African mining veteran strengthens AVZ board ahead of Manono lithium development
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Special Report: Highly-respected mining veteran Dr John Clarke will bring his wealth of African experience to play as AVZ Minerals’ new non-executive chairman.
His appointment comes as the company moves into the financing and development phase of its Manono lithium and tin project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and fills a role left vacant since Klaus Eckhof’s departure in June 2018.
AVZ Minerals (ASX:AVZ) said Clarke’s appointment strengthened the board, giving it a good mix of geological, metallurgical, engineering, project development, financing and public company expertise.
“The company is incredibly fortunate to have secured the services of John Clarke,” managing director Nigel Ferguson said.
“His combination of African operational and corporate strategy expertise, as well as public company experience with a London and New York Stock Exchange listed entity is of enormous benefit to AVZ and we expect this to be looked on most favourably by future financing partners.
“The company now has the appropriately configured board to support its evolution into a large-scale lithium producer.”
Clarke has focused on the operation, development or management of African mining projects during most of his 47-year career.
His most recent role saw him serve as the president and CEO of Toronto-listed Banro Corporation from 2013 to 2018 after joining the company as a non-executive director in 2004.
Banro is focused on the development of gold projects in eastern DRC and brought the Twangiza and Namoya gold mines into production during Clarke’s tenure with the company.
Prior to this, he was appointed president and CEO of Nevsun Resources in 1997. During his time leading the company, it expanded its activities beyond exploration properties in Ghana and Mali into Eritrea, where the Bisha gold mine was discovered and developed.
Clarke also served in several roles with Ashanti Goldfields Company.
“I see my particular breadth of skills and African/DRC focus as an excellent fit for the company,” Clarke said.
“The scale and quality of AVZ’s lithium resources at Manono are indisputably second to none globally.
“As chairman, I look forward to working with Nigel and his executive team to turn this outstanding project into a mine, which is a well-trodden path for me based on my previous experience, and thereby crystallising enormous potential value for our shareholders.”
Earlier this month, AVZ secured a $14.1m investment from China’s Yibin Tianyi Lithium Industry Co, an upcoming lithium hydroxide producer that is backed by China’s largest electric vehicle battery manufacturer – Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL).
The company expects to complete the definitive feasibility study (DFS) for the Manono project in the first quarter of 2020.
It is currently carrying out the second phase of a metallurgical test work program aimed at verifying the phase one process flowsheet and design parameters, examining ore variability and its effect on economic performance, and producing spodumene concentrates for market assessment.
The first-phase work resulted in the “excellent recovery” of lithium, tin and tantalum.
Manono is centred on a historical tin mining operation about 500km north of the city Lubumbashi in the south of the DRC.
It hosts lithium pegmatites that stretch over a strike length of more than 13km.
An extended scoping study has shown that the project has the potential to be a world-class, long-life mine with a net present value of up to $US2.63 billion ($3.92 billion) before taking taxes and royalties into account.
The same study also estimated an internal rate of return at an eye-watering 64 per cent.
Both the NPV and IRR are used to estimate potential profitability, and the higher above zero they are, the better the prospective economics of the project.