Sovereign’s new mine-building managing director to lead development of Kasiya, the world’s biggest rutile-graphite deposit
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Rio Tinto-backed Sovereign has appointed experienced Africa-based mining executive Frank Eagar as its new managing director to lead development of its Kasiya rutile-graphite project in Malawi.
Kasiya is the largest natural rutile deposit and the second largest flake graphite deposit in the world, with a total resource of 1.8Bt grading 1% rutile and 1.4% graphite and ore reserve of 538Mt at 1.03% rutile and 1.66% TGC, or 5.5Mt of contained rutile and 8.9Mt of contained graphite.
Rutile is a high quality source of titanium, which is used in markets like paint, aerospace and welding, while high quality flake graphite is used in the lithium-ion battery anodes.
Given both the size and quality of the resource, it is unsurprising that Sovereign Metals’ (ASX:SVM) Pre-Feasibility Study outlined the project’s potential to become the world’s largest rutile producer at 222,000tpa for an initial 25-year mine life and one of the world’s largest graphite producers outside of China with output of 244,000tpa.
This will deliver total revenue of US$16bn and deliver annual EBITDA of US$415m.
Returns are also robust with after-tax net present value and internal rate of return, both measures of a project’s profitability, estimated at US$1.6bn and 28% respectively.
Capex is estimated at US$597m while operating costs are estimated at US$404/t, resulting in a revenue-to-cost of ratio of 2.8, which positions Kasiya as the lowest cost producer of rutile and graphite globally.
The quality of this resource has already allowed Sovereign to sign non-binding rutile offtake MOUs with major blue chip partners including Japan’s Mitsui and US-listed Chemours and commence marketing of its graphite.
The company also secured a $40.4m investment from mining giant Rio Tinto at a 10% premium in July, further highlighting the project’s attractiveness.
The company has now appointed Frank Eagar, who had joined the company in December 2022 as its Malawi general manager, to lead the next phase of project optimisation, community and stakeholder engagements and ultimately the completion of a DFS.
He has over 20 years’ experience in the financing, permitting, development and operation of mining projects, particularly in southern Africa, and replaces Dr Julian Stephens who will transition to non-executive director.
Eagar has held several senior executive positions in the resources sector, most recently as the chief financial officer of Central Copper Resources, a company controlled by African mining focused private equity firm AMED Funds.
Prior to this, he was the chief executive officer of Baobab Steel – another AMED controlled company – where he managed the completion of a DFS and joint venture with the World Bank’s IFC to procure strategic investors and raise project finance for Baobab’s US$1bn fully permitted, integrated 500,000tpa steel and vanadium project in Mozambique.
Eagar has already expanded the team with a focus on Malawian nationals, developed strong relationships with Government and demonstrated a clear understanding of the Kasiya project and its development landscape.
Sovereign has also made several key technical appointments who have bring a strong track record of successful large-scale project development and operations management, as well as extensive experience in southern Africa.
“Securing Rio Tinto as a strategic investor alongside the completion of the high-quality PFS, provides the foundation for what will be an extremely exciting time in the company’s development story,” Eagar said.
“I am very honoured and look forward to taking on my new role as MD and CEO.
“The Kasiya Project is multi-generational, has the potential to deliver a valuable, long-term source of low-CO2 critical minerals and generate substantial economic and socio-economic returns.”
Chairman Ben Stoikovich says the management change marked a pivotal step for the company as it lays the foundation for project optimisation and development.
“With Rio Tinto’s investment and the release of a world-class PFS, the company is entering an exciting new phase,” Stoikovich added.
“I would like to thank outgoing MD, Julian Stephens, who has done a tremendous job in the discovery of Kasiya, a truly once-in-generation deposit, and growing Sovereign to where it is today.
“The company is looking forward, in collaboration with Rio Tinto, to conducting the optimisation review, progressing to the Definitive Feasibility Study and delivering the significant potential of Kasiya to all stakeholders.”
This article was developed in collaboration with Sovereign Metals, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.
This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.