Multicommodity exploration and development company Sula Iron & Gold, which has changed its name to African Battery Metals (ABM), will now focus on developing its cobalt exploration licences in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Trading in the company’s shares under its new name started last month.
ABM CEO Roger Murphy told Mining Weekly that the new name “better reflects” the company’s new focus and strategy going forward, which was to target the production of cobalt and other battery metals for the electric vehicle (EV) market.
“The board believes that the company is now in a strong position, with increasing demand for battery metals. We are looking forward to moving forward and are confident that our new strategy has the potential to deliver good returns for our shareholders.”
In pursuing its key focus for this year, ABM has mobilised to site and started the exploration programme at its cobalt exploration licences in the DRC last month.
The exploration programme will include field sampling, geophysics and geochemistry, with Murphy noting that the budget will include a limited drilling programme at the end of this phase of exploration.
ABM currently holds two licences in the country, Kisinka and Sakania, with the latter having been secured through an exclusive option agreement.
Kisinka is a 50 km2 licence, with 7 km of strike along the Roan group of rocks, which hosts most of the DRC’s copper and cobalt mines. There are many large copper/cobalt mines in the area, both on strike and in the same rock structure, to the west.
While the 140 km² Sakania licence is not in a traditional mining area, it is being targeted by artisanal miners, who frequently provide the first evidence of mineralisation.
Cobalt is one of the key commodities benefiting from the clean energy revolution, with demand for the commodity increasing substantially since 2016, according to business consultancy Core Consultants.
With the improved performance of cobalt in the past year and “the world being hungry for cobalt”, as a result of increasing battery metals demand for EVs, ABM might expand its landholding in the DRC, as the country produces two-thirds of the world’s cobalt supply, Murphy says.
While ABM will not spend significantly on acquiring new assets, he acknowledges that, if the company found a compelling and previously worked asset that might enable ABM to achieve production sooner, the company “might be prepared to jump [on it] quickly”.
Murphy also highlights “interesting” battery metals projects, such as vanadium and lithium projects in South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively, which the company will keep track of.
Zimbabwe currently accounts for most of Africa’s lithium production and about 7% of global production, according to Industrial Minerals lithium market reporter Martim Facada.
Murphy says that the backdrop of battery metals is very positive and is driven not only by global growth but, more importantly, also by structural change, legislative change by governments and companies shifting from internal- combustion-engine-powered vehicles to EVs.
Meanwhile, highlighting the importance of the company’s gold assets in Sierra Leone, he notes that ABM will still continue work to advance its Ferensola licence.
This project is located in the Sula-Kangari greenstone belt, which is prospective for gold and other metals and includes 152 km2 of exploration rights.
In 2017, ABM completed 9 000 m of diamond drilling, having drilled three targets, two of which contained gold. In addition, the company commissioned South Africa-based structural geology group Tect to provide structural geology interpretations on the targets and other anomalies indicating levels of gold.