Aus Asia Minerals has been in strife for while: it’s been suspended from the ASX due to unpaid fees for two years — and three weeks ago called in the administrators.

Aus Asia (ASX:AQJ) was an Indonesia-focused iron ore and coal explorer.

Until May last year it appeared to be a functioning company. An ASX query that month asked how it intended to continue as a going concern while maintaining negative operating cash flow.

“The company is currently doing due diligence on the Philippine Iron Sands Project as previously announced,” Aus Asia responded.

“Once due diligence and funding is complete, the pre-production phase should be within three to six months. Following this the company will be producing positive operating cash flows.

“The company is also commencing due diligence and funding negotiations for an Australian gold project.”

From coal to gold

Aus Asia was born out of struggling Indonesia-focused coal miner Coal Fe Resources.

Amid low coal prices and a failed acquisition the new company stumbled on until 2014 when it appointed Robert Swarbrick as managing director and began an asset review.

That review saw Coal Fe’s only producing asset, royalties from the Abadi mine in East Kalimantan, written down by $1.7 million to be worth only $320,000.

But Mr Swarbrick, who had a track record of working in Indonesia, brought two deals to the company: one to buy 65 per cent of an iron ore mine from Indonesian company PT Mineral Sukse Makmur for an original $6.5 million, which Swarbrick negotiated down to $2.5 million, and a 70 per cent stake in an old coal mine from PT Tunggal Putra Nusantara for $250,000.

Things began to look up. In May 2014 shares jumped from 0.5c to 1.1c and a refreshed board announced big plans for a six-month ramp up period for the projects, agreements to buy new licences and a $5 million capital raise.

To top off the new look Mr Swarbrick, now executive chairman as well, changed the name to Aus Asia Minerals in December 2014.

But by then it only had $144,000 in the bank to fund these ambitions, and an estimated $4 million in costs coming up in the first quarter of 2015.

As quickly as its fortunes had turned, in 2015 things began to go wrong.

According to Supreme Court of Western Australia documents, Mr Swarbrick had talked longtime Indonesia coal operator, Evan Ball into joining as a director.

After six months as a director Mr Ball launched a lawsuit claiming $160,045 in unpaid fees in June 2015. It culminated in an action to wind up the business in a year later.

Sales agreements — including a deal with Krakatau Steel to buy iron ore — fell through and a share consolidation couldn’t lift the company’s shares past 0.5c.

Last ditch attempt

A last ditch attempt in November 2016 to revive Aus Asia’s fortunes — a $2.2 million farm-in to a Ballarat gold project — was well nigh impossible.

The company had little cash left. Its ASX listing fees went unpaid.

Managing director Robert Swarbrick and chairman Peter Hatfull had already resigned in October and November.

The company has lodged no accounts this year, but appointed Brisbane mining entrepreneur Denis Reinhardt to the board in June.

Mr Reinhardt made a small fortune from a Torres Straight gold project in the 1980s by selling his listed company Augold to Giant Resources.

Mr Swarbrick sold his 47 per cent stake down in January to 26.6 per cent.

Last week, administrator Pitcher Partners said it was seeking expressions of interest for Aus Asia’s assets.