We have just released our annual report and its available here. In the CEO wording below I share my comments about 2019 and the future.
Eurobattery Minerals AB (BAT:NGM; “BAT” or “the Company”), formerly Orezone AB, is pleased to release the annual report for 2019. In 2019 the focus on sustainability has grown to a global mass movement and companies increasingly view sustainability as both a responsibility and a great business opportunity.
During the year BAT has made some significant advancements in delivering on its vision to help Europe and the booming EV industry to become self-sufficient in ethical and fully traceable battery minerals. These include the acquisition of Corcel Minerals SL, the name change of the Company, the listing on the NGM and the completion of our maiden mineral exploration programme at the Corcel Project. This was followed by the release of our first drilling results at the end of the year with more results released in the beginning of 2020. The Company is proud of what it has achieved to-date and continues to implement its strategy to become a European-based mining company targeting extraction of ethical and fully traceable battery minerals which are critical to the EV market in Europe.
Looking at the EV market, the already strong growth and interest in the sector has increased even more in 2019. The car manufactures are all presenting new EV-models and several battery projects have been announced across Europe. However, still Europe only caters for 2-4 percent of the total batteries needed in the booming European EV industry. This could become even more constrained with initiatives in traceability and ethical sourcing as many battery minerals are still unfortunately mined without focus on sustainability and fair employment conditions, including child labour.
Considering the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, the outlook for the EV market in short term is hard to predict. However, we know that many of the car manufacturers in Europe have already announced an extended range of EV-models for the near future. Also, looking at the macro perspective, signals from both leading politicians and business leaders across Europe suggest that sustainability and green solutions are key elements when re-starting the economy. With all our assets literally in the ground, BAT is well positioned to continue its operations to be the long-term foundation of the battery value chain for a sustainable transportation industry.
During 2019, the company finalized its maiden drilling programme at the Spanish Castriz prospect, where previous exploration had highlighted the area to be very prospective for Ni-Co-Cu mineralisation. Drilling has confirmed what the historical explorers originally reported. Notably the extensive zone of bedrock with elevated Ni-Co-Cu contents is much larger than previously predicted, measuring approximately 700m in strike and up to 700m in width.
In 2020, the Company will complete the remaining tests at the Castriz prospect needed to assess its economic potential. Further to this, BAT has also commenced planning its 2020 work programme at the Corcel Project and will look to expand the zones of prospectivity to other areas of the project. In Sweden, the Company completed new samples for petrographic and chemical analysis in its different projects and previously found and analysed boulders and outcrops have been investigated further.
The Companies business strategy will continue with its focus of building a pipeline of projects across the exploration, development and production stages. As part of this, the Company has signed an investment and shareholders agreement including an option for a staged acquisition of 100 percent of the shares in Vulcan Hautalampi Oy, 100 per cent owner of the Hautalampi Nickel-Cobalt-Copper Project, in eastern Finland.
The Company is looking forward to providing regular updates to shareholders about its future plans at the Corcel Project, the Hautalampi project, the Swedish projects and the overall strategy of becoming the foundation of the battery value chain.
I strongly believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will fuel a number of major shifts in mindset and practices around the globe in many different disciplines, fields and industries. Most of the change will be positive. This is human nature. We struggle and fight and then strive towards progress to make things better.
The less positive lessons from the spread of COVID-19 are that the solutions approach taken so far by world leaders has been predominantly national. At times of great disaster or threat, we tend to narrow our perspectives down to care mainly for those within our national borders.
So, what has that got to do with mining? I’d say plenty. Many technical solutions depend on raw materials that stem from different minerals, and one very topical example is the manufacture of ventilators. Ventilators use a refrigerant gas to help people with respiratory diseases breathe, including COVID-19 patients. This gas is made from the processed mineral fluorite.
At present, Mexico concentrates 20 per cent of the world’s fluorite reserves but accounts for 80 per cent of the raw material used to produce this gas, which in turn is used by respiratory manufacturers worldwide. I am not suggesting this value chain doesn’t work for the moment, but anyone can understand that the current situation could become vulnerable, especially as there are a number of additional steps along the value chain that depend on several manufacturers to produce the end product.
Fluorite is present in many locations worldwide, but currently Mexico and China produce 80 per cent of the world supply. In Europe, for example, fluorite can be found in Spain and Germany. I will, therefore, repeat the message I often present to the battery industry. Europe must look after its own needs in terms of minerals. A reliance on one or two countries may not only present an obstacle to business development, but could have devastating consequences that we would rather not consider.
