12th Rare Earth Summit

May 27-28, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

11th Aluminum Raw Materials Summit

May 20-21, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

9th Magnesium Summit

April 15-16, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

13th World InBiGeGa Forum

March 25-26, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

7th World Antimony Forum

June 13-14, 2019
Changsha, Hunan, China

7th Refractory & Abrasive Materials Summit 2019

May 23-24, 2019
Qingdao, Shandong, China

10th Aluminum Raw Materials Summit

May 16-17, 2019
Zhengzhou, Henan, China

11th Rare Earth Summit

May 9-10, 2019
Qingdao, Shandong, China

8th Magnesium Summit

April 11-12, 2019
Zhuhai, Guangdong, China

12th World InBiGeGa Forum

March 14-15, 2019
Zhuhai, Guangdong, China

6th World Manganese & Selenium Forum

May 21-22, 2018
Hainan Sanya, China
Antimony in the Caucasus: Revitalizing the past for a stable future
----Interview with Nikoloz Enukidze, Chairman of Caucasus Minerals
Caucasus Minerals is engaged in exploration and development of mineral resources in Georgia. The company owns 30 year licence for the exploration and mining of Zopkhito antimony and gold deposit, one of the largest known mineral deposits in Georgia. Initial exploration of Zopkhito started in 1929 and continues to this day. Most of the exploration work done to date was undertaken by State Geological Department of Soviet Union following standard soviet guidelines. Over 16 km of exploration drives were developed ...

Asian Metal: Hi Nikoloz, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with me. Firstly, could you please tell us about your company?

Nikoloz Enukidze: Caucasus Minerals acquired 30-year exploration/production license for Zopkhito antimony/gold deposit in 2012. Zopkhito is one of the largest mineral deposits in Georgia. Soviet geologists started exploration of Zopkhito in 1930s and continued with interruptions until 1980s. Zopkhito was one of handful antimony deposits, which were considered “strategically important” for soviet industry.

Asian Metal: Before we discuss the history of the deposits, could you please give a little more background of yourself and how you got into the antimony market?

Nikoloz Enukidze: My professional background is in banking. I started my career at ABN AMRO. Later I served as chairman of Bank of Georgia, the first Georgian company listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). Currently, I am on the board of TBC Bank, another major Georgian bank listed on the LSE.
Two years ago, I met Kakha Kuchava, CEO of Caucasus Minerals. Kakha offered me to get involved in Caucasus Minerals and I agreed. Today, I am a significant shareholder of Caucasus Minerals and its Chairman.

Asian Metal: Fantastic. Now with regards to your current operations, what are the timelines of when you will hope to be in full production?

Nikoloz Enukidze: Soviet geologists estimated antimony metal resources for Zopkhito and surrounding deposits at about 40,000 tons. Last year’s re-sampling program conducted under Wardell Armstrong’s guidance gave us strong confidence in this number. Currently, we are continuing re-sampling program and focusing on metallurgical tests for our ore. Previous metallurgical tests showed excellent floatation recovery rates in lab conditions. We would like to confirm this in the industrial context.

Asian Metal: What are the exploitable reserves and are there any other commercial-grade by-products?

Nikoloz Enukidze: Our current license covers main deposit at Zopkhito and 3 smaller deposits in the close vicinity with antimony resource of 28,500 tons. We will expand our license to cover additional deposits in the area as required. Zopkhito is a narrow vein deposit and only limited part of it is explored in detail using on-vein underground exploration drives. Of 41 known veins antimony resource was estimated for only 16 veins. No drilling was done to explore veins beyond exploration drives. We expect Zopkhito resource to increase further once we start our drilling program. Zopkhito’s ore also shows interesting grades for gold. However, more tests are needed before we understand size of the gold resource and how much of it is recoverable.

Asian Metal: Could you expand on this a little further and give a few more details on your current plan?

Nikoloz Enukidze: We will start by building a floatation plant producing about 4,000 tons of 50% - 55% antimony concentrate per annum. The plant’s capacity may be increased at a later stage depending on the market situation. Until the floatation plant is completed, our product will be handpicked concentrate. This is quite normal for deposits like ours, where hand sorting produces 40-50% grades.
We are doing our mining engineering studies to refine our mining plans for next year. Fortunately, we have good head start. 22km of underground on-vein exploration drives developed by soviet geologists provide excellent foundation for mining infrastructure. This will save us a lot of time and money. If all goes well we will produce 200-300 tons of handpicked concentrate next summer.

Asian Metal: Very interesting. What is also interesting is that you are currently operating in a geographic location where there is not a great deal known. Could you shed some light on the history of antimony mining in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan?

Nikoloz Enukidze: In the Soviet Union antimony production was centred around Kadamzhai antimony smelter in Kyrgyzstan. Concentrate was supplied by mines in Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Today most of this concentrate is sold to China, but Kyrgyzstan still remains an important player in the antimony industry.
Georgia never mined antimony on industrial scale. There are only few sizable mining companies in Georgia, but the country has good potential. Georgia has very friendly business environment and the government is working hard to make mining more attractive for investors.

Asian Metal: What are the biggest obstacles you are facing with your company and despite this why are you positive about the market moving forward?

Nikoloz Enukidze: Naturally, the drop in the antimony metal price is our biggest concern. Zopkhito's geology, attractive labour costs and convenient logistics support efficient cost structure. However, if the metal price continues to fall, these may not be enough. But we are optimistic. I think the metal price will balance out at around USD10,000/t in the medium term.
The structure of the industry is also transforming, it is becoming less geographically concentrated. New deposits are being developed all over the world, there are over 20 licences for antimony deposits issued just in Central Asia. New smelting facilities are also in the pipeline. For example, Tri-Star’s planned new smelter in Oman will be a strong alternative to traditional antimony metal producers. Less concentrated industry should contribute to metal price stability and make antimony mining more attractive.

Asian Metal: We wish you all the best in your operation and look forward to hearing about any developments moving forward!

Nikoloz Enukidze: Thank you for your time.