"Mining tailings is not only the cleanest form of mining but also the cheapest: Except for rehabilitation costs, mining costs are negligible."
Could you share the highlights of your Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) at the Manono Tailings project?
We started with an initial 10,000 m of drilling across 11 dumps, and the results we gathered convinced us to do another 3,000 m, focusing on Dump K and Dump G, where we were hitting the highest grades, ranging between 0.7 to 1.8% Li2O. On the back of this total 13,000 m campaign, we expect the final Maiden Mineral Resource Estimate to be out by the end of October, followed by a PEA by the end of 2022 and the PFS by Q2 2023.
The Coremet Metallurgical testwork that was recently received shows that we can produce a viable SC6 product and that the tailings are amenable to standard DMS processing. We will work on further improving recoveries through our second stage of metallurgical testwork with Coremet that will entail working on getting the best recoveries of the fine material and through flotation.
Do you think there is scope for more tailing valorization projects like Monono in Africa?
Definitely, there will be more projects like Manono in Africa. Manono is a lithium-cesium-tantalum (LCT) pegmatite deposit, but it was only mined for tin betwen 1910 and 1980. At that time, lithium did not have the economical value it has today. Fast-forward to today’s era, times have drastically changed. With strong lithium economics and the possibility to move quickly into production, we jumped at the opportunity to push ahead with the project. I believe there are more tailings products on the continent of Africa that can be brought back to life by reviewing existing data and going back on the ground to do further exploration and resource definition. Mining tailings is not only the cleanest form of mining but also the cheapest: Except for rehabilitation costs, mining costs are negligible.
What are the latest developments at your greenfield exploration project, the Southeast Pegmatite Corridor, and the newly acquired alluvial Lubule Tin & Tantalum development project?
Sitting Southwest of AVZ’s 400 million t resource, the Pegmatite Corridor is a 25 km long, 5 km wide corridor with extensive hard-rock lithium potential. We have done geochemical work together with a 100 km2 high-res aeromagnetic survey, and we are planning roughly 20,000 combined RC and DD drilling. The drilling program has started and we are hopeful for positive results by end Q4 2022.
The TiTan alluvial project is an opportunity to become cashflow positive at low risk. We have spent roughly US$10 million on a plant, we have the mining license and we are on track to start the operation by the end of this year. In early 2023, we can start commercial production and generate cash. Meanwhile, we are focused on securing firm offtake bids.
Could you summarize your financial strategy for the three projects in your portfolio?
To bring the Manono Tailings project to PFS, we will need between US$15 to US$20 million. Use of funds will be to get past the MRE and PEA, then to the PFS and the board for the final investment decision. For the Southwest Pegmatite Corridor, we have started, and we have US$15 to US$20 million to fund subsequent drilling campaigns. Tantalex is trading on the Frankfurt Exchange (Ticker: DW8), the Canadian Securities Exchange (Ticker: TTX), and, since this year, the US-OTCQB (Ticker: TTLXF); this later listing will give us more exposure to the American market, which has a strong liking for lithium among retail investors. Finally, once in production, TiTan should bring in revenues between US$20 to US$30 million per year over its 4.5 years LOM, depending on tin prices.
How attractive are lithium, tin, and tantalum for investors in today’s environment?
Lithium demand is only growing stronger. A recent report by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence found we will need 12 to 13 times more lithium mines producing at a rate of 45,000 t/y to meet demand. Structurally, the market is well-placed for more investments, but macroeconomically, it is less clear.
Tin and tantalum are niche markets controlled by a few players. Only about 2,000 tons of tantalum are produced every year, but there is no replacement for tantalum in electronics applications, which makes it a solid and growing market. With regards to tin, with EVs, decarbonisation and greater dependence on electronic devices for everyday life, we see this as a market that has very strong fundamentals for consistent future demand growth