Since its 1988 float on the London Stock Exchange, Anglesey Mining has strived to bring modern, underground mining to the Parys Mountain project on the isle of Anglesey, which is off the north coast of Wales.
The site was once home to the world's largest copper mine, but price fluctuations, economic crises and a diversification into Canadian iron ore projects meant that it remained undeveloped. However, new leadership, a robust preliminary economic assessment (PEA) and rapidly improving macro conditions mean that Parys Mountain is once again at the forefront of Anglesey Mining's strategy.
"I've followed the Parys Mountain project for many years," says Jo Battershill, who became CEO in August 2021. Born in Cornwall, he developed his career in mining, finance and broking in Australia.
"Last year I dusted off my folder on Parys Mountain to take a deeper look. It's a project with extensive mining history, world-class infrastructure and a supportive local community. And in terms of the geology, there's still a lot of unfinished business."
The preliminary economic assessment on the polymetallic project was released in January 2021. The indicated resource estimate of 5.2Mt of ore includes over 220,000 tonnes of copper, zinc and lead. A further 11.7Mt of ore remains in the inferred category and contains an additional 320,000 tonnes of metal.
Even using the conservative price estimates from the PEA of $2.80 per pound of copper, $1.20/lb zinc and $1,500 per ounce of gold, the economics look robust. The PEA offers various scenarios for mine development, ranging from 1,000 tonnes per day throughput to 3,000t/d.
Under the larger mine plan, the project would generate a net present value of US$120 million using the base prices over a mine life of 12 years. Using current prices, that figure rises to over $250 million.
Furthermore, the project would require a modest capex of $99 million and take just two years to build out from financing. That's a testament to the work already done at the site and the strong transport and power infrastructure in the region.
In the late 1980s, a 300m shaft was sunk into the project, 1,000m of underground development work undertaken and a 2,000 tonnes bulk sample taken. The project is close to existing road infrastructure, just 21 miles away from Holyhead Port and already linked to the power grid on an island that is home to numerous wind farm projects. The UK government is also in exploratory talks to revive the site of the Wylfa nuclear powerplant on Anglesey.
"We believe that with the local renewable energy, or potentially through nuclear, we could produce low- or zero-carbon copper," Battershill says. "The proposed mine development is all underground and has a tiny footprint.
"There is a history and understanding of mining on the island and a high unemployment rate. Subsequently, we have experienced strong local support for the project. We know that to build a mine today, we have to employ world's best practices and ensure that the community benefits from the project in both the short and long term."
In the current political and financing climate, there are also strong incentives to develop smaller, less intrusive mines in friendly jurisdictions that provide a secure supply of base metals, according to Battershill.
Anglesey Mining holds the freehold rights to the land and the original planning permissions for the mine and decline development - the permissions were obtained in the late 1980s and early 1990s and are still valid.
The UK's Planning Act has been updated since then, however, and Anglesey Mining has volunteered the permits for review. The company has entrusted Richards, Moorehead & Laing - a leading local environmental consultancy - to review the historical data from the site prior to presenting a pre-application to the North Wales Mineral Planning Authority. The results of that process will determine what further work will be required for the project to achieve full permitting.
"We've committed to doing everything by industry best-standards," Battershill says. "The permitting process can be unpredictable, sometimes. But, even if we need to do a full environmental impact assessment for the project, the abundance of data from the mine site and local area could see the that work completed in a very reasonable timeframe."
Concurrently, the company is making inroads into mine development studies. The White Rock and Engine Zone deposits are well defined, with a current infill drilling programme aiming to lift the resources indicated category from 75% to over 90%. Metallurgical testing and geotechnical modelling to assist with the mine plan will begin in the coming months.
Anglesey Mining has a long-term partnership with QME, an Irish technical services company, to assist in the development of the project and the contractors have an option to earn-in 30% of the project in return for self-funding the underground development.
"QME is part of the DNA of the underground project already, and would likely tender for the development of the project when that time comes," Battershill says.
"The QME earn-in option means that a significant amount of the pre-production capex is potentially underwritten already. That would obviously mean some dilution, but it would ensure the project is developed by a very credible and experienced mining team.
"From an investor perspective, this should bring some confidence that Anglesey Mining will be in a position to close the large gap between our market capitalisation of £9m and the NPV of Parys Mountain implied by the PEA … even if we did end up with 70% of it."
That low market capitalisation also fails to reflect the unlocked value in Anglesey Mining's other two projects. Under previous management, the company shifted its focus towards iron ore projects in Canada and retains a 12% holding in the OTC-listed Labrador Iron Mines.
Anglesey also has just under 20% equity - with the option to acquire another 50% - in the Grängesberg Iron project, which was Sweden's third-largest mine until its closure in 1989. Anglesey Mining is currently updating a 2012 prefeasibility study on the project that outlined a 3Mt/y project producing greater than 68% iron.
"This project could be enormous, but so far it has sat in the background of our valuation," Battershill says.
In order to better reflect it's status as a mine developer, Anglesey Mining announced in February that it would be moving its listing to the AIM board of the London Stock Exchange.
"The board have always been rightly proud of the company's listing on the main board and the premium segment does expose you to indexes and institutional investors," Battershill says.
"But with the current market cap, we aren't going to be included in any indexes and the strict corporate governance on the premium segment limits our flexibility with respect to funding development work across our assets. As a junior mining development company, the AIM listing is better suited to Anglesey Mining."
The new listing, combined with new management, is another marker of a fresh start for Anglesey Mining and for Battershill. For the undervalued company, 2022 and 2023 could be formative years.
"For a £9 million market cap you get exposure to a solid base metals asset with strong financial metrics and substantial exploration upside," Battershill says.
"After a slow five years, Anglesey Mining has a clear strategy and path to bring both Parys Mountain and Grängesberg to development decisions in the coming years."