has acquired two further discovery sites called Mt. Dorothy and Cobalt Ridge. These are collectively known as the ‘Mt. Isa projects’. The areas expand Global Energy’s Australian land position by nearly twenty times but have yet to be exploited. Exploration to date has returned high-grade cobalt intercepts at both, allowing Global Energy to line up numerous targets for further investigation and test work to define a resource.

Finally, the business currently owns 70pc of the Werner Lake cobalt mine in Ontario Canada. It joint venture partner Marquee Resources is enjoying much success in its ongoing exploration campaign at the asset.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, owns a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

African Battery Metals (LSE:ABM) has been on something of a roller coaster ride over the last few months. After its shares were suspended at the end of 2018, in the face of financial uncertainty, a successful refinancing programme allowed the company to return to trading in February with no debt and a healthy cash runway. Alongside this newfound financial security, the organisation has also undergone a significant management restructuring that has seen industry veterans Paul Johnson and Andrew Bell both become executive directors.

As it stands, African Battery’s shares sit at 0.4p to give the business a modest valuation of just £1.33m. In this two-part interview, Johnson talks us through Bell and his plans to build on this base by using the firm’s strong core offering to create value for both new and existing shareholders.

New beginnings

African Battery’s significant transition began in December last year with the suspension of its shares pending clarification of its financial position. In an accompanying statement, the company revealed that it had been unable to secure equity finance with its largest shareholders despite ‘protracted discussions’.

Following this considerable setback, the firm took a significant step forward at the end of January when it revealed a restructuring and refinancing package. This was centred around a £1m fundraise at 0.5p per share with two-year warrants attached. This would enable it to pay off all of its material creditors, leaving it debt free with a cash runway of at least 12 months. 

Critically, the arrangement also proposed that African Battery’s then-CEO Roger Murphy and executive director Matt Wood would step down from the firm’s board. Meanwhile, well-known AIM figures Andrew Bell and Paul Johnson would both join as executive directors and take part in the placing. Johnson is an experienced public company director who has previously served as chief executive of Metal Tiger, Metal NRG, and China Africa Resources. He has also been chairman of ECR Minerals and non-executive director of Greatland Gold, Papua Mining, and Thor Mining. Bell, meanwhile, has worked in the natural resources sector since the 1970s and is perhaps most recognised as chairman of Red Rock Resources and non-executive director of Jupiter Mines.

Johnson tells us that he and Bell’s engagement with African Battery arose from their long-standing interest in its operations. As a result of this awareness, the pair were keen to look at ways of fixing the firm’s financial situation as soon as they heard of its suspension:

‘African Battery has always had a healthy amount of interesting news flow,’ Johnson tells us. ‘When it announced that it had suspended, it seemed obvious to us to look into what problems existed and whether they were fixable. These days, AIM operating companies with some cash, no debt, and some potential forward momentum in operations can be highly valuable. We pretty quickly concluded that we could resolve the company’s issues, and felt that this represented a great opportunity.’

Johnson says he also feels that current market conditions represent an opportune moment to get exposure to battery metals. Indeed, once obscure materials like copper, cobalt, nickel, lithium, and manganese are now being hailed as the ‘new precious metals’ due to their use in the next generation of batteries. These have many applications, but their most notable us is arguably in electric vehicles (EVs).

Alongside supply-side limitations, many expect the anticipated, global shift towards EVs over coming years to lead to an explosion in the price of elements associated with their construction. For example, the market for cobalt alone is expected to double over the next four years and quadruple by 2028 due to an unsteady supply pipeline for the metal and its use in around three-quarters of EV batteries.

‘You just have to look at all the facts about battery metals like forward supply/demand dynamics and underlying factors that would drive demand to see an opportunity,’ Johnson explains. ‘There has not been growth in mining, exploration, project development, and new mines for these metals, and that is affecting supply. Meanwhile, as everyone knows, battery metal demand is increasing dramatically and is expected to continue rising.

