Three years after it first started digging metal out of the ground, AIM-listed precious metals miner Eurasia Mining (LSE:EUA) is in the process of selling its platinum and palladium assets and projects in Russia.
This year’s pandemic has highlighted how very few independent players remain in the PGMs (platinum group metals) market – note the full South African lockdown – and despite the initial knock to platinum and palladium prices will likely work in favour of Eurasia’s sale plans.
The company is currently in an offer period and has enlisted the likes of UBS and legal firm DLA Piper to work through the sales process. It also has a success-fee arrangement with China’s investment group CITIC, a long-term partner.
Eurasia Mining has not mentioned any potential buyers but the company’s executive chairman Christian Schaffalitzky frequently talks about a rising demand from China’s car producers for PGMs. Given the success-fee arrangement with CITIC it stands to reason that the firm is looking at the Chinese market for a buyer.
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Eurasia Mining has one operational mine, West Kytlim in the Urals, which has been producing platinum and several other precious metals since 2018. Over the last year it has gained full control over the mining operations in West Kytlim and has been granted an additional exploration licence for an adjacent project that could expand the life of the mine. It’s other major project is the Monchetundra palladium located, in Russian terms, not far from the border with Finland and only 3km away from Severonickel, one of the largest PGM processing plants operated by Russia’s Norilsk Nickel.
Monchetundra is a fully permited open pit project which will eventually produce palladium, platinum, iridium and gold. In August the company was granted an additional licence for Monchetundra Flanks.
Mining in the age of corona
Throughout the pandemic Russia has had a high number of daily cases and has locked its borders for the better part of spring and summer, making it difficult for non-Russians to enter. At the same time the country was keen to avoid interruptions to mining, one of its key industries, and has encouraged miners to continue operating. So throughout the crisis West Kytlim mine remained operational with the open pit operations undergoing only relatively minor adjustments to ensure staff safety.
In the broader platinum and palladium market COVID played a convoluted role this year. South Africa’s production, the world’s largest, completely stopped between March and April and then only came back in dribs and drabs. While you might expect that this caused platinum and palladium to rise, it didn’t. Instead, they plunged to the lowest level since 2008 as car sales ground to a halt during the first wave of lockdowns. Both metals, but particularly palladium are a key component in emission-reducing car converters. Now that the coronavirus is going through its second wave cars have become the preferred mode of travel while public transport remains shunned, a picture that is likely to remain in place for at least another six if not nine months.
The Eurasia Mining team
The company brought in a safe pair of hands to lead the sale, appointing former non-executive director James Nieuwenhuys as the new chief executive. He brings with him experience of both the South African platinum industry and Russia’s precious metals production, having previously worked as the CEO of South Africa’s Lesotho Platinum and the COO at Russia’s gold producer Polyus Gold. Nieuwenhuys joined Eurasia last November after completing due diligence for a buyer.
The mining company’s financials are not yet as strong as they could be, but are continously improving. Eurasia’s revenue declined to £1.13m in 2019, down from £2.57m the year before, but during that year the company bought its own mining equipment which allowed it to gain full control of the West Kytlim in June this year.
When Eurasia Mining initially started mining in 2018 the mine was operated by a contractor and the revenue was split, with Eurasia Mining keeping 35%, whereas now all of the revenue goes to the company. The net loss in 2019 also decreased to £800,000, down from a £2.62 million in 2018. In the first six months of this year the firm’s revenue was £48,000 while the net loss widened to £1.1m.
“The Company is in a strong financial position, considerably stronger than at any point in the past decade. Following the completion of the placing with institutional investors announced in August 2020, the company raised $10m,” said Christian Schaffalitzky, Eurasia’s executive chairman.
The miner has no debt and it still has an unused credit line of $1m from its largest shareholder, put in place in June 2018.
Eurasia Mining shares spike
The planned sale has sparked a lot of investor interest and shares have been rising all of this week, rallying from 18.75 at the end of September to 34.90 today. Given the overall state of the platinum and palladium market, the interruptions in South African output of PGMs because of COVID and the strong demand from the car industry, PGM prices may have some way to go. A solid operational setup and a positive PGM price picture mean that the miner is well positioned for a sale.