Operational Update: Exploration, Trading and ESG in Rwanda
Aterian Plc (LSE: ATN), the exploration and development company advancing its portfolio of African-focused critical and strategic metal assets, provides an operational update on its work streams in the Republic of Rwanda.
· 22 zones of potentially mineralised pegmatite have been identified over the southern projects, confirming the presence of a swarm of rare-metal hosting targets for future exploration and evaluation.
o Fieldwork over the HCK-1 zone indicates a strike length of c 2,500 m with widths up to 100 m, in places.
o Multi-method geophysical survey currently underway in preparation for the preliminary scout drilling programme to commence in Q2 2023.
o Prospective HCK-1 targets include tantalum, niobium, tin, tungsten, and lithium.
· Mr. Godfrey Kamanzi has joined as head of Aterian’s Rwandan metal trading business. Mr Kamanzi has extensive experience in the Rwandan minerals sector where he previously worked with RCS, the RMB, and multiple mining companies managing tagging and traceability programmes.
· Partnership discussions have begun with several artisanal mining parties to improve artisanal mining productivity through mechanisation, and to provide material to the Company’s metal trading business.
· 1Villager.com, an online stakeholder management tool, has been engaged to support Whistleblower management, social license reporting, and stakeholder engagement, as part of the ongoing obligation by the Company to ethical supply chain management as a member of the ITSCI Programme for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains compliance.
Charles Bray, Chairman of Aterian, commented:
“We are excited to have begun the geophysical survey work on the HCK project in Rwanda with initial fieldwork having confirmed the presence of 22 pegmatite zones across the southern projects. We will look to progress the project with bulk sampling for initial metallurgical test work and scout drilling on the HCK-1 prospect in the near term.
Work is now well advanced building a metal trading business based in Rwanda and aligned to Rwanda’s long-term mining sector objectives of improved mining and metal recovery efficiencies. Key hires have been made to lead the business and to ensure traceability compliance. ITSCI membership demonstrates our compliance with internationally recognised standards of sustainable supply chains. Working in partnership with existing artisanal producers in Rwanda we expect to deliver substantial productivity gains that will benefit local communities as well as deliver increased material for our trading business.
Aterian is committed to its ESG responsibilities including respecting human rights and the avoidance of making any contribution to conflict through our mineral purchasing decisions and practices. Utilising the OECD due diligence guidelines and supported by our ITSCI membership our mineral trading business will be compliant with international standards and work in synergy with our exploration business. Our joint-venture relationships will produce mineral ores and generate revenue that supports our investment in exploration. A key strategic component of our Rwandan strategy has been to build a critical metals business with exploration options funded internally.”
The Company’s wholly owned Rwandan subsidiary, Eastinco Limited (“Eastinco”), is currently engaged in an initial 3 partnerships within Rwanda with local entities to explore and develop tantalum, niobium, tin, and lithium opportunities. Eastinco holds a Trading Licence, which will also facilitate the trading of metal concentrates within the region.
HCK and Dynasty Joint Ventures (collectively the “Southern Projects”)
Prospecting over the HCK licence has identified 18 zones of potentially tantalum and niobium hosting pegmatite, frequently with multiple pegmatite dykes observed at most locations. A total of 22 target pegmatite zones have now been discovered on the combined Southern Projects, making this a strong exploration play.
Recent work has focussed on the HCK-1 prospect, which follows a prominent northwest-trending ridgeline. A total of 67 vertical exploration pits (with a cumulative depth of 422 m) have been completed, to test the strike extension and obtain samples from both the known areas of mineralisation and potential strike extensions. 30 of these pits intersected pegmatite with 15 pits abandoned when the ground encountered was too resistant to manually excavate. 22 pits did not intersect pegmatite. Field observations indicate the strike of the HCK-1 target extends for at least 2,500 m. The width of the target zone is uncertain but in several locations along NE-SW orientated pit section profiles, pegmatite is intersected over a horizontal distance of c.100 m. 32 rock chip samples were collected and submitted to an external international laboratory for geochemical analysis. Approximately 100 kg of pegmatite was collected, when intersected in a pit, which was then reduced in volume and weight by cone-and-quartering to produce a 3 kg sample for analysis.
A positive outcome from the pitting is that 800 m of the identified pegmatite strike continuation occurs in a “greenfield” environment to the southeast of the main ridgeline hosting HCK-1. This can be described simply as an area where there are no observed artisanal workings, pegmatite outcrop, or surface expressions. The bodies remain blind to the surface covered by soil and regolith of variable thickness up to 4.50 m. A drone survey has been flown over HCK-1, covering an area of 360 hectares, to provide detailed imagery with topographic data and a current view of the earlier artisanal workings.