This is really an unusual situation. We have actually got supply and demand factors that could hit prices positively at the same time. For example, do I think copper is going to stay at its current, depressed price forever? I doubt it. Likewise, nickel looks to be on a significant, overall, rising trend. I think we are set for an excellent growth period and this is the perfect place for us to be.’

Operational review

Several weeks after the refinancing was announced, Johnson and Bell’s proposals were passed by shareholders, prompting the pair’s appointment and the restoration of trading in African Battery’s shares. Since joining, the two executive directors have been busy completing a thorough strategic and operational review of the business.

On the financial side, this has seen them cut corporate costs to minimal levels and amend boardroom pay to ensure directors’ salaries are transparent and reflect both performance and African Battery’s cash position. Elsewhere, in early March, the business announced that it has now paid all material creditor balances through cash or share settlement. As such, it no longer has ‘material debt’ and substantial working capital.

Meanwhile, on the operational side, the pair are also conducting a review of each of African Battery’s existing project interests. To date, the company has committed to proceeding its 70pc-owned and operated Kisinka copper-cobalt project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This decision followed a visit by Bell in February, which included meeting with project vendors and local technical advisers.

The company is now liaising with its geological team to prepare a next-stage exploration programme for Kisinka. This will be optimised using previous exploration data, and modifications have been made to earlier plans to maximise cost efficiency. Meanwhile, the organisation has now made all outstanding project payments to Kisinka’s vendor and completed all the changes required to comply with the DRC’s new Mining Act.

After reviewing historical data, African Battery has also committed to continuing its work in Cameroon. Through its subsidiary Cobalt Blue Holdings, the company holds four nickel cobalt licences in the country either adjacent to or within 50km of the Nkamouna/Mada project. This is the most significant undeveloped cobalt resource outside the DRC and has a NI 43-101 compliant resource of 323Mt at average grades of 0.21pc cobalt, 0.61pc nickel, and 1.25pc manganese. Cobalt Blue also holds two licence applications at Ntam Est and N'Gaoundere.

African Battery is now devising a forward work programme for Cobalt Blue’s assets that will prioritise the highest-profile targets as determined from work undertaken and reviewed to date. In an announcement, Johnson said the business would like to begin its work as soon as possible so it complete before heavy rains expected after June.

Bell and Johnson are now completing a review of African Battery’s final interest in Côte d’Ivoire. Through its subsidiary Regent Resources Interests, the business can earn into 70pc of the Lizetta II chrome, nickel, cobalt exploration licence in the country. An independent assessment of the project, which is based near the country’s commercial capital, has confirmed its potential to host cobalt, nickel, and chrome mineralisation of economic potential. It has also proposed an initial field programme consisting of historical data compilation, geological mapping, geophysical surveys, trenching, and RC drilling.

Johnson tells us that he and Bell are using a three-stage process to review African Battery’s existing portfolio:

‘The first stage of this process is to look at each project and its potential. Here, we want to work out if the asset can, on its own basis, engage the market, create value, and be a decent addition to African Battery’s portfolio. Then, if we do decide to proceed with a project, we will announce this to the market,’ he says. ‘Following this, the second stage is to review how best to take the project forward. We look at where we can spend the money in a way that creates the most value for shareholders. This could be on something like an exploration programme or a development programme. Once we have worked out the best approach possible, we will then announce this to the market. Finally, the third stage is to get on with the planned work and start taking the project forward.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

The article expresses the views of the Author solely and does not necessarily express the views of MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd or their connected parties who are not responsible for its content or accuracy

News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance. Readers are recommended to seek the advice of appropriate professionals when considering investments in small capital.

Last month saw leading car maker BMW reveal plans to stop buying cobalt for its electric vehicles (EVs) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2020/21. As it stands, the DRC provides around 60pc of the world’s cobalt supply, meaning the critical battery metal’s price is influenced heavily by the geopolitically unstable nation’s ongoing turmoil. With this in mind, could the promise of additional vehicle manufacturers following in BMW’s footsteps favour cobalt miners operating in more stable jurisdictions?

