JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – 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 the new name started on Wednesday.
ABM CEO Roger Murphy on Thursday reiterated to Mining Weekly Online that the new name “better reflects” the company's new focus and strategy going forward, which is 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,” he said.
Pursuing its key focus for this year, ABM aims to mobilise to site and start the exploration programme at its cobalt exploration licences in the DRC next week.
The exploration programme will include field sampling, geophysics and geochemistry, with Murphy noting that the budget will include room for a limited drilling programme at the end of this phase of exploration.
ABM currently holds two licences in the country, Kisinka and Sakania, the latter of which has been secured by means of 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.
The Sakania licence is a large licence area covering 140 km². While the licence is not in a traditional mining area, it is currently being targeted by artisanal miners who frequently provide the first evidence of mineralisation.
Cobalt is one of the key commodities benefitting from the clean energy revolution, with demand for the commodity increasing substantially since 2016, according to 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, Murphy has said ABM may expand its landholding in the DRC, as the country produces two-thirds of the world’s cobalt supply.
While ABM will not spend significantly on the acquisition of new assets, he acknowledged that if the company finds a compelling and previously worked asset, that may allow for ABM to achieve production sooner, the company “might be prepared to jump [on it] quickly”.
Murphy also highlighted “interesting” battery metals projects, such as that of vanadium and lithium 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.
“The backdrop of battery metals is very positive and it is driven not just by global growth. More importantly . . . it is driven by structural change, legislative change by governments and companies substituting away from internal combustion engines towards EV,” Murphy said.
Meanwhile, highlighting the importance of its gold assets in Sierra Leone, Murphy noted that ABM will still continue work to advance its Ferensola licence.
The Ferensola project, which is prospective for gold and other metals, includes 152 km2 of exploration rights and is located in the Sula-Kangari greenstone belt in Sierra Leone.
In 2017, ABM completed 9 000 m of diamond drilling and drilled three targets, of which two contained gold. In addition, the company commissioned South Africa-based structural geology group Tect, which provided structural geology interpretations on the targets and other anomalies that indicated levels of gold.
“The next step would be to get back on the ground and to have the geologists collect additional soil sampling on the other anomalies to determine that the area has multiple sources of gold,” Murphy said.
ABM aims to restart the soil sampling programme over the next two to three months, while drilling would be pursued later this year following the widescale soil sampling programme.
“ABM has good, strong assets and a strong technical team to advance the assets,” Murphy stressed.