Altus Strategies Plc / Index (EPIC): AIM (ALS); TSX-V (ALTS); OTCQX (ALTUF) / Sector: Mining
Altus Strategies Plc
(“Altus” or the “Company”)
Altus Strategies Plc (AIM: ALS, TSX-V: ALTS, OTCQX: ALTUF) announces its audited final results for the year ended 31 December 2021. These are presented below and are available (along with the Company's 2021 Annual Report) to download on the Company's website at http://altus-strategies.com/investors/financials/ and on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.
- Acquisition of an effective 0.418% Net Smelter Return (“NSR”) royalty on the Caserones copper mine (“Caserones”) in northern Chile for US$34.1m
- Caserones royalty acquired via a strategic 50:50 partnership with NYSE-American and TSX-V listed EMX Royalty Corp (“EMX”) through a Chilean special purpose vehicle (“SPV”)
- Receipt of maiden royalty income of £1.7m (before tax) in respect of Q2 and Q3 2021 production at Caserones
- Acquisition of 24 royalty interests from Newcrest Mining Ltd (“Newcrest”) for US$24.0m, including royalties on two producing gold mines, one near-producing gold mine and 21 development and exploration stage projects (23 of which are located in Australia and one in Côte d’Ivoire)
- Newcrest royalties acquisition undertaken through a strategic joint venture with private company AlphaStream Limited (“AlphaStream”) through SPVs in United Arab Emirates and Australia; first close of the acquisition covering all assets except nine development and exploration stage assets for US$20.0m
- US$29 million strategic acquisition loan facility provided by the Company’s largest shareholder La Mancha Fund SCSp (“La Mancha”)
- Moroccan portfolio of 14 primarily silver and copper projects to be vended to Eastinco Mining and Exploration Plc (“Eastinco”) subject to Eastinco listing on the Standard List of the London Stock Exchange; Altus to retain NSR royalty rights on all projects, to gain a royalty right on Musasa tantalum mine in Rwanda and to become a major shareholder of Eastinco
- Appointments to the senior management team strengthen the Company’s corporate and technical capabilities across its key areas of operation:
- Mark Campbell appointed as Non-Executive Chairman of 100% owned subsidiary Akh Gold Holdings Ltd and General Manager (Egypt)
- Amilha Young appointed as Company Secretary and Legal Counsel
- Boubacar Thera appointed as Corporate Manager (Mali)
- David Hall appointed as Strategic Advisor (Egypt)
- Expansion of activities into Egypt through award of gold exploration licences, forming four projects, totalling 1,565km2 located in the Eastern Desert through a competitive international bidding process; discovery of numerous hard rock artisanal gold workings from field reconnaissance at Gabal Om Ourada and Wadi Dubur projects
- Western Mali: High grade intersections including 21.9 grams per tonne (“g/t”) gold (“Au”) over 10.2m from 28m from diamond drilling (“DD”) at Diba gold deposit in western Mali (results are down-the-hole and not true widths)
- Southern Mali: Gold resource exceeds one million ounces (17.3 million tonnes at 1.2 g/t Au for 665,000 inferred ounces and 9.2 million tonnes at 1.2 g/t Au for 360,000 indicated ounces) at Tabakorole gold project in Southern Mali under Joint Venture (“JV”) with Australian Securities Exchange (“ASX”) listed Marvel Gold Ltd (“Marvel Gold”) (see Altus’ news release “Gold Resource Exceeds One Million Ounces at Tabakorole in Southern Mali” dated 5 October 2021). Upgraded Mineral Resource Estimate (“MRE”) generated a 24% increase in indicated ounces and 7% increase in inferred ounces, with 70% of deposit comprising the MRE within 150m of the surface; encouraging DD results and discovery of a potential new parallel zone of mineralisation; significant increase in JV landholding at Tabakorole (by 100km2 to 292km2)
- Morocco: Grant of 10 new exploration licences taking the Company’s portfolio to 14 projects covering 824km2 targeting primarily copper and silver; discovery of high-grade copper and silver from reconnaissance exploration at the newly granted Azrar, Izougza and Tata projects
- Completion of strategic review of Bikoula iron project in southern Cameroon by Mining Plus UK Ltd (“Mining Plus”) to determine next steps for project development
