Multi-metal mining opportunities of Central Asia
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, only a few dozen mines continue to be developed in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc). These countries may provide good opportunities for growth for global mining companies in years to come, due to their rich minerals base and the liberalization of national legislation for mining that have been initiated by local governments in recent years. With a population of about 72 million, the region stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east and is characterized by large subsoil resources.
So far, the interest of Western mining companies in this region has been relatively low, which resulted in the almost complete dominance of the Chinese. Since the collapse of the USSR, the Chinese government, together with some of the country’s largest state-affiliated mining companies, have established good relations with the governments of almost every country in the region, providing them relatively cheap loans in exchange of an access to local mineral reserves. Still, the beginning of the pandemic and stagnation of the Chinese economy has led to a significant decline in Chinese investments in the Central Asia mining sector, forcing the regional authorities to consider some alternative investment options.
For example, the government of Kazakhstan, the most economically developed state, is ready to attract investors to participate in the development of the country’s rich uranium fields. At present, Kazakhstan already has a status of one of the world’s leading uranium producers, with the annual volume of production of 18,000-20,000 tonnes per year. As part of the plans of Kazakh government, the attraction of additional investments will allow to start more active development of some of the country’s major uranium fields, particularly the Central Mynkuduk and Zhalpak in the Turkestan region of the country. Kazakhstan holds vast mineral reserves which are largely undeveloped. The country has 30% of the world’s chrome ore reserves, 2% of manganese ore, 10% of iron ore, 5.5% of copper, 10% of lead and 13% of zinc, according to official estimates.
Uranium One Inc., an indirect subsidiary of the Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom, is directly owned by the Amsterdam-based Uranium One Holding N.V. (89.07%) and Moscow-based Uranium One Group 10.93%. Uranium One is a joint venture partner with JSC NAC Kazatomprom, the Kazakhstan state-owned atomic energy company, in six major producing uranium mines in Kazakhstan – Akdala, South Inkai, Karatau, Akbastau, Zarechnoye and Kharasan.
In the meantime, in Uzbekistan, another major country in the region, the biggest hopes of its government are placed on further development of its gold mining sector. In recent years, Uzbek gold mining has faced an acute shortage of investment, which has resulted in stagnation of the entire gold mining sector of the country. In terms of gold reserves, Uzbekistan currently ranks as the world’s fourth in output with annual production of about 90 tonnes of gold. Most Uzbek mining analysts believe the country has big gold mining potential; however, much will depend on the ability of the state to attract investments in the industry. As in the past, the Muruntau mine – one of the largest gold mines in Uzbekistan and the world, with estimated reserves of 71.4 million oz of gold – will probably remain the most attractive gold mining asset of Uzbekistan for years to come.
In the meantime, in neighboring Tajikistan, the biggest hopes of the local state are related with the development of Bolshoi Konimansur, one of the world’s largest silver deposits, located in the Sughd region of the country (Northern Tajikistan). Total silver reserves at the Bolshoi Konimansur exceed 70,000 tons. According to preliminary estimates, investment in its development is estimated at US$3 billion.
Finally, in Kyrgyzstan, the fourth largest country of the region, most analysts consider the country as one of the potentially largest producers of rare earth elements in the entire region. As Omurkul Kabaev, a former Director of the Institute of Mineral Resources of the Kyrgyz Republic said in an interview with the Kyrgyz Azattyk business paper that the country’s mineral reserves contain over 20 different REEs and rare metals. According to him, most of these metals are located at the Kuttesaya mine. In the meantime, in addition to REEs, the mineral base of the country consists of some other strategically important metals, among which are antimony, tungsten, molybdenum, copper and some others. Overall, according to estimates of Kabaev, there are more than 16,000 mines and deposits in Kyrgyzstan, which makes the country one of the most geologically promising mining destinations in the entire Asian region. However, the situation in Kyrgyzstan has dramatically changed recently. On Friday January 29, 2021, Kyrgyzstan banned foreign companies from developing large mining projects; however, existing licenses are unaffected. This was the first major order by new Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov. He was inaugurated on Thursday and the next day signed the order which only allows the development of “subsoil areas of national importance” by a state-owned company. Kyrgyzstan relies heavily on gold mining,
Vast Resources taken full ownership of Baita Plai mine in Romania
Vast Resources said in a press release said that it has taken full ownership of Baita Plai polymetallic mine in Romania by acquiring the remaining 20% interest and that the acquisition has been satisfied through the issue of 2,850,000,000 new ordinary shares of 0.1p in the company.
