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May 27-28, 2021
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Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

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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

Interview with Dave Reeves, Managing Director of Ferrex PLC

Ferrex is an AIM listed exploration & development company focussed on advancing low capital intensive iron ore and manganese deposits in Africa. Four key projects include an iron ore and a manganese project in South Africa, a manganese project in Togo, and an iron ore project in Gabon.
Dave Reeves: Developing African low cost iron ore and manganese resources
----Interview with Dave Reeves, Managing Director of Ferrex PLC

Asian Metal: Thank you for accepting this interview. Would you like to introduce yourself briefly?

Dave: Ferrex is focused on developing low capital cost and quick to production iron ore and manganese projects. We are currently developing three core projects – a manganese project in Togo, from which we will commence production in the near term to generate cash flow for the Company to be recycled to fund development of our two iron ore projects in Gabon and South Africa.
To introduce a few of our board members; Brian Moritz, Roy Pitchford, Russell Lamming, and myself all developed and successfully sold a UK listed company, African Platinum. Russell and Brian went off to start the company Chromex and put a chrome mine in production in South Africa, which was also sold at a premium a few years ago so we all have strong track records in delivering value.
We own 74% of South African subsidiaries as required by the BEE legislation. There is no such legislation in Togo and Gabon, however we like to bring in local partners, with 18% in Gabon and 15% in Togo, which helps us to work effectively in those countries.

Asian Metal: Do you look to sell off the mining assets once you have sufficient exploration work or do bring the projects into development yourself?

Dave: We prefer to take our projects into production as we take a long term view of generating profit for the company. We have built three mines in Africa and taken them into production. A fourth mine we have been involved in was sold before completion, which we will consider again if the price is right.

Asian Metal: Please briefly outline the Gabon iron ore project.

Dave: The Mebaga DSO Iron Ore Project in Gabon is to the west of the major projects in the country. There is good transport infrastructure, both road and rail, and there are no large tonnage projects being developed in the area so rail availability is not an issue.
There is a tarmac highway within 30kmof the site and they are building a 50Meg hydro –scheme with power lines within 20km of the site. 100km from us is the trans-Gabon rail that can manage 10 million ton/year and is currently only utilising 3.5 million ton. It is a proven, effective rail that does not require any rehabilitation. These infrastructure assets are one of the main benefits we see in the project and we will be investigating the best way to tap into this infrastructure, utilising rail or road.

Asian Metal: What exploration work has been completed on this project?

Dave: It was explored by the BRGM back in the 60’s, who completed some deep pitting and gave an estimated resource of 20 million tons at 60%Fe, which we use as our exploration target. Initial mapping/sampling showed grades as high as 68%Fe, which is DSO quality. This is only 1.8km of the 25km of strike so there is good potential to find more resource than is estimated by BGRM.

Asian Metal: At what stage is the project now?

Dave: We have now purchased all the geophysical data and are having it interpreted. We are constructing the camp to prepare for this year’s exploration work and plan to start drilling in the next 6-8 weeks to work towards the bankable feasibility study.
We plan on having the bankable by end of 2014, develop the year after, 2015, and production in early 2016. The production rate is expected to be 3-4 million tons/year, though this depends on what our exploration work finds. We are looking at relatively low operating costs so will be able to manage future decline in the market.

Asian Metal: Are you looking to raise financing for the exploration and development work in Togo?

Dave: No, the manganese mine in northern Togo should generate sufficient cash flow to fund the development operations of the other projects.

Asian Metal: I see, please outline this particular manganese project in Togo.

Dave: The manganese project in Togo is a very low cost and a quick to production resource we plan to exploit as soon as possible so that we can bring in the revenue, sure up our cash balance and go ahead with our other more lucrative projects.
The resource consists of manganese lumps in a laterite horizon on the surface and does not require drilling/blasting, so is a very cheap operation. The material is simply picked up by a front end loader and run through the washing plant. The fines screened off and cleaned by a gravity plant to produce a 38% product.
Capital costs are estimated at under USD15 million and opex below USD2/dmtu free on board. The bankable study will be in the first half of 2013 so we can start and get to production in the first half of next year to produce 250,000t/year capacity, which will run for about 10 years on the current resource estimation.
All is on track, we have applied for a mining permit so we can complete the bankable feasibility study and we are in negotiations for off-take partners.

Asian Metal: What is the current resource estimate for this project?

Dave: Last year we identified an indicated resource of 7 million tons at 14.7%.

Asian Metal: Is the port infrastructure sufficient to accommodate the additional capacity?

Dave: The main Lome port in Togo has a planned third wharf expansion. There are a lot of container imports that return empty to China or Europe and so we can get favourable freight rates for our exports to end consumers.

Asian Metal: I understand you have another manganese project in South Africa, at what stage of development is this?

Dave: We do have another manganese project in South Africa,the Leinster Project in the Northern Cape area. It has been previously explored by Anglo American, which identified a high grade core of around 42%Mn and showed that the mineralisation is open in all directions of the area drilled. It is possible to get a small underground operation up and running but that is on the back burner as we want to focus on the other projects. We are likely to wait until Transnet go ahead with the planned additional rail first.

Asian Metal: Finally, you other major development project is iron ore in South Africa; I expected this region to be already saturated without sufficient rail availability to accommodate another project.

Dave: This is not the case, the Malelane project in South Africa, on the border of Mozambique, is 6km from the rail and 170km from the port of Maputo. This region is not as developed as the Northern Cape and so there is rail availability, though it is limited to 2-3 million tons /year. To keep costs down, we are limiting our initial mine capacity to this level (2-3 million tons/year).
We have therefore limited our exploration to 1km of the 14km length of strike. The drilling program has identified 140 million tons of iron ore at 37%, which should facilitate a life of mine of 20 years.

Asian Metal: Has exploration work been successful so far?

Dave: Yes, the ore body is goethite deposit; a ridgeline of iron so a very low strip ratio is needed for the mining process. Some of the drill samples have indicated a reasonable grade of iron, including one of 51%Fe at 51m, which included 18m of 56%Fe.

Asian Metal: What makes this project standout among the many other South African iron ore mines?

Dave: The availability of rail infrastructure is the main advantage of this mine and it gives us a low capital cost and good IRR.
Metallurgical studies have concluded that this will be a cheap operation as there is no need for grinding or flotation or magnetic separation, only crushing and gravity separation, which will produce a 57%Fe and 5% silica, low aluminium and standard sulphur/phosphorous. MnO is a slightly elevated at 2%, and the LOI is around 9%. The will keep our operating costs down and ensure we can remain profitable even if iron ore prices fall in future.

Asian Metal: At what stage is the project now?

Dave: We have completed the scoping study and prefeasibility and will consider the pricing mechanism at some point in future. We will likely arrange an off-take partner and give a discount to the standard 58%Fe index price.

Asian Metal: What are your plans for mine expansion?

Dave: We have not yet considered expansion of the mine because we know the logistical infrastructure in place can already support 2-3 million ton/year. The resource can support more but just want to get it running and will consider an extension in the future.

Asian Metal: When will the project reach production?

Dave: The mining permit will be submitted later this year, which can take a few years in some cases, and then we will have to start the building; so we are looking at production at 2016/17.