- Completion in March 2021 of oversubscribed fundraising for £7.7m / C$13.4m at an issue price of £0.75 / C$1.30 per Ordinary Share with net proceeds primarily used to accelerate gold exploration programmes in Egypt and Mali
- Receipt of second tranche of 10 million shares in Canyon Resources Ltd (“Canyon”) with a value at the time of £0.6m / C$1.1m
- Completion in December 2021 of oversubscribed fundraising for £19.8m / C$33.7m at an issue price of £0.535 / C$0.90 per Ordinary Share with net proceeds primarily used for completion of the Newcrest royalty acquisition
- Cash balance of £6.4m / C$10.9m as at 31 December 2021
- Cash outflow from operating activities of £7.9m / C$13.4m for the year
- Listed equity holdings of £1.7m / C$2.9m as at 31 December 2021
- Second and final close of the Newcrest royalties acquisition covering nine development and exploration stage assets located in Australia for consideration of US$4.0m
- Completion of 11,832m drilling programme at Diba and Lakanfla gold project with latest results of up to 1.27 g/t Au over 127m from 21m on the Lakanfla Central prospect and 1.81 g/t Au over 10m from 256m at the Diba NW prospect (results are down-the-hole and not true widths)
- Extension of La Mancha loan facility to 30 June 2022 with annualised interest rate increased to 10% plus the United States Dollar (“USD”) London Inter-bank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”)
- 1.0% Gross Revenue Royalty (“GRR”) generated on Toura Nickel-Cobalt project in Côte d’Ivoire through sale of interest in local subsidiary to Firering Strategic Minerals Plc (“Firering”) for €15,000
- Revised joint venture agreement signed with Marvel Gold whereby the Company regained a 100% interest in the Lakanfla licence in western Mali, located 5km east of the Company’s Diba project, and reduced its interest in the Tabakorole gold project in southern Mali to 30%; Altus retains a 2.5% NSR royalty on the Tabakorole project
- Award of a ten year (renewable) mining licence at the Agdz project in central Morocco covering an area of 34.36km2, representing the area of copper and silver mineralisation discovered to date
- Award of a four year (renewable) ‘small scale’ mining licence at the Diba gold project in western Mali covering an area of 83.1km2, incorporating the Diba Deposit and other key prospects
Steven Poulton, Chief Executive of Altus, commented:
“2021 marked another milestone year for Altus. With the acquisition of an NSR royalty on the Caserones copper mine in Chile and receipt of the maiden royalty payment just a month after closing the deal transformed Altus into a revenue generating business. Later in the year, we acquired a portfolio of 24 royalty interests from Newcrest Mining Ltd. The Newcrest portfolio includes royalties on two producing gold mines, one near-producing gold mine and 21 development and exploration stage projects, bringing the Company’s global portfolio to 33 royalty interests and 27 project interests across nine countries and nine metals.
“Operationally, our focus during the period was on advancing and de-risking our royalty generation assets, primarily in Mali and Egypt. In southern Mali, an updated independent Mineral Resource Estimate at the Tabakorole gold royalty and JV project reported that gold resources now exceed one million ounces and there remains significant potential for further growth in parallel zones, along strike and at depth. Elsewhere in western Mali, diamond drilling we completed at the Company's 100% owned Diba gold project returned impressive high-grade intersections and discovered new zones. Earlier this month, post-period, Altus was granted a small-scale gold mining licence for Diba; an important step as we now progress with an updated MRE and Preliminary Economic Assessment for the combined Diba & Lakanfla project. In Egypt, Altus was awarded highly prospective gold exploration licences totalling 1,565km2 in the Eastern Desert, which we consider has world class discovery potential. Systematic exploration and target evaluation is already underway across these projects.
“Altus is exceptionally well-positioned to progress with its royalty generation activities across Africa while also reviewing accretive royalty income acquisition opportunities. The Company has a strong pipeline of transactions under review and we intend to further enhance and diversify our portfolio in the coming years growing our revenue streams in parallel.
