Neometals Limited (ASX:NMT) COO, Mike Tamlin, provides an update on production from the company's Mt Marion lithium project south-west of Kalgoorlie.
Kathy Skantzos: Hello Kathy Skantzos for the Finance News Network. Joining me from Neometals Limited (ASX:NMT) is Chief Operating Officer, Mike Tamlin. Mike, welcome to Finance News Network.
Mike Tamlin: Thank you Kathy.
Kathy Skantzos: First up, can you start with an introduction to the company?
Mike Tamlin: Neometals is an ASX listed Perth based company. We’ve linked our business to the energy storage revolution by delivering raw materials, to the lithium-ion battery industry. Our main business is lithium, cobalt and titanium, and our real business is delivering very good returns to the shareholders. And we value-add our products to increase those returns. Our Mt Marion mine and our Barrambie deposit are our key resources.
Kathy Skantzos: Now to your FY17 results. What were the highlights?
Mike Tamlin: Definitely the highlight for us was our flagship mine Mt Marion coming into production, after several years of development. It has reached production, we’re going through debottlenecking now and we’ve made the first shipments to our customer in China. For us this means future revenue and it means that we are de-risking our lithium hydroxide process.
Kathy Skantzos: Now to your Mt Marion mine in more detail. Can you provide an update?
Mike Tamlin: As I’ve said a moment ago, Mt Marion has reached production. It has produced about 170,000 tonnes of concentrate this year and shipped it to its customer in China. The customer in China has processed that material and has reported that the processing has gone very smoothly, which for us means the product is fit for purpose. And gives us very good confidence that our lithium hydroxide project in Kalgoorlie, will have suitable feed.
For us 170,000 tonnes of concentrate means that we’re starting to stabilise production, at about 400,000 tonnes a year. We have the opportunity to expand, but our focus now is on stabilising production, improving yield and recovery to optimise the returns from the mine.
Kathy Skantzos: Can you tell me a bit about the life of the mine and further exploration?
Mike Tamlin: We have about 20 years of operating life in the mine at a minimum, at the current rates of production. Our focus is more on optimising production than on further exploration. I think further exploration subject to the drilling, should increase the potential life of the mine. But now with more than 20 years, I think that’s enough for us to focus on the production.
Kathy Skantzos: Is the decision on the lithium refinery for Kalgoorlie still on track for Q3?
Mike Tamlin: It certainly is, it is on track, but a project like this has several decision points. We’re moving through those stage gate decision points methodically. We have vendor testing on all of the equipment in progress now. That will lead us to adecision to enter a Front End Engineering Design study next year, with a decision in about 12 months for a project approval. But before then, we also intend to engage a project development partner with complementary skills to ours. So we’ve got quite a bit of work to do.
Kathy Skantzos: Can you provide an update on your titanium and metal processing projects?
Mike Tamlin: Barrambie mine is very much in progress now. We have some trial mining to prepare a bulk sample of ore. That ore is being processed into a concentrate sample that will feed the pilot plant operation. The pilot plant’s located in Montreal where our technical team is and they will operate the pilot plant, in about the second quarter of next year, to prove up and develop the process. We’re looking forward to the results of that so that we can then move into the commercialisation. And another part of that project of course, is to find and to engage an operating partner. And we’re in the process of discussions with operating partners now.
Kathy Skantzos: Last question Mike. What’s the long-term ambition for the company?
Mike Tamlin: Firstly to deliver more value to the shareholders. I think we’ve reached first base in delivering some value from Mt Marion. But hereafter, we’re going to be commercialising threevery important projects for us,the lithium hydroxide project, our battery-recycling project and the Barrambie project.
We have about $40 million in the bank, no debt and a market cap of about $220 million. We want to take the company to the very next step by commercialising those projects. And to do that, we have to find the right operating partners, which we’re getting close to doing and then structure our company accordingly, so that we can execute these projects.
Kathy Skantzos: Mike Tamlin, thanks for the update.
Mike Tamlin: Thank you Kathy.