"I saw an opportunity to get into a cobalt project relatively early before the market stampede as we have seen with lithium over the past two years."
Could you please give us a brief overview of Celsius Resources and highlight your strategic vision for the company in 2018/19?
We were a recapitalized Shell company and, about 13 months ago, I came in as an investor and geological consultant to help the company find a project. My background the last five years or so was as a geological consultant looking at battery minerals, including lithium, graphite and more recently cobalt. I saw an opportunity to get into a cobalt project relatively early before the market stampede as we have seen with lithium over the past two years. We started exploring in March 2017, and we are now on the cusp of delivering our maiden resource in the next four to six weeks. All of the drilling has been done and we are just waiting for the final assays to come back. We are also working on our scoping study and we are well-advanced in the work programs that will feed into that. We are looking to deliver the results in May, and assuming a positive result, we will embark on a pre-feasibility study and begin drilling and further metallurgical test studies to deliver that at the end of 2018. Our main goal is to push through all of these stages of feasibility to get to the market quickly while the conditions and outlook remain strong.
Are you planning on seeing the Opuwo project into production?
Gecko Namibia, a highly diversified mining and mining services company, is a large shareholder of ours. Their managing director is on the Celsius Board, and the GM of Gecko Exploration, Dr. Rainer Ellmies, manages our in-country geological exploration activities. My expertise is in identification, exploration and evaluation through the feasibility studies, and certainly not in building a mine. However, with the support of Gecko, I think the company has the appropriate access to vital in-country expertise to bring the project into production successfully. We have also just appointed a project development manager, Edward Legg, who has a very strong history in developing and building copper-cobalt mines in Africa, including in both Zambia and the DRC, and his expertise will be invaluable to Celsius.
From where geographically speaking do you see most investor interest coming?
You cannot ignore China as the largest refiner of cobalt, but what we have seen from this project is contact from north Asian groups from Japan and Korea, as well as North America and Europe. A European group may be the most obvious partner for this project, and specifically Germany, because of the electric vehicle market there and the strong historical connections to Namibia.
How have you been financing your projects at this stage?
The original recapitalization of the company brought in some funding to get started, and we conducted a capital raising again in May of last year at 3.7 cents. Most recently we raised further capital at 5.5 cents in October. The 3.7 cent raise was focused on retail investors through our brokers in Australia, and the second round was mostly made up of institutional investors in Australia. In terms of the next round of funding we seem to have a lot of options as to how we will source that investment. My preference would be to secure a significant portion of this from a strategic investor; basically someone who wants to take a stake in the company and see it through the feasibility studies and into the mining stage.
The DRC has obvious issues with political risk and stability, but what else differentiates the Opuwo project in Namibia from the high grades available in the Congo?
Our project might not be as high in cobalt grade as some of the projects in DRC, but we have a lot of other advantages that help us overcome that factor. One of them is in the mineralogy of our project. Our cobalt is in a mineral called linnaeite, which is a cobalt sulfide. That sulfide mineral can be concentrated into a mineral concentrate that has a better recovery rate than oxides. Much of the cobalt in DRC comes in the form of oxides, and thus has relatively lower recoveries from what we can see. The fact that we have linnaeite means that we have no arsenic in the structure of the mineral, meaning it is also more attractive. Our cobalt is not contained within pyrite, so we should ultimately achieve a higher grade of cobalt in concentrate. We also have good infrastructure links when compared to DRC, including access to power, and the water situation in northern Namibia is excellent as we have plentiful potable water onsite. We will never be as high grade as some of the DRC deposits, but we think all of our other advantages certainly make up for that shortfall.
If you could send one message to the international investment community about Namibia as a player in cobalt, what would it be?
The discovery of cobalt in Namibia is a recent event and, surprisingly, what we have found breaks from the norm, being a cobalt dominant deposit. This project will be driven by the cobalt price and it is a large project within a stable and friendly jurisdiction. This is a worthy investment in a long-life project with a commodity that we foresee having explosive growth over the next five to ten years.