Of the consideration shares, 1,500,001,930 have been allotted to Andrew Prelea and 225,005,790 have been allotted to Roy Tucker, both directors at the company. Vast Resources also said it expects to conclude its first commercial sale of copper concentrate from Baita Plai polymetallic mine to energy and commodity trading company Mercuria on November 25.
Vast Resources plc is a United Kingdom AIM listed mining company with mines and projects in Romania and Zimbabwe. Besides the Baita Plai polymetallic mine Vast Resources also owns the Manaila polymetallic mine in Romania commissioned in 2015, currently on care and maintenance.
Adriatic Metals acquisition of Tethyan Resource Corp produces the prime polymetallic explorer and developer in the Balkans
Tethyan Resource Corp. is going to acquire Tethyan Resource Corp. and the company announced the execution of a binding letter agreement pursuant to which Adriatic Metals PLC will acquire 100% of the issued share capital of Tethyan, by way of a Plan of Arrangement under the Business Corporations Act, and has provided funding to complete the first closing of the previously announced EFPP d.o.o acquisition.
-Exchange ratio of 0.166 Adriatic shares for each Tethyan share represents a premium of 47% to Tethyan’s 20-day Volume Weighted Average Price
-In conjunction with the Transaction, Adriatic and Tethyan have entered into a convertible loan agreement, whereby Adriatic has agreed to advance to Tethyan a secured convertible loan in the amount of up to €1.3 million in three tranches; Adriatic has advanced the first €1.0 million under the Convertible Loan Agreement
-Loan enables Tethyan to close the transaction for the acquisition of EFPP d.o.o., the holder of parts of the Kizevak and Sastavci deposits, to commence confirmation drilling at Kizevak, and to meet the expenses and costs of Tethyan in completing the Transaction
-Addition of Tethyan’s Serbian brownfield development projects, Kizevak and Sastavci, and its large prospective landholding on the Tethyan mineral belt positions the enlarged Adriatic as the leading Balkan base and precious metals developer
-Adriatic plans to rapidly advance the past-producing Kizevak and Sastavci polymetallic mines in the Raska district of southwestern Serbia towards a maiden JORC compliant resource by end-Q4 2020
-Tethyan shareholders gain exposure to Adriatic’s existing exploration and development portfolio including the exceptional Vares Project and prospective regional exploration potential in Bosnia & Herzegovina
-Tethyan Board of Directors unanimously supports the Transaction and irrevocable undertakings to vote in favour of the Transaction received from approximately 55% of Tethyan shareholders
-Transaction expected to close by end-August once all conditions have been met
“We are excited that our assets will soon be part of the Adriatic story. Adriatic Metals has built an excellent reputation in the Balkans based on their development capability and positive engagement with local stakeholders. We are confident that the combined assets and team will go forward to bring high quality assets to production in a timely and sustainable manner, ensuring lasting benefits for both our shareholders and the communities in which we operate.” Fabian Baker, Tethyan’s President and CEO, said.
“Tethyan Resource Corp. have been successful in consolidating the Raska district in Serbia, and with the recent addition of the Kizevak and Sastavci licenses, the acquisition presents a unique opportunity for Adriatic to add assets to our portfolio that have the potential, over time, to match the quality of our exceptional Vares Project in Bosnia.”
“In a short time, Adriatic has built a significant presence in the region, by developing our assets with a very competent team at the helm. Applying our team and strong balance sheet to Tethyan’s assets positions us well to proceed through the project development cycle. These are past producing mines, and the historical data we have reviewed provides ample confidence that we are adding significant value to our portfolio. I look forward to working with Fabian and his team over the coming months to close the transaction and demonstrate the potential of these assets.” Paul Cronin, Adriatic’s Managing Director and CEO commented.
The Transaction will give Tethyan shareholders the ability to participate in the enlarged Adriatic as the leading Balkan polymetallic explorer and developer with four key projects (Rupice, Veovaca, Kizevak & Sastavci) covering a total land package in excess of 301km2 across Bosnia and Serbia. The Transaction allows Tethyan shareholders to retain upside to the Kizevak and Sastavci Projects whilst increasing the pace of development as Adriatic brings its strong balance sheet (cash of A$23.8 million and no debt as at 31 March 2020) and its experienced project development team to rapidly progress the projects.
