Tantalum Mine Won’t Restart Without Investment

Tantalum Mine Won’t Restart Without Investment

Noventa Ltd, the tantalum producer that plans to suspend mining in Mozambique at the end of May, said production in the country won’t restart without investment.
Noventa is looking for $60 million to fund a crushing and processing plant at its Marropino mine and to develop another mine 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, Executive Chairman Clinton Wood said in a phone interview yesterday. Marropino won’t restart “until we secure funding,” he said.
“The partner that invests the $60 million will be the new controlling shareholder of the company,” Wood said. “It will be up to them to decide the timing for when we recommence production.”

Discussions with potential investors have been under way for four to five months, Wood said. Any investor is likely to be involved in either the tantalum industry or specialty metal market, Wood added. He declined to say who St Helier, Jersey- based Noventa is talking to.
The market for tantalum, used in mobile phones and digital cameras, is in deficit, he said. Close to 50 percent of primary production, which Wood classifies as including mine production and U.S. government stockpiles, has disappeared over the last 3 years, he said.

Talison Minerals suspended production at the world’s largest tantalum-producing site last year, while Cabot Corp. halted mining and processing at its Tantalum Mining Corp. of Canada operation in April.
The four biggest customers for the metal, including Boston- based Cabot and closely held H.C. Starck, buy 80 percent of world production on long-term contracts, Wood said. Global consumption is about 5.5 million pounds a year, he added.

Noventa said last month it would halt production at Marropino after banks withdrew shipping finance and the company’s customer wasn’t able to alter payment terms.
Noventa’s stock jumped 2 pence, or 50 percent, to 6 pence yesterday on London’s Alternative Investment Market. It has plunged 95 percent in the past year, valuing the company at 3.8 million pounds ($6 million).


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