The owner of the NWT’s Nechalacho mine has dismissed its managing director, even as the company’s position in the burgeoning critical minerals sector appeared to be strengthening.
Vital Metals announced on Tuesday that Geoff Atkins had left his position with immediate effect. Russell Bradford becomes the company’s interim chief executive.
No reason for Atkins’ departure was given. In an unusually terse news release, the company made no further mention of Atkins other than to confirm he was leaving.
Bradford, the company said, arrived at Vital Metals following private equity firm Lionhead Resources’ recent $27-million investment in Vital.
Evan Cranston, Vital’s chairman, said the company would continue “to develop its rare earths assets in Canada, with the goal of becoming Canada’s first rare-earth producer in a time where diversification of supply is critical and essential.”
The Nechalacho mine, east of Yellowknife, is central to those prospects.
Operations at the mine began last summer, creating around 30 seasonal jobs at what is considered a demonstration-scale mine with plenty of potential for expansion.
Materials mined at Nechalacho help to power key parts of vehicles, especially electric vehicles, and are used in various other green technologies. (Critics note the process of mining those materials still leaves an environmental footprint, even if the ultimate products are greener than some alternatives.)
Just this week, invitations were being extended to a “rare earth summit” in Saskatoon next month where Vital intends to show off its extraction plant and a companion, government-backed processing facility, all steps in turning Nechalacho’s ore into an end product. The company already has a Norwegian distributor and German auto parts manufacturer lined up as customers.
‘Dynamic’ meeting with German firms
Atkins’ departure comes within days of Vital Metals occupying a seat at a high-level critical minerals meeting between Canadian mining firms and a delegation of German business leaders.
Cabin Radio understands further discussions have already taken place between Vital and at least one prospective German customer.
David Connelly, vice-president of strategy and corporate affairs for Cheetah Resources and Vital Metals, said the meeting – with more than a dozen German leaders representing corporations like BMW and Mercedes-Benz – was “extremely dynamic and exciting” for Vital, which he said was one of five mining companies chosen to attend and two chosen to present.
Those corporations, Connelly said, “see their supply chains for critical minerals as unstable and they see Canada as a friend and ally.”
The effect of Atkins’ departure on that area of Vital’s business was not immediately clear. Connelly, who said on Tuesday evening he had seen the news of Atkins’ dismissal “minutes ago,” had no further comment.
Cranston, in Tuesday’s news release, said Vital had “commenced the search for a suitably qualified candidate” to replace Atkins.