A detailed ground-based geophysical survey over HCK-1 is currently in progress. The multi-method survey of Induced Polarisation (“IP”), Electrical Resistivity Tomography (“ERT”), and ground magnetics is designed to provide additional information that will allow for a determination of the geological contacts of the main pegmatite with the schistose country rock, controlling geological structures and an approximation of the depth of weathering. Scout drilling will be planned based on the outcome of this work and will provide an opportunity to test the fresh bedrock for the lithium potential. It is inferred that lithium has been leached out of the upper weathered, kaolinised portions of the pegmatite and may occur within the deeper, fresh bedrock.
Recent work on the project has been limited to geological reconnaissance and the completion of the Kassava prospect exploration pitting programme. Kassava is one of the five identified mineralized pegmatite targets occurring on the project and follows a southeast-trending ridge. Historic artisanal miners have excavated a 20 m x 30 m wide cut in the ridge to a depth of c. 13 m, close to the centre of the prospect.
66 shallow vertical pits have been manually excavated, for a cumulative depth of 337 m, to define the contacts of the pegmatite, with 41 of the pits intersecting pegmatite with samples collected and shipped to an external international laboratory for geochemical analysis. Field observations indicate Kassava to be a lens-shaped body, with a maximum horizontal width of 80 m, with the pits covering a strike length of 250 m.
The licence application to extend and secure the long-term tenure at Musasa over an area of c. 400 hectares remains pending with the Government of Rwanda. We will be working closely with the Rwanda Mines and Petroleum Board (“RMB”) to accelerate the grant of the licence. This application may entail a change in the working relationship with our partner, Kuaka Cooperative. No further improvements to the wash plant and metallurgical testing are anticipated until the new licence application is granted.
The trading business is being developed, under the supervision of Mr. Luke Rogers (Aterian COO) and is built on local partnerships aligned with Rwanda’s long-term mining development goals. Rwanda exports approximately 16% of the global tantalum market, with Kigali a central hub for tin, tungsten & tantalum (the “3Ts”) trade within the region. Establishing a trading division will provide for additional value to be earned by Aterian from the 3Ts within the Great Lakes Region.
Aterian, through Eastinco, holds a Rwandan metal Trading License allowing it to purchase concentrates from third parties and export directly to refiners or sell to other international trading houses. The Company is negotiating a trade finance partnership and credit facility, to support the growth of this part of the business and which involves no dilution to shareholders. It is also in advanced discussions with a major metal refinery to process concentrates. A process is well underway to recruit additional team members with trading, traceability, and technical experience.
The Company has secured premises in the heart of Kigali’s mineral trading district and Mr. Godfrey Kamanzi has been recruited to lead the local trading business. Godfrey has extensive experience in the Rwandan minerals sector where he has previously worked with RCS, the RMB, and multiple mining companies managing tagging and traceability programmes. His extensive knowledge of mineral producers in the region and experience in OECD-compliant mineral supply chains makes him an excellent addition to the team.
The Company will begin to move its laboratory and upgrading equipment to the new site in Kigali in March and procurement has started for the materials and additional equipment required for substantial trading and export activities. Current pricing is attractive with Ta2O5 prices in Kigali reported at c$220,000 per tonne. Typically concentrates grade 25% Ta2O5 resulting in concentrates valued at c$55,000 per tonne, at today’s prices.
Potential New Projects
Following multiple mine site visits and a review of business opportunities concluded in December 2022 and January 2023, the Company’s focus is on the potential for upskilling of local technicians and the opportunity of selected small-scale capital investments in partners’ operations to drive significant improvement in mineral extraction in Rwanda.
As part of the Company’s expanding ESG programme, in January we delivered the construction materials for a water supply project at the Rugarama Primary School adjacent to our HCK project. The team is now on site and the installation project is expected to be completed during the first week of March. The water tank was requested by the school to capture fresh rainwater which will be used in the school kitchen.
Additionally, the Company has recently engaged with 1Villager (www.1villager.com). 1Villager offers a science and AI-driven SaaS platform providing for business Whistleblower management and social license reporting and stakeholder engagement. 1Villager’s mission is to help companies prevent headline risks, achieve ESG compliance, and improve stakeholder welfare.
The Company has recently hosted a party of students from the Department of Geology at the University of Rwanda on the HCK project to observe and study the geophysical survey, which is currently in progress.
These projects demonstrate our ongoing commitment to working with local communities to develop projects which improve the lives of people in that community, and specifically our commitment to investing in education. We aim to work with our local communities to help drive long-term improvements in the lives of people living around the Company’s operations.
The following images have been prepared by Aterian and relate to the disclosures in this announcement.
The technical disclosure in this regulatory announcement has been approved by Simon Rollason, Chief Executive Officer of Aterian Plc. A graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand in Geology (Hons). He is a Member of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, with over 30 years of experience in mineral exploration and mining.
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This announcement contains information which, prior to its disclosure, was inside information as stipulated under Regulation 11 of the Market Abuse (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019/310 (as amended).