“2022 is on course to be another highly productive year for the Company and we look forward to providing further updates in due course.”
For further information you are invited to visit the Company’s website www.altus-strategies.com or contact:
Altus Strategies Plc
Steven Poulton, Chief Executive
Tel: +44 (0) 1235 511 767
SP Angel Corporate Finance LLP (Nominated Adviser)
Richard Morrison / Adam Cowl
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3470 0470
SP Angel Corporate Finance LLP (Broker)
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3470 0471
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3470 0535
Shard Capital Partners LLP (Broker)
Isabella Pierre / Damon Heath
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7186 9927
Yellow Jersey PR (Financial PR & IR)
Charles Goodwin / Henry Wilkinson
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3004 9512
About Altus Strategies Plc
Altus Strategies (AIM: ALS, TSX-V: ALTS & OTCQX: ALTUF) is a mining royalty company generating a diversified and precious metal focused portfolio of assets. Its differentiated approach of generating royalties on its own discoveries in Africa and acquiring royalties globally through financings and acquisitions with third parties, has attracted key institutional investor backing. Altus has established a global portfolio comprising 33 royalty interests and 27 project interests across nine countries and nine metals. The Company continues to assess royalty acquisition opportunities as well as actively advancing its portfolio of gold and base metal projects across Africa, as part of its ‘boots on the ground’ royalty generation strategy. Altus engages constructively with all stakeholders, working diligently to minimise its environmental impact and to promote positive economic and social outcomes in the communities where it operates. For further information, please visit www.altus-strategies.com.
The technical disclosure in this regulatory announcement has been approved by Steven Poulton, Chief Executive of Altus. A graduate of the University of Southampton in Geology (Hons), he also holds a Master's degree from the Camborne School of Mines (Exeter University) in Mining Geology. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and has over 20 years of experience in mineral exploration and is a Qualified Person under the AIM rules and NI 43-101.
Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
Certain information included in this announcement, including information relating to future financial or operating performance and other statements that express the expectations of the Directors or estimates of future performance constitute "forward-looking statements". These statements address future events and conditions and, as such, involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the statements. Such factors include, without limitation, the completion of planned expenditures, the ability to complete exploration programmes on schedule and the success of exploration programmes. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking information, which speak only as of the date of this announcement and the forward-looking statements contained in this announcement are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement.
Where the Company expresses or implies an expectation or belief as to future events or results, such expectation or belief is based on assumptions made in good faith and believed to have a reasonable basis. The forward-looking statements contained in this announcement are made as at the date hereof and the Company assumes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking information or any forward-looking statements contained in any other announcements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required under applicable law or regulations.
TSX Venture Exchange Disclaimer
Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor the Investment Industry Regulatory Organisation of Canada accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.
Market Abuse Regulation Disclosure
This announcement contains inside information for the purposes of Article 7 of the Market Abuse Regulation (EU) 596/2014 as it forms part of UK domestic law by virtue of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 ("MAR"), and is disclosed in accordance with the Company's obligations under Article 17 of MAR.
Reflection on the year
I am delighted to be able to report on a steep and transformational growth trajectory for Altus during the past year. The long-held business strategy of holding a diverse portfolio of royalties and discovery projects took a series of strong steps forward in 2021.
Perhaps the most significant new development was the acquisition of an interest in a cash-paying royalty at the Caserones copper mine in northern Chile. Not only was this the initial example of the parallel strategies of royalty acquisition and royalty generation working together in the business, it was also the Company’s first asset outside of Africa as well as being a first in terms of taking a joint venture approach with a royalty partner. Within a month of the acquisition, we were delighted to report that the first royalty revenue was received in Altus’ bank account.