Changing plans

As reported by electrive.com, BMW board member Andreas Wendt announced the company’s plans to halt cobalt purchases from the DRC in an interview towards the end of March. He said the firm made its decision because cobalt demand has already decreased somewhat due to technical developments. It expects this dynamic to continue.

What’s more, Wendt added that there remains ‘enough [cobalt] deposits that have not yet been explored’. As such, the organisation expects to replace its Congo cobalt supply with materials and resources from other jurisdictions around the world.

The decision comes several months after BMW announced a collaboration with chemicals giant BASF, battery maker Samsung SDI, and development agency GIZ to improve cobalt mining working conditions in the DRC. The firms said that they were exploring ways to improve working and living conditions in areas where cobalt is extracted using manual labour.

Companies with operations in the DRC are currently facing challenges in the areas of environment, health and safety, and human rights when cobalt is extracted through artisanal mining. This dangerous practice makes up around 15-20pc of Congolese cobalt production. There are also concerns around the use of child labour in the nation, while the cost of doing business has also increased thanks to a recent mining code change that saw royalty costs shoot up to 10pc.

Market fluctuation

Cobalt prices have staged a massive rally in recent years due to an anticipated increase in the use of EVs around the world. Given that around three-quarters of electric vehicle batteries currently contain cobalt, the market for the metal is expected to double over the next four years alone and quadruple by 2028.  To express this another way, 62pc of global cobalt demand is likely to come from battery manufacturers by 2020, up from 51pc in 2016 and 20pc in 2006.

Despite the continuation of this long-term trend, prices of the metal have slumped recently. Indeed, they have fallen from $25/lb to $13.61/lb in the first three months of 2019 alone. This has been driven by numerous factors, including a slightly slower-than-expected uptake of EVs, a rush to mine as much cobalt as possible, and a change in subsidies in China - responsible for half of global EV sales.

However, the price has arguably been most depressed by a large amount of new supply coming online from the DRC. The cobalt market’s current reliance on the country became clear in November when prices soared after Glencore abruptly halted sales of the metal from the country after discovering uranium at its key mine.

If more carmakers were to follow BMW in cutting off their ties to DRC’s cobalt market, then it raises the question of where supply is going to come from – especially if EV demand explodes as predicted. Indeed, there are still very few companies operating as a pure play on the metal.  As it stands, 98pc of the world’s cobalt arises as a by-product of mining for other metals.

Aside from the price increases associated with supply threats, this dynamic would make the cobalt assets held by junior miners outside of the DRC look more attractive to both buyers of the metal and larger miners. In this situation, many firms could stand to benefit.

Key players

One example is Global Energy Metals (TSX-V:GEMC), which is currently preparing to build upon its strong UK shareholder base by co-listing in London. The firm is developing a diversified global portfolio of cobalt assets, including project stakes, projects and other supply sources.

The business’s flagship asset is the Millennium Project in the world-renowned Mt. Isa region of Queensland, Australia, where it executed the final agreements to take a 100pc interest last November. It is also in the process of acquiring an 80pc stake in two Nevada-based cobalt sites called the Lovelock Cobalt Mine and the Treasure Box Project. These are located just 150km east of Tesla’s Gigafactory. Finally, the business currently owns 70pc of the Werner Lake cobalt mine in Ontario Canada.

Also building a foothold in the cobalt space within the Canadian market is Forum Energy Metals (CVE:FMC). Although the firm’s most prominent focus is on the uranium and copper markets, it has entered Idaho’s cobalt belt with the acquisition of the Quartz Gulch exploration property. Its goal is to discover near surface mineral deposits by both exploring its 100pc-owned properties and developing strategic partnerships and joint ventures.

Another example is Kavango Resources (LSE:KAV), which listed in London last July. The business focuses on locating magmatic, massive sulphide orebodies in Botswana, with a particular focus on a 450km-long magnetic anomaly called the Kalahari Suture Zone (KSZ).

