MACIG Connect Series
IronRidge Resources has made a grand entry into Cote d’Ivoire, including acquiring companies and projects as well as joint-venturing, and the project generator has spent US$1.5 billion there over the past 10 months.
Could you briefly outline IronRidge Resources’ recent milestones and explain the strategy behind moving into Cote d’Ivoire for lithium?
Ironridge Resources limited is a project generator listed on the AIM, working to discover world-class and globally demanded commodities. We have projects in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Gabon, Chad and Australia. We recently completed acquisition of 100% of Tekton Minerals to own our gold exploration portfolio in Chad. In Gabon, we acquired Assore Limited, an iron ore mining holding company, who is a 29% shareholder. Then we have Sumitomo Corporation, an integrated trading company, as 11% shareholder and DGR Global as 25. %. We do not sit on investors’ money but use it to move forward.
We already had the Cape Coast Lithium project with Egyasimanku Lithium Resource in Ghana, which was developing quite nicely and moved into Cote d’Ivoire as part of our lithium growth strategy. We saw opportunities in Cote d’Ivoire and within weeks moved in, it was easy to establish ourselves. Amongst the opportunities presented to us, we managed to secure a very interesting project under joint venture and made some applications on our own.
What has been the most recent project developments in Cote d’Ivoire?
Although we arrived in Cote d’Ivoire by acquisition of 3 Lithium projects covering 600km2, soon after arriving we noticed a gap in gold exploration. Our timing was impeccable, we arrived there three to six months in advance, and through our network, identified an appetite for JV projects and brought in our chief geologist. Following rigorous due diligence, we bought nine companies in ten days with six joint ventures. Fast forward to today, we have several joint ventures across our gold and Lithium portfolios, we have 13 Ivorians working with us and in over 10 months we have invested US$1.5 million.
What has been IronRidge’s initial impressions of operating in Cote d’Ivoire and what has been the company’s approach?
We find Cote d’Ivoire to be a great destination to do business: a diversified economy, pro-mining jurisdiction, very good infrastructure, very good access to supplies, huge mineral potential and a very entrepreneurial atmosphere, they are movers and shakers. We had our entire board at the African Mining Indaba and we were able to meet with Hon. Minister Jean Claude Brou with whom we have a good relationship, because we do what we say we would. We always inform the Minister when we are in Abidjan and try to meet. We like the joint venture route with local companies who have local knowledge and have a good rapport with the ministries. Joint venture partnerships is a philosophy the government has put in place, which facilitates the process once you find a good tenement and helps to source joint venture partners.
Cote d’Ivoire is not a long-time mining hub like Ghana and South Africa, so what can you share about IronRidge’s engagement with in-country capacity and expertise?
At any one time, we have about 70 to 100 local labour in our workforce. We have the Senior Geologist from IronRidge working together with local project geologists and we meet the Head of Geology at the Ministry every visit. We are currently carrying out soil auger sampling locally, which is taking a little bit longer but it is important to be very methodical and it also creates jobs and employment. Then we are hoping to drill in the near future. It is also important for us to make a contribution, it is not just about making money. We have a very proactive approach in engaging with local stakeholders.
With the wide commodity portfolio, what has been the markets’ reaction to IronRidge’s diversification? What is your perspective on the lithium and gold market conditions?
There has been a mixed reaction here in London because many companies have one focus, one commodity, however, for me it is all about good management. You need to be motivated, have a good treasury and like-minded visionary shareholders like we do. We recently raised US$ 10.7 million in London that we need to complete the next phase. It is important for us to create value for shareholders, and across all our jurisdictions we have over 12 province scale exploration projects, so there should be at least one that will be successful. We take a world-strategic and long-term view.
Gold is potentially a steady growth story, whereas we like lithium because it has an exponential growth story. Gold will always be part of our society. India has an insatiable appetite for gold for personal use and China is becoming like that. We are also seeing increased applications for gold in phones and technology and now it is more widely used in the aerospace industry. We are bullish on gold, we have to be! There are plenty of projects out there, but where you operate is often the key, you need a recipe for success, which includes good infrastructure, pro-mining jurisdiction, ability to keep capital costs low, and we continue to look for those first-tier projects that will be efficient to survive market volatility.
Do you have a final message for our MACIG readers and your vision for IronRidge’s next steps in the region?
We are looking for new opportunities across different African mining jurisdictions. In terms of shareholder base, we have the management to take projects from start to finish, with exploration, development and operational expertise, which is rare for a junior explorer. We have more advanced projects and like making discoveries ourselves, and can operate. However, we are also taking to some of the majors in Cote d’Ivoire, Chad and Ghana.