In the same month that the first Caserones royalty was received, the Company opened a branch office in Cairo. Having been notified of the success of its bid for approximately 1,550km2 of gold exploration licences in Egypt’s highly prospective Eastern Desert, our team began setting up the operations of our Egyptian subsidiary, Akh Gold Limited. In just a few months, the Company has built a team of talented and well-connected local geologists and support staff, including the appointment of Mark Campbell as Akh Gold’s General Manager. Having completed the formalities for officially receiving the exploration licences, the team has rapidly commenced reconnaissance work across the nine licence blocks that make up the four projects. The area covered by these four projects is vast and largely unexplored, and offers a fantastic opportunity for the Company to make some exciting discoveries. The exploration bid process in Egypt has attracted major industry players including Barrick Gold, Centamin and B2 Gold amongst others.
Caserones and Egypt together perfectly illustrate the parallel strategy of royalty acquisitions that, as well as providing short term returns, also contribute to the Company’s discovery activities, which, over time, offer the prospect of significant shareholder returns. In the coming years the team at Altus will seek to maintain the optimal balance of short term capital returns and long term income exposure across our portfolio of assets.
Altus finished the year strongly with the acquisition of a significant, high quality portfolio of predominantly gold metals royalties in Australia and Côte d’Ivoire, including the cash-paying or near-production royalties at the Ballarat, SKO and Bonikro mines. Altus started the year holding nine royalties – it ended it holding 24, a great achievement and a substantial platform for the future of the Company.
Management and Board
For a company of our size, Altus has a strong and experienced senior management team, Board of Directors and corporate governance procedures. There were no changes to the composition of the Board during the year, but following the year end, Gérard de Hert was appointed as a non-executive director. Gérard is the Managing Director of Technical Services at La Mancha, our largest shareholder, and, in accordance with the Strategic Investment Agreement with La Mancha of February 2020, he represents La Mancha’s second appointee to our Board alongside La Mancha’s CEO Karim Nasr. Prior to joining La Mancha, Gérard held senior management positions with a number of Africa-focused multinational gold miners, and his technical expertise in the exploration and development of mines in Africa will be of considerable value to Altus. I welcome Gérard as a director and look forward to working with him.
During the year, a number of key management appointments were made that further strengthened the Company’s corporate and technical capabilities in line with our growth. Amilha Young was appointed Company Secretary and Legal Counsel. Amilha has over 20 years’ experience in corporate governance in the financial services and natural resources sectors in Africa and the UK. Mark Campbell who lives in Cairo joined as the General Manager in Egypt, a key appointment in the establishment of the Company’s business in Egypt, and was also appointed Non-executive Chairman of Akh Gold Holdings Ltd. Mark has over 40 years’ experience in the mining, investment banking and petroleum industries, with 31 of those years being in Egypt. Also in Egypt, David Hall joined us as Strategic Advisor for Egypt, bringing 35 years of experience in the exploration and mining sector assessing exploration projects and mines in over 55 countries. In Mali, Boubacar Thera was appointed as Corporate Manager, to support our operations there, specifically, as we advance our 100% owned Diba & Lakanfla gold project, and to enhance the Company’s profile in the region. Boubacar is a Malian lawyer with over 25 years’ professional experience in the natural resources industry in Africa focused on contract, joint venture and mining title negotiations.
After the year end, the Company’s business development team was strengthened. Michael Starke was appointed VP Corporate Development to support the realisation of value from Altus’ growing asset portfolio as well as to manage corporate communications. Michael has over 14 years’ experience in corporate finance and will support Alister Hume, who was promoted to Chief Investment Officer, having played a pivotal role in the acquisitions of the Caserones royalty and the portfolio of royalties in Australia and Côte d’Ivoire from Newcrest.
The energetic team at Altus never lets the grass grow under its feet. Notwithstanding the effort that has gone into advancement of the Company along its strategic path during 2021, I have no doubt that the team will pursue new opportunities with diligence and resolve, and will work with intelligence and commitment to develop and grow Altus’ exciting portfolio of royalties and projects.
On behalf of the Board, I thank the entire team at Altus for their contributions to a momentous year, and I thank our existing and new shareholders for their continued support.