Adriatic’s Vares project
Adriatic holds a 100% interest in the Vares Project in Bosnia & Herzegovina, which comprises the historic open pit mine at Veovaca, and brownfield exploration at Rupice situated 12 kilometers to the northwest of Veovaca.
Rupice exhibits exceptionally high grades of base and precious metals. The deposit is a near-surface, moderately dipping sedimentary-style base metal deposit with very high grades of gold, silver, zinc, lead, barite and copper. Adriatic have drilled more than 12,000m to date returning numerous high grade drill intersections, such as drill hole BR-36-18 which returned 72 metres at 2.5g/t Au, 211 g/t Ag, 2.5% Cu, 10.7% Pb, 18.3% Zn and 25% BaSO4.
In November 2019 Adriatic announced the results of a JORC-compliant Scoping Study, following the release of a Maiden Resource Estimate earlier in the year. Adriatic is now rapidly developing the project, intending to complete a JORC compliant Pre-Feasibility Study during 2020.
Additionally, Adriatic has attracted a world class team to both expedite its exploration efforts at the high-grade Rupice deposit and to rapidly advance the project into the development phase utilising its first mover advantage and strategic position in Bosnia.
Tethyan’s Kizevak and Sastavci projects
The Transaction enables Tethyan to proceed to close the acquisition of EFPP d.o.o., the holder of parts of the Kizevak and Sastavci deposits, and commence drilling at Kizevak.
Kizevak is a past-producing mine reported to host considerable historic silver, zinc and lead mineral resources. Drilling by Tethyan in 2018, 1 kilometre along strike from the historic open pit mine, intersected high-grade mineralisation including 12 metres at 22.03% Zn, 10.49 % Pb, 167g/t Ag and 0.18g/t Au. Historic records show that the entire corridor between the old Kizevak open pit and Tethyan’s recent drilling is mineralised.
At Kizevak, there have been at least 116 holes drilled, totalling 14,951.1m. There are also an additional 7,820m of underground exploration workings. The mine was operated as an open pit by the Serbian State between 1984 and 2000, ceasing operations due to conflict in the region. The project benefits from numerous infrastructure advantages including water, power, road and rail access all within five kilometres, and a local workforce with a long history of mining. Additionally, the land comprising the wider project area is designated for mining purposes under the Serbian State spatial plan, providing many permitting benefits and efficiencies.
Sastavci was also mined historically by open pit on a smaller scale than at Kizevak and represents a priority drilling target. The Sastavci historic open pit is located 3.5km north-northwest of the Kizevak open pit. Outcropping, steeply dipping, massive sulphide veins up to 5 metres wide are visible in the pit walls. Tethyan collected 65 rock-chip samples across the Sastavci area, which returned Zn values of +30% (limit of assay detection), 7.1% Pb, 94.3g/t Ag and 0.47g/t Au in the old Sastavci open pit.
Benefits for Tethyan shareholders:
-Ability to fund the initial €625,000 payment to EFPP in order to close the first stage of the EFPP Acquisition, of which €100,000 has already been advanced;
-Adriatic’s strong balance sheet will allow significant work to commence immediately in order rapidly progress the Kizevak and Sastavci Projects;
-Exposure to Adriatic’s existing portfolio including the world class Vares Project and highly prospective regional exploration potential.
Benefits for Adriatic shareholders:
-Addition of two high quality brownfields projects to the portfolio in established mining jurisdiction Serbia, establishing Adriatic as the leading Balkan polymetallic explorer and developer;
-Creates long term project development pipeline with Kizevak and Sastavci to follow Adriatic’s world class Vares project, plus attractive portfolio of regional exploration targets;
-Tethyan has a well-established team in-country to assist with permitting and project development and strong links with the local communities in which it operates.
Benefits for both sets of shareholders:
-Consolidates two premier polymetallic mining districts under one capable and well-financed company;
-Synergies between operations in Bosnia and Serbia strengthen exploration, development and permitting ability; and
-Potential for operational synergies once in production, particularly in downstream processes such as blending of concentrates.