For further information, please visit the Company’s website: www.aterianplc.com or contact:
Charles Bray, Executive Chairman – firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Rollason, Director – email@example.com
Financial Adviser and Broker:
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David Coffman / George Duxberry
Tel: +44 (0)207 399 9400
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Tom Randell / Bessie Elliot
Tel: +44 (0)20 3004 9512
Notes to Editors:
About Aterian plc
Aterian plc is an exploration and development company with a diversified portfolio in Africa of critical and strategic metals projects.
Aterian plc is actively seeking to acquire and develop new critical and strategic metal resources to strengthen its existing asset base, whilst supporting ethical and sustainable supply chains. The supply of these metals is vital for the development of the renewable energy, automotive, and electronic manufacturing sectors that are playing an increasing role in reducing carbon emissions and meeting climate ambitions globally.
The Company currently has three partnerships in Rwanda where it is exploring and developing small-scale tantalum-niobium-tin mining opportunities and recently acquired Aterian Resources Ltd, a wholly owned and battery metals-focused subsidiary of Elemental Altus Royalties Corp (formerly Altus Strategies plc). Aterian owns a portfolio of 15 copper and silver projects with a project area of 762 km2 in the Kingdom of Morocco.
The Company’s strategy is to seek new exploration and production opportunities across the African continent and to develop new sources of strategic and critical mineral assets for exploration, development, and trading.
Summary information on Rwandan Projects
HCK Joint Venture
Eastinco has a Joint Venture Agreement and Operating Agreement (“Agreement”) with HCK Mining Limited, a private non-related Rwanda registered entity and the holder of a 2,750-hectare exploration licence in southern Rwanda. Eastinco will fund and manage the exploration activities over the project and will retain a 70% share in the net operating profits with the right to purchase 100% of the Ta-Nb-Sn from any future production.
Dynasty Construction Joint Venture
Eastinco entered a Joint Venture Agreement and Operating Agreement (“Agreement”) with Dynasty Construction Ltd, a private non-related Rwanda registered entity and the holder of a 400-hectare exploration licence in the Huye District of southern Rwanda. A renewal of the exploration licence is pending approval with the Rwanda Government. Eastinco holds a 50% interest in the proposed joint venture company, with Eastinco and Dynasty to provide future capital expenditure in proportion with their shareholding at the time of any potential future mine build.
Musasa Joint Venture
A Joint Venture and Operating Agreement (“Agreement”) with the Kuaka Cooperative (“Kuaka”), the holder of a small-scale mining licence in western Rwanda. An application for a new, larger 400-hectare mining licence, in the name of the joint venture company, Musasa Mining Limited, is pending approval with the Rwanda Government. Eastinco will retain an 85% interest in the joint venture company holding the new licence, with the right to purchase 100% of the Ta-Nb-Sn from any future production.
Glossary of Terms
The following is a glossary of technical terms:
Tin (cassiterite), Tungsten (wolframite), and Tantalum (coltan)
a metallic ore from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted
a sheet of rock that is formed in a fracture of a pre-existing rock body
Electrical Resistivity Tomography. A geophysical method for imaging sub-surface structures from electrical resistivity measurements made on the surface
the quantity of ore or metal in a specified quantity of rock
geophysical mapping tool providing information about the subsurface, in the interval from a particular depth to the surface. The results are typically maps of the apparent resistivity and chargeability
a geophysical survey technique where electrodes induce and measure a potential field in the ground. From this data, the soil chargeability and apparent resistivity can be measured
Mega-annum which is equal to one million years
a survey mapping the magnetism of the underlying rock and is used to understand the general structure of these rocks
millions of tonnes
National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure of Mineral Projects of the Canadian Securities Administrators
a chemical element with the chemical symbol Nb, that is very resistant to corrosion due to a layer of oxide on its surface. Niobium is used in alloys including stainless steel
a rock formation that is visible on the surface
an igneous rock showing a very coarse texture, with large interlocking crystals usually greater in size than 1 cm (0.4 in) and sometimes greater than 1 meter (3 ft). Most pegmatites are composed of quartz, feldspar, and mica, having a similar silicic composition to granite
Parts per million (equivalent to g/t)
an area that is a potential site of mineral deposits, based on preliminary exploration
a medium-grained strongly foliated crystalline metamorphic rock
a chemical element with the symbol Ta, typically found in the ore columbite-tantalite (usually referred to as coltan) and characterised by its high density. One of the main uses of tantalum is in the production of electronic components
Quality Assurance/Quality Control
a person that has the education, skills, and professional credentials to act as a qualified person under NI 43-101
TR-1: Standard form for notification of major holdings NOTIFICATION OF MAJOR HOLDINGS (to be sent to the relevant issuer and to the FCA in Microsoft Word format if possible) i 1a.
Aterian Plc (LSE: ATN), the exploration and development company advancing its portfolio of African-focused critical and strategic metal assets, is pleased to announce the granting