Our royalty generator business model
Altus is a mining Royalty Generator focused on becoming a leading royalty business. The Company is based in the United Kingdom and dual-listed in the UK (AIM: ALS) and Canada (TSX-V: ALTS). Its shares also trade in the United States (OTCQX: ALTUF). The Company was founded by three of its current directors in 2007; namely Steven Poulton, Matthew Grainger and David Netherway. Since its formation, Altus has developed a portfolio of resource assets, diversified by commodity and jurisdiction and it has sought partnerships on our assets to further reduce risks and accelerate its growth. The team’s track record of success in Africa and differentiated business model has also attracted notable institutional and other sophisticated investors. La Mancha is one such group, which joined the Company’s register in 2020 as the largest shareholder with a 35% interest. As one of the world’s largest and most respected mining investors, La Mancha’s involvement has been transformational for the Company and the growth of both elements of its two-pronged strategy of generating royalties and increasing value per share, namely the Acquisition Strategy and the Discovery Strategy.
The Acquisition Strategy focuses on accelerating the growth of the Company’s portfolio and cash flows through the acquisition of existing royalties on third party mines and development projects around the world, or by royalty creation through the provision of strategic capital to select mining and exploration companies. Our acquisition strategy aims to expand the Company’s royalty portfolio, provide further diversification, maintain a high degree of quality assets to yield long term, sustainable income for Altus from cash-generating assets. This approach provides Altus with a steadily growing stream of lower-risk cash flows which it can deploy to further grow its royalty portfolio and to fund its discovery strategy.
The Discovery Strategy provides the Company’s shareholders with exposure to the potentially significant outsized returns which can be generated from the success of targeted discovery work. Leveraging the Company’s expertise and proven ability to identify and rapidly advance early-stage prospects, Altus aims to generate high-value projects by selectively acquiring multiple exploration licences in diverse jurisdictions and advance these through targeted appraisal undertaken by the Company’s exploration geologists. As projects progress up the ‘value curve’, the Company typically enters JVs with third parties who fund advanced exploration and development, thereby reducing risk and preserving shareholder capital for investing in further opportunities. Income is generated through JV milestone payments which occur at exploration and development landmarks. As each project matures and develops, Altus’ ownership may dilute but the Company looks to retain a minority equity position as well as a royalty, providing longer term optionality and cash flow potential once the project enters production.
Discovery Strategy focused on Africa
While Altus’s acquisition strategy targets assets in all parts of the world, the Company’s discovery strategy is focused on the continent of Africa where, due to the relative lack of exploration using modern techniques compared to many other parts of the world, economic mineral deposits can still be discovered close to and in many cases cropping out at surface.
It is reported that 24% of all discoveries in the last decade were found on the continent of Africa, despite it receiving only 14% of the global exploration budgets (source: MinEx Consulting). According to the same survey, deposits in Africa (excluding South Africa) are being discovered at average depths of just 9m below surface, which is much shallower than average global depths of 78m. In Canada and the USA the average discovery depths are even greater, at 125m and 198m respectively.
This opportunity to make discoveries across Africa without recourse to expensive subsurface exploration technologies, including drilling programmes, means that our shareholder capital can potentially generate more value and at greater speed if applied to exploration in Africa than it might in many other parts of the world, thus increasing the discovery potential per Altus share. Given the collective geographical, geological and operational expertise of our board, management and advisors, we believe Altus is well positioned to maximise this opportunity. The Company currently has interests in exploration licences in Egypt, Mali, Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Ethiopia.
Risk diversification is at the heart of the Company’s business model and is enacted by diversifying our asset portfolio across a variety of metals at different stages across several jurisdictions. Altus has a growing portfolio of 33 royalties comprising four royalties on producing mines, 15 royalties on development projects with mineral resources and 14 royalties on pre-resource projects, as of the publication date of this report. In addition to the royalty portfolio, the Company’s project pipeline comprises 24 exploration projects, of which one is under JV (Tabakorole in Mali) while the Company’s 14 Moroccan projects are in the process of being spun out into Eastinco Mining and Exploration plc which is seeking to list on the London Stock Exchange. Together, the Company’s royalties and projects span nine countries and encompass nine commodities.
