Paul Sanger: I’m Paul Sanger for the Finance News Network, and today we’re talking with Vital Metals (ASX:VML) and they have a market cap of around 53 million. Vital Metals is Canada’s first rare earths mining company, following commencement of mining at its Nechalacho Rare Earth Project in Canada in June 2021. It holds a portfolio of rare earths technology metals and gold projects located in Canada and Germany. We welcome today, Vital Metals Chairman, Richard Crookes. Richard, welcome to the Network.
Richard Crookes: Thanks, Paul. Nice to be here.
Paul Sanger: Richard, it’s the first time we’ve had Vital Metals on the network. Maybe we kick things off with just a brief overview of who Vital Metals are.
Richard Crookes: Yeah, thanks Paul. So, Vital Metals is a rare earth-focused exploration and development company. Our flagship project is called Nechalacho. It’s in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The project is about 100 kilometers southeast of the capital, Yellowknife, and it’s an advanced project that’s been the subject of previous exploration by a former company who took it all the way through to feasibility study and permitting. At that stage, that company had a billion dollar market cap. So it’s a solid resource, solid project, and we’ve acquired the upper portion of the light rare earth component of the deposit and we are taking that through to feasibility study and hopefully into production.
So, Nechalacho comprises the Tardiff deposit, which is about 119 million tons at 1.4% TREO, which is significantly higher grade than a lot of the market peers in the space. So it’s a great resource. We have some satellite deposits which are even higher grade, and they were the focus of our initial mining campaign over the last couple of years. So we have some beneficiated ore from that campaign sitting on surface stockpiles, and we’ll look to monetize those as we can over the coming months and years.
Paul Sanger: And are there any prominent neighbours where your project is?
Richard Crookes: No one really close by, apart from a few lithium explorers. So there’s been some regional success in the hard rock lithium sector across all of Canada. And in fact, between us and Yellowknife, there’s some significant lithium deposits. So they’re our nearest neighbours, which does potentially open our tenements up for some future lithium exploration as well.
Paul Sanger: Richard, can you talk us through the deal with Shenghe Resources and what it means for Vital Metals?
Richard Crookes: Yeah. Well, we’re very pleased to announce this cornerstone investment from Shenghe. It’s a conditional investment subject only to their ODI approvals, but once we receive those, expected in November, we will bank $5.9 million and Shenghe will become a 9.9% shareholder in Vital. We’re delighted to have Shenghe, a quality partner, rare earths expert on our register. They not only bring us financial support and the capital that we need to obviously continue our activities, but they are a global rare earths player across the entire value chain and we think they bring fantastic support, capability, and networks across the rare earths sector. So a fantastic partner to have in this space.
Paul Sanger: Richard, Vital shares are currently suspended on the ASX. When do you expect it to recommence trading?
Richard Crookes: We expect to recommence trading in November when the Shenghe transaction closes, but of course that’ll be subject to us following the ASX relisting process, which includes the issuing of a cleansing prospectus and other approvals from them. But we anticipate it being certainly by the end of November.
Paul Sanger: And Vital announced recent board and management changes. What do these mean for the company?
Richard Crookes: So, we’re super excited to have a new CEO. Dr. Geordie Mark has joined us. He started at the beginning of last week, and I spent a week with him in Vancouver recently just settling him into the company. He’s a very capable, competent leader, hugely experienced in resource development analysis, growing companies, has a great network in Canada, and we’re super excited to have him lead the next phase of our Nechalacho development. In addition, we’ve just appointed a CFO in Australia here, in our Sydney office, Lara Iacusso. She’s a great resource, a great addition to the team, and a very solid, safe pair of hands in the financial aspects of our business.
Paul Sanger: And what are the upcoming catalysts for Vital, and when do you expect to announce these over the coming months?
Richard Crookes: So once we’re back trading, we expect to have news flow, which will include the release of further drill results, study results from our scoping study. The big announcement obviously will be the completion of some sort of preliminary economic assessment of the Nechalacho Project, or the Tardiff aspects of that. And we’re also looking to do some more work at North T and the surrounding high-grade satellite deposits, and we’d like to think that there’s some news flow to come around some exciting developments in that area.
Paul Sanger: Richard, it’s been a pleasure to have you today. Thank you for your time.
Richard Crookes: Thanks, Paul.