Last month, Kavango revealed that the first hole drilled at its Ditau prospect in the KSZ had encountered a 200m zone of intensely altered rock holding a 70m area containing significant sulphide alteration. This presented indicative cobalt values of up to 0.9pc and a weighted average of 0.2pc cobalt alongside elevated copper, zinc, lead, and nickel values. The company called the result ‘extremely encouraging’ and ‘suggestive of mineralisation at depth’.

Another firm looking to increase its battery metal exposure is African Battery Metals (LSE:ABM), which recently returned to trading with a refinanced balance and new management team after a period of difficulty. The firm, which is now led by industry veterans Paul Johnson and Andrew Bell, owns cobalt-prospective in the Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire as well as the DRC. It is also on the hunt for new opportunities as it looks to take advantage of today’s poor funding climate for vendors.

Other outfits with exposure to cobalt include Phoenix Global Mining (LSE:PGM), which holds two prospective cobalt properties in Idaho, and Horizonte Minerals (LSE:HZM), which owns Vermelho nickel-cobalt project. Names such as Greatland Gold (LSE:GGP), IronRidge Resources (LSE:IRR), Keras Resources (LSE:KRS), and Mkango Resources (LSE:MKA) also have exposure to the metal in their portfolio.

The tactic of using battery metals to get exposure to the ‘EV boom’ is likely familiar to investors by now, given the unavoidable hype that has surrounded the sector for some time. However, if BMW’s decision to ditch the DRC catches on it could provide an exciting, fresh twist to the narrative that may work in favour of many of the businesses mentioned above.

Author: Daniel Flynn

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

The Author has not been paid to produce this piece by some of the companies mentioned above.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, owns a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has been paid for the production of this piece by some of the companies mentioned above.

MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy. News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.

On Monday, Emmerson PLC (LSE:EML) revealed a metallurgical test work programme was underway at its Khemisset Potash Project in Morocco. The programme will be carried out by the Saskatoon Research Council (SRC) under the supervision of one of the world’s leading potash experts, Don Larmour. After reviewing the existing Scoping Study, Larmour was able to highlight opportunities to optimise the project’s design. As a result, the company has managed to significantly reduce the projected capital expenditure and operating costs for Khemisset. The $7.5m saving identified by Larmour is achievable by utilizing storage and loading facilities at the Port of Casablanca.

The scoping study for Khemisset confirmed that it has the potential to be among the lowest capital cost, highest margin potash projects in the world. Now Emmerson, in consultation with Larmour, is preparing a full Feasibility Study for the project.

The project has a large JORC Resource Estimate of 311.4Mt @ 10.2% K2O with significant exploration potential to extend the resource. The Scoping Study completed in November 2018 suggested a post-tax Net Present Value (NPV10) of US$795 million for the project with an Investment Rate of Return (IRR) of 29.8pc.

Khemisset is ideally located in Morocco with a strong growing local market in addition to good access to Europe, Brazil, and the vast potential of the African continent.

MiningMaven recently spoke about the project with Hayden Locke, Chief Executive Officer of Emmerson, in our 100th episode of the MiningMaven podcast.

Locke, commenting on today’s announcement, said:

"The commencement of metallurgical testing is another important de-risking step towards our goal of becoming a highly profitable potash producer. The results of the Programme will be used to confirm, adjust and optimise the process flow sheet in the upcoming Feasibility Study.

"The results of the Met Testing will also form a key part the technical due diligence any debt or financial partners will perform when assessing the financeability of the Project.

"Don and SRC have an extensive history working together and we expect that the programme will be completed to a very high standard which will be beneficial to the long-term future of the Project.

 "We look forward to continuing to deliver on our many development objectives and timelines during this transformational year for the Company as we advance the world-class Khemisset Project towards production."

Author: Stuart Langelaan

The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.

The Author has not been paid to produce this piece by the company or companies mentioned above

Catalyst Information Services Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.

MiningMaven.com and Catalyst Information Services Ltd are not responsible for its content or accuracy and do not share the views of the author.  News and research are not recommendations to deal, and investments may fall in value so that you could lose some or all of your investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

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