More than half of the Company’s discovery portfolio is comprised of gold projects, the most advanced of which are located in western Mali. Aside from gold, Altus is focused on metals that it believes will be critical in the transmission, storage and efficient use of electricity in the coming decade, as the world seeks to decarbonise and implement ‘Net Zero’ policies. Copper will be paramount among these. Other metals such as nickel, cobalt, lithium, vanadium and aluminium also have a critical part to play, as will specialist and less well-known rare-earth metals, including neodymium and praseodymium that are used in the high-quality magnets of electric motors.
Chief Executive’s Review
The year in summary
Acquisition of cash paying royalties
As our Chairman has highlighted, the acquisition of a royalty on the Caserones copper mine in northern Chile perhaps marked the most significant milestone for the Company in the year. Our team had been working hard to deliver on the Company’s publicised parallel strategy of acquiring cash-paying royalties alongside generating our own royalties. This hard work came to fruition in August when an agreement was signed for the purchase of a 0.418% NSR copper royalty for $34.1 million. The Caserones mine is situated in a Tier-1 jurisdiction and at that time represented our first asset outside of Africa. The mine is owned and operated by JX Nippon Mining & Metals Corporation of Japan and had an estimated minimum 17 years of production remaining at the time of our NSR acquisition.
The Company was delighted to secure the acquisition of the Caserones royalty in partnership with NYSE-American and TSX-V listed EMX Royalty Corporation. Altus and EMX worked closely together on the deal and incorporated a special purpose vehicle in Chile which is jointly owned and managed by Altus and EMX. The Company’s partnership with EMX is strengthened by Michael Winn, who is the Chairman of EMX, as well as being a Non-Executive Director of Altus.
The commitment made to the long-term development of Altus by our significant 35% shareholder, La Mancha, was underscored through the provision of a US$29.0 million acquisition bridge loan facility, which was drawn down to part-fund the acquisition. The facility, which was repayable in February 2022, has since been extended to 30 June 2022. The Company does not yet have alternative financing in place but has received a number of proposals to re-finance the loan.
Following the closing of the Caserones transaction, the team quickly moved on to its second acquisition of the year, which closed in December 2021. This deal saw Altus acquire interests in a portfolio of primarily precious metal royalties from Newcrest Mining Ltd for US$24 million. The portfolio includes two current gold mines and one near-production gold mine as well as 21 near-term development and exploration stage projects. All but one of the projects are located in Australia, further diversifying Altus’ portfolio and adding another Tier-1 jurisdiction, the other is in Côte d’Ivoire, where Altus already holds royalties on two self-generated projects, one for gold and one for nickel-cobalt.
The first income from the Ballarat and SKO royalties in Australia was received in March 2022, which, together with Caserones, brought the quarterly gross income from royalties to approximately US$1.8 million.
For the transaction with Newcrest, Altus was delighted to be working with another royalty partner, AlphaStream Limited, a specialist mining royalty investment and streaming company. Altus and AlphaStream incorporated two SPV’s one of which holds a 100% interest in an Australian subsidiary holding the Australian royalty assets, and the other which holds the royalty asset in Côte d’Ivoire directly.
The transaction with Newcrest was supported by a placing and subscription of new Ordinary Shares raising US$26.1 million from both existing as well as new institutional investors alongside a concurrent subscription by the Company’s major shareholder, La Mancha, as well as various Altus directors, officers and other investors. Further details of the royalties acquired in Chile, Australia and Côte d’Ivoire are provided in the portfolio review on pages 31 to 34.
Our Portfolio of gold projects in Mali
The Company has made notable progress during the year on its Diba and Lakanfla gold project in western Mali, where a series of drilling programmes has been undertaken across the project targeting strike extensions and new zones of mineralisation. Altus took the decision to self-fund these drilling programmes to accelerate advancement of the project, and to build on the MRE and PEA produced by Mining Plus UK Ltd in 2020.
