Nechalacho mine’s owner loses yet another executive
The chief financial officer of Nechalacho mine owner Vital Metals has left the company, two weeks after the managing director quit.
Damon Colbert “has resigned to pursue other interests,” the company said in a brief statement on Monday. Managing director John Dorward resigned in March after four months in post.
Both Dorward and Colbert provided three months’ notice, the company said.
Vital’s chairman, Evan Cranston, left the board in February. Richard Crookes is the interim chairman.
Colbert’s appointment as chief financial officer was only announced in September. Three months later, Vital said it was “pivoting strategy” to place more emphasis on expanding operations at Nechalacho, the small-scale rare earths mine it operates east of Yellowknife.
The Australian firm stated on Monday that it “has a strong finance team in place across its workforce in Australia and Canada, who will provide the necessary continuity following Mr Colbert’s departure.”
On Monday evening, Vital Metals was trading at AUD $0.015 on Australia’s ASX stock exchange, a low last seen in 2020, before Nechalacho began operations.
In a separate regulatory filing published to the NWT’s public registry last month, Vital requested a two-year extension to a land use permit because of “operational delays.”
Chief operating officer Eben Visser told regulators work had been hampered by “supply chain delays in the wake of Covid-19 and constraints in the operations logistics network, specifically the ability to ship
product to the Vital Metals Saskatoon facility.”
‘Additional reserves’ targeted
In an email also published to the registry, David Connelly – Vital’s Yellowknife-based vice-president of strategy and corporate affairs – told Chief James Marlowe of the Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation that more time was needed “to finish what we had expected to do.”
“This is a demonstration project. Because of Covid and logistics, we did not finish the demonstration project on time,” Connelly wrote to Marlowe.
“If, as we hope, the demonstration project is successful, then we will move on to applying for authorizations for the much longer-term mine.”
Earlier emails show Connelly telling the Yellowknives Dene First Nation: “We did not achieve our planned shipments of 5,000 tons of rare earth concentrate per year in our first two years of operation.
“During the last two years of development activity at [the demonstration project], we identified additional reserves that can be accessed.
“Processing this material as part of the demonstration project will enable us to improve the long-term sustainability of the Nechalacho project.”
Ultimately, the company hopes to speed up the process of opening Nechalacho’s Tardiff deposit for extraction.
Tardiff is separate from the deposit currently being mined, which has always been billed as a small demonstration of the rare earth minerals available at Nechalacho.
By contrast, Vital says Tardiff is a “world class” deposit. Staff talk of mining millions of tons annually, many times the demonstration mine’s initial 100,000-ton target, when Tardiff comes online and introduces a second phase of the mine’s life.
Tardiff “has the potential to anchor what we believe will ultimately be a globally significant producer of rare earth minerals,” Vital stated in a press release just before Christmas.