19-June-2020: Clean TeQ Sunrise Project Update
Despite the usual positive spin around the poor supply outlook for nickel and cobalt battery materials, this is another negative update for CLQ's Sunrise nickel / cobalt / scandium project, and CLQ have been sold down by over 14% to 15 cps today (as at 2:50pm), and have been as low as 14 cps (down -20%).
Positive spin: Sam Riggall, Clean TeQ’s CEO, noted: “Even between the most conservative and optimistic EV growth projections, the mining sector needs to build between two and four Sunrise projects every year for the next decade simply to meet EV battery demand for nickel and cobalt. Global automotive supply chains are dangerously underestimating development timeframes and capital requirements, which is why some carmakers are now contracting directly with mining companies to secure a supply of strategic metals. At some point in this game of musical chairs, the music will stop and not everyone will have a seat.”
Of perhaps more consequence to the long-term sustainability of EV supply chains, however, are a range of projects under development or consideration that pose material reputational risks due to their environmental impacts. These include the dumping of mine and process waste directly into the ocean and high carbon intensity in metal processing.
“We have a vision for Sunrise, embedded within the design and engineering of the PEP, that optimises its value as an integrated part of any carmaker’s EV supply chain,” stated Mr Riggall. “This includes a direct-to-sulphate production process to by-pass offshore refining, options for connecting the plant to renewable energy, a battery recycling circuit and refining of scandium to improve materials performance for aerospace and automotive applications.”
Given the strong outlook for nickel and cobalt demand, the Company remains committed to developing the Project once funding has been secured. As such, the partnering process will continue, however the targeted timing for completion of any transaction is not possible to forecast, particularly in light of the significant uncertainty currently impacting the global economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reality: Project Execution Plan: The Company has been progressing the Project Execution Plan (PEP) in conjunction with Fluor Australia Pty Ltd, part of the Fluor global engineering group headquartered in Irving, Texas.
As previously advised, the PEP deliverables are an update to the 2018 Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) production forecast, resources, reserves and operating and capital cost estimates for the Project. These will incorporate the latest design and engineering work, as well as a revised master schedule for the Project.
On completion of the PEP, and subject to funding, Sunrise is one of the few developmentready nickel-cobalt battery material projects in the world.
While the PEP works are substantially complete, there have been delays in finalising some workstreams. The Company estimates that completion of these workstreams, as well as the requisite review and sign-off processes, will result in the announcement of the PEP results being delayed to late in Q3 2020.
Financing Update: The partnering process the Company has been running, with the support of Macquarie Capital, remains on-going. Although good interest has been expressed by a number of parties through that process, and engagement across the EV supply chain continues, to date the Company has not been able to secure an investment partner for the Project.
As such, the Company is not able to commit to a final investment decision (FID) in mid-2020, as was targeted.
Not unexpectedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented difficult conditions for financial markets and challenges for funding new project development. However, the Company remains optimistic on the outlook for demand growth in the electric vehicle (EV) and lithiumion battery sectors, and in particular the strategic importance of Sunrise as one of the largest suppliers of battery-grade nickel and cobalt into the global EV supply chain.
--- click on the link above for the full announcement ---
Disclosure: I did hold CLQ shares, but I sold down and then sold the last of my position in mid-April (2020) at 18.5 cps. I want to see the news flow become positive again, and the SP to start to rise again before I would consider reinitiating a position in CLQ.
Further Reading (from 1 year ago when CLQ shares were 30 cps): https://www.afr.com/street-talk/clean-teq-hires-maccap-for-asset-selldown-20190604-p51u9n
That last story has been repackaged and reposted on many different sites - here is one of those that is more easy to read (larger type and photos for a start):
It's interesting that while they were at college together (we call it university - or uni - here in Australia), Friedland taught Steve Jobs, the legendary founder of Apple, about the reality distortion field theory, which Steve Jobs went on to make his own. That is touched on briefly in that article, and I'll link to the wikipedia article about it below. It's also interesting that Steve Jobs went from thinking of Friedland as a guru to thinking of him more as a con man. Friedland has more than his fair share of critics. Others say that he does what it takes. Example: How he's talking up copper right now, and how that plays into his own business interests. He knows how to "raise awareness" and how to promote. He's a consumate spruiker. That alone doesn't make him a bad person, but some would argue that some of the methods he employs do. I don't have a strong opinion on Friedland from an ethical point of view. I note that Friedland tends to get things done, and that his efforts will be instrumental if CLQ are to get the Sunrise project in NSW up.
Disclosure: I hold Clean TeQ (CLQ) shares.
Disclosure: I hold some CLQ.
Warning: Robert Friedland, the driving force behind Clean TeQ (CLQ), was described in April 2018 (see here) by Rick Rule (President and CEO of Sprott US Holdings Inc.) as the single best mining financier that he has ever met - however, Friedland has fingers in many pies - as you will see if you read this recent story:
Clean TeQ is not his only project, or even his primary project, it's just one of a number of projects that he is involved in. Progress does appear to be very slow, however the Sunrise project is being steadily progressed, as today's announcement illustrates, and I think they'll get this thing financed and then built - eventually. It will take some patience however, and CLQ is a very high risk gamble, not an investment. Don't put in more than you can comfortably afford to lose.
I think they'll either multi-bag or go broke. Considering the backers, I doubt they will go broke, but that's not due to the economics, it's due to the people and their tenacity, resilience and determination (and