In January 2022 Altus regained 100% ownership of the Lakanfla licence from its joint venture partner Marvel Gold. Lakanfla is located just 5km east of the Diba licence and is considered to be highly prospective based on previous exploration programmes and the presence of substantial hard rock artisanal gold workings. The drilling programme was expanded to test the on strike and down-dip potential of the Diba Deposit, Diba NW prospect and the Lakanfla Central prospect. An updated MRE and PEA for the combined Diba and Lakanfla project will be prepared once the results from the drilling programmes have been assessed.
In southern Mali, progress has continued with our joint venture on the Tabakorole gold project funded by partner Marvel Gold. An updated MRE on Tabakorole was published in October 2021 and exceeded one million ounces, (comprising 17.3 million tonnes at 1.2 g/t Au for 665,000 ounces (“oz”) in the Inferred category, 9.2 million tonnes at 1.2 g/t Au for 360,000oz in the Indicated category). This is a major milestone for the project, and includes 70% of the upgraded MRE being within 150m of surface complemented by high metallurgical gold recoveries averaging 97%. Tabakorole is shaping up to be a potentially significant gold development project in west Africa with substantial upside for Altus. At the year end, Altus held a 49% interest in Tabakorole, which has since been reduced to 30% in line with the JV agreement. Altus holds a 2.5% NSR royalty on the Tabakorole project.
A new portfolio of gold projects in Egypt
The establishment of operations in Egypt in 2021 represents perhaps the most significant expansion of our activities since our plan of arrangement with TSX-V listed Legend Gold in 2018 for its portfolio of gold projects in Mali. Nine licences were awarded to Altus in Egypt in 2021, from the internationally competitive inaugural licence bid round process. The licences form four distinct project areas and cover a substantial area of the highly prospective Eastern Desert. By the end of the year, exploration was already underway on two of the projects, namely Gabal Al-Shaluhl and Wadi Dubur, representing 1,044km2 of the 1,565km2 of the Company’s licence base in Egypt.
The ramp up of operations has been swift. An office has been set up in Cairo managed by Mark Campbell, our newly appointed General Manager in Egypt, ably supported by an enthusiastic and well-connected technical and administrative team. The Company is also delighted to have David Hall on the team, as Strategic Advisor for Egypt.
I am extremely pleased with the development of our growing and high-calibre team in Egypt and confident that they will make rapid progress in advancing our projects in the coming year. While exploration is still in its early stages, our initial reconnaissance is revealing a high incidence of hard rock artisanal gold workings within highly prospective geological belts which underscore the very high prospectivity of our licences.
Further details of the Company’s discovery assets are provided in the Portfolio Review – Discovery Projects Portfolio on pages 36 to 48.
Divestment of Moroccan silver and base metal portfolio
Our royalty generation business is dynamic and predicated on our ability to make new mineral discoveries and monetise these for royalty interests, plus cash and equity. The sale of the Company’s fourteen, primarily copper and silver, exploration projects in Morocco is in line with this strategy. We signed an agreement with Eastinco in November 2021 to divest Altus’ interest in its Moroccan projects. Subject to the admission of the shares of Eastinco onto the LSE Standard List, Altus will become a material shareholder of Eastinco holding up to 25% of the issued capital, receive a reimbursement of up to £250,000 in respect of exploration expenditures incurred and retain a 2.5% NSR royalty interest on each of the Moroccan projects. Altus will also obtain an NSR royalty interest in Eastinco’s producing Musasa tantalum project in Rwanda.
The Company completed two successful equity fundraisings during the year, raising a total of £27.5 million before expenses. The first of these, in March 2021, was undertaken to support the development of the Company’s royalty generation assets, principally in Mali and Egypt. The second, completed in December 2021, provided funding for the acquisition of the portfolio of royalties from Newcrest. A number of existing investors participated in the equity fundraisings, including our cornerstone shareholder La Mancha, and we also welcomed several new and notable institutional investors to our register. A number of directors and senior managers also participated in the fundraisings.
La Mancha further demonstrated its strategic support for the Company through the provision of a US$29 million strategic acquisition debt facility to partly fund the acquisition of the Caserones royalty. This was the Company’s first such use of debt funding and it was fundamental to catalysing our royalty acquisition strategy.