The European Union and its individual nations need to take a good look at the areas or industries that cannot be allowed to fail due to a shortage of minerals. It needs to see this as an opportunity to act and to draw up a long-term strategy towards sustainably produced minerals in Europe.
Roberto García Martínez
The transition to electric vehicles (EV) is one of the key contributors to achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. As such, the industry and its suppliers have a huge responsibility for ensuring that their products are sustainably produced, with full traceability and a strong focus on business ethics. However, unlike many other industries, a large share of the raw materials used in EVs – namely minerals and metals – are today mined with no demands imposed on traceability. This makes it the weakest link in the sustainable production process.
As I have discussed in a previous blog post, some parts of the global mining industry are still faced with substantial problems involving poor working conditions, child labour and armed conflicts. As sustainability demands increase from customers and regulatory bodies, major automotive companies are looking for ways to guarantee that the minerals and metals used in their cars and batteries are produced in an equitable manner.
Learning from established processes
At Eurobattery Minerals, we are committed to providing fully traceable minerals. To this end, we are working to implement measures that will enable us and the industry at large to supply raw materials with full traceability.
In the mining industry, we often hear that full traceability is not possible. I would like to challenge this and would contend that in some areas, the mining industry has actually been working with traceability for many years. From my previous experience in gold and diamond mining, traceability was one of the most important parts of our business. The model we used there can easily be transferred to higher volume resources.
Let me explain how it worked. At the end of every day, the gold mined on that day was placed in a special bag, sealed and marked with a unique barcode. The barcode was signed by three different individuals: the geologist of the mine, the MD and a third party representing the authorities. The barcode was then scanned and the package was sent by courier using a fully traceable route to the end customer, who opened the seal and confirmed that the gold received was correct.
Larger tonnage requires new methods
With larger tonnage raw materials, containers are required for transportation and this could potentially increase the risk of manipulating the content. However, the use of this process would dramatically increase opportunities to trace the source of the raw material. One way to add further security to the solution for larger tonnage resources could be to take a sample from the container and seal it in a similar manner to the example above related to gold. This sample is sent together with the container. The raw material in the container is analysed and compared to the sample in the bag when it reaches the refinery. If the two don’t match, it is likely that the raw material in the container has been manipulated or was sourced from another mine.
I am convinced that we as an industry must introduce this type of traceability, even if the method is not yet perfect. At the same time, we must support the work of other traceability initiatives, such as leveraging block chain technology, AI or other digital tools.
My vision is that the minerals used in EV batteries will become the strongest link in the sustainability chain.
Roberto García Martínez
The transformation of the transport and vehicle industry towards greater electrification is set to continue. At Eurobattery Minerals, we are committed to becoming an important part of this value chain and as such, to contribute to a more sustainable future. We have one clear and long-term vision: to provide battery minerals (primarily nickel, copper and cobalt) mined in Europe to the European EV industry – ethically and with full traceability. In doing so, we strive to be the very foundation of the battery value chain.
The mining industry is an important part of the transformation
As the transition from fossil fuel to EV vehicles progresses, the European Union has clearly identified the important role the mining industry has to play in achieving this shift. And as car manufacturers launch a wide range of new EV cars, the need is growing for battery development and manufacturing. As a result, battery minerals – some 35 different minerals are needed in a single battery – have quickly become one of the most important raw materials on earth.
This is particularly true for Europe. Analysts estimate that only 2–4 per cent of batteries needed by the European EV industry are manufactured in the region. Even if new battery factories are opening in Europe, demand is still much greater than supply.
Dependency to a few producing countries is not sustainable
As with any important raw material, countries with access to such assets are quick to ensure that their needs are met first. Bearing this situation in mind, let me be very clear, the necessary minerals for battery manufacturing are not a scarce resource. But we cannot be reliant on other parts of the world to fulfil the battery and battery mineral needs of European auto manufacturers. For large industries, such uncertainty in the supply chain is simply not a viable working process.
Furthermore, being dependent on a few countries is not a feasible working strategy from a sustainability perspective. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, the mining industry is still struggling with both environmental and labour challenges. For example, most of the world’s cobalt is mined in Congo where the mining industry faces severe challenges in the form of child labour, environmental problems and even armed conflicts.
The EU must work harder for European battery minerals
All of the above provide a clear signal that the EU needs to work even harder to source its own battery minerals within Europe. Having worked in the mining industry for many years and witnessed the development in methods and processes, we believe the European mining industry has all the prerequisites to be a sustainable industry and an important contributor to the electrification of the transportation sector.
Eurobattery Minerals is already part of the race and we are looking forward advancing the industry.
Roberto García Martínez