VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – TSX-V-listed project developer Namibia Rare Earths has signed an agreement with private firm Gecko Namibia to acquire a controlling interest in a portfolio of seven metals properties, thereby expanding its focus from heavy rare earths to include cobalt, copper, zinc, lithium, graphite, tantalum, niobium, nickel and gold.
Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Namibia Rare Earths will issue 64-million shares to Gecko, which, in return, together with its chairperson Gerald McConnell, has each agreed to complete a private placement with the company for C$250 000 at $0.05 a share, for gross proceeds to the company of C$500 000.
Namibia Rare Earths will also issue ten-million common shares under the private placement, subject to TSX-V approval, representing 43.75% of the company’s outstanding equity.
This transaction provides Namibia Rare Earths with a high-quality, diversified portfolio of critical metals and, at the same time, has secured the miner access to an experienced strategic partner.
Gecko Namibia and its subsidiaries are substantial participants in the Namibian resources sector, with 327 employees and a track record in the mining industry.
The deal will expand Namibia Rare Earths’ ground holdings in Namibia from 221 km2, covering its flagship exploration-stage Lofdal project, to more than 6 850 km2.
Namibia Rare Earths will acquire Gecko’s 95% interest in a portfolio of exploration properties comprising 14 exploration prospecting licences (EPLs), four of which are pending, one mineral deposit retention licence, and Gecko's rights under an option agreement to acquire a 60% interest in a further exploration prospecting licence in which interest may, subject to the terms of the option agreement, be increased to 80%.
Operations in Namibia for all projects will continue under Namibian operating company Namibia Rare Earths, and the project management team will be streamlined by drawing on Gecko’s in-country administrative and service providers.
Gecko MD Pienaar-Schalk (Pine) van Wyk will be appointed Namibia Rare Earths CEO and Gecko GM Dr Rainer Ellmies will be appointed country manager.
The company advised that the initial focus will be on the Kunene cobalt/copper project, following the discovery of stratabound cobalt/copper mineralisation on a neighbouring licence, in northern Namibia.
Despite Namibia Rare Earths’ Lofdal property being the most advanced, with a current National Instrument 43-101-compliant mineral resource, the Kunene cobalt/copper project offers the most attractive near-term value-add opportunity in terms of commodity interest for the company.
The Kunene project builds on the recent exploration success led by Ellmies to explore for ‘copper belt’-style deposits in northern Namibia. This work led to the first recorded discovery of copperbelt-type stratabound cobalt/copper mineralisation in Namibia in a sedimentary horizon termed the dolomite ore formation (DOF).
The mineralisation is uniformly 5 m to 10 m thick, stratabound within a dolomitic shale horizon, and averages around 0.5% copper and 1 000 parts per million (ppm) to 2 000 ppm cobalt. The initial discovery is currently under intense exploration by ASX-listed Celsius Resources, including a 15 000-m drill programme to complete a maiden Joint Ore Reserves Committee-compliant estimate by February 2018.
Celcius has advised that data from the first 20 holes drilled across this 11-km zone has enabled it to generate an initial exploration target of between 33-million tonnes and 41-million tonnes, grading about 0.13% to 0.17% cobalt and 0.45% to 0.65% copper.
The Kunene cobalt/copper project comprises a large area of favourable stratigraphy adjoining with the DOF discovery next to the ground held by Celsius Resources. Secondary copper mineralisation over a wide area points to preliminary evidence of a regional-scale hydrothermal system.
Gecko was instrumental in bringing the 500 000 t/y run-of-mine Okanjande graphite mine into commercial production earlier this year, through a joint venture partnership with Imerys, a global leader in the production of mineral-based, high-value specialty products. Gecko Namibia redesigned a portion of the crushing, milling and flotation facilities at the Okorusu mine for graphite processing of up to 20 000 t/y of graphite concentrate.
Gecko also acquired all the mine and processing facility assets of the Okorusu fluorspar mine from Solvay, in 2016. A comprehensive test programme has been developed with the objective of re-opening the fluorspar operations at Okorusu.
Further, Gecko Salt, a subsidiary of Gecko, operates a small-scale salt production plant located about 120 km north of Swakopmund. The project is currently operating at a rate of 200 000 t/y and targeting to increase to one-million tonnes a year. The first shipment of 25 000 t of salt for the North American market was exported in August.