Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and maintaining the health and safety of employees as a priority, Aim-listed AfriTin delivered an impressive interim performance, CEO Anthony Viljoen says.
The company has continued to exceed production targets at the Uis tin mine, in Namibia, resulting in a marked increase in revenue during the period.
“While a firm focus has been on exceeding steady-state production and ensuring the Phase 1 pilot processing plant cost base becomes more efficient, attention has also been directed to the potential for additional revenue streams and consolidating our tech-metal exposure.
“We believe the Erongo region will become a globally significant metallogenic province for new technology metals, allowing for significant revenues and potentially substantial economies of scale within the licence areas and region,” Viljoen states.
During the interim period, the operation of the Phase 1 pilot processing plant achieved production of 368 t of tin concentrate (227 t of contained tin), with 313 t of tin concentrate (199 t of contained tin) shipped to the company’s offtake partner Thaisarco, resulting in revenues of £5.1-million.
This represents a 468% increase from the corresponding six-month period last year, with an average tin price achieved of $33 794/t and a gross profit margin recorded of 22%.
“Tin is a critical component of the decarbonisation revolution and an increased need for semi-conductors has seen the demand for tin increase significantly.
“On the supply side, Covid-related smelter closures, shipping delays and decades of underspending on exploration and mine development have resulted in supply constraints, the net effect of which is the unprecedented prices that were sustained throughout the period. We expect these strong prices to continue in the period ahead,” Viljoen notes.
He says that, with a firm focus on the Phase 2 operation, a key milestone on the company's growth path was the publication in May of the definitive feasibility study (DFS) for the expansion of the Uis Phase 1 pilot processing plant.
“The robust economics of the DFS provides us with an opportunity to increase the production of tin concentrate by 67%, thereby increasing the revenue and profit margin of the current operation while importantly de-risking the expansion of the project into the much larger Phase 2 operation,” Viljoen notes.
The expansion project has since started with the ordering of long-lead items, the appointment of a project implementation team and engineering detailing to facilitate procurement and fabrication.
Post-period end, headline terms for a N$90-million (about £4.5-million) senior secured term loan were agreed with Standard Bank Namibia to finance the Phase 1 expansion.
AfriTin also plans to capitalise on the opportunity to develop additional revenue streams to the company's tin concentrate product by expediting the lithium and tantalum by-product test work programmes, Viljoen informs.
“The launch of a new technology metal regional expansion programme in the second half of the financial year is a step toward unlocking the potential of a new metallogenic province that is the Erongo region of Namibia,” he says.
While the current Joint Ore Reserves Committee (2012) ore reserve estimate over the V1 and V2 pegmatites only considers tin mineralisation, AfriTin intends to add the potential by-product minerals of tantalum and lithium oxide in due course.
In this vein, the period under review saw the start of a larger exploration focus with the initiation of 8 000 m lithium and tantalum exploration drilling programme over the V1/V2 orebody to run over the next 12 months.
This will lead the existing ore reserve estimate for tin to be updated for tantalum and lithium oxide.
In tandem with the exploration focus, lithium and tantalum extraction test work programmes have been designed to increase the confidence levels of its by-product potential.
“This is a significant step in the movement towards the realisation of additional revenue streams. While optimisation test work continues, the company will proceed with the process flow design for a pilot tantalum concentrate production facility, with implementation planned for the fourth quarter,” says Viljoen.
In May, the company announced the placing of 216.7-million ordinary shares to raise £13-million (before expenses). The capital raised enables the company to start the Phase 1 expansion of Uis and develop the inherent value of its Namibian licence portfolio through the unlocking of its metallurgy and exploration potential, says Viljoen.
The 2019 convertible loan notes and 2020 loan notes were also settled during the period.
AfriTin expects to complete the expansion of the Phase 1 pilot processing plant in the second quarter of 2022.