The Altus portfolio of royalties and projects is weighted towards gold, with exposure being over 50%. Gold remains the ultimate liquid “safe-haven” for investors seeking protection from heightened geopolitical risks and the value-destructive impacts of inflation on cash and cash-like investments.
The gold price started the year at around $1,900/oz, eased to around $1,700/oz by early March before recovering to around $1,800/oz, where it remained for much of 2021. Following the Russian incursion in Ukraine in early March 2022, gold rose briefly almost touching $2,100/oz before falling back closer to $1,900/oz. Our portfolio of cash paying and development stage gold royalties which Altus acquired from Newcrest in December 2021, provides our shareholders with direct and relatively low risk exposure to the current and future strength in the price of gold.
Notwithstanding the concerning situation in Ukraine and its wider geopolitical and inflationary implications, the world’s major economies continue to promote an agenda to decarbonise the global economy with a “Net Zero” target. This objective will have potentially transformational, and perhaps yet to be fully appreciated, implications for the demand for copper, nickel and rare earth metals given their fundamental role in the generation, transmission and consumption of renewable energy. Altus continues to seek to increase its exposure to these metals and others which also stand to benefit from a post-Covid-19 recovery in global growth and infrastructure development. Already, there has been a sustained surge in the prices of many commodities, as global supply chains restock and government infrastructure spending increases. The copper price was on an upward trend at the start of the year, opening at around US$3.50 per pound (”lb”). It broke through US$4.00/lb in early February and remained above this threshold for the rest of 2021, dipping close to US$4.00/lb again in April and July, but climbing above US$4.70/lb in May and October. It too soared in early March 2022 to above US$4.90/lb before falling back slightly. Our ownership of a strategic royalty interest on the Caserones copper mine in Chile, acquired by Altus for US$34.5 Million in August 2021, provides our shareholders with direct and relatively low risk exposure to the current and future strength in the price of copper.
In response to accelerating inflation, central banks around the world have now started, arguably belatedly, to raise interest rates with the chairs of central banks guiding that more aggressive interest rate rises may be required in the months and years ahead. Should confidence in economic growth fall for whatever reason, in a period of rising interest rates and excessive (government, corporate and personal) debt, the potential for a substantial economic reset will be significant. Gold continues to represent the ultimate hedge against the potential dramatic consequences of a systemic debt driven financial crisis, as well as the impacts of real negative interests, for as long as inflation rates continue to exceed interest rates.
This has been another transformational year for Altus and our asset portfolio. We have completed two landmark transactions to acquire cash paying royalties, received our maiden royalty income from these, expanded our discovery portfolio into the highly prospective Eastern Desert of Egypt, advanced our the Diba & Lakanfla gold project in Mali though successful drilling programmes, structured the divestment and royalty creation on our Moroccan portfolio of assets and embodied the Company’s strategy of generating growth for shareholders through diversification.
Commodity markets are being pushed higher by the drive to decarbonise, the post-covid global recovery and by geopolitical events. The growth of Altus over the past year and the balance of assets in our portfolio puts us in a strong position to not just meet the challenges ahead, but to generate superior performance for our shareholders.
Our key objectives for 2022 are to:
- continue to grow the Company’s revenues with the acquisition of further cash-paying royalties;
- continue to grow and realise value from our royalty generation activities across Africa;
- to conduct business with due regard for the Company’s stakeholders and our environmental as well as social responsibilities.
Our long-term objective is to realise substantial returns for shareholders, by generating significant positive cashflow from a diversified portfolio of high-quality royalty and project interests. Altus has never had a stronger asset base, team or outlook and I very much look forward to the year ahead.
In the meantime, I take this opportunity to thank all of the Altus team for their exceptionally hard work and dedication throughout what has been an extraordinarily busy year. I also take this opportunity to thank our new and existing shareholders for their continued support.
Chief Executive Officer
This announcement is avalible in full by following this link: https://altus-strategies.com/site/assets/files/5616/altus_nr_-_fs-_29_apr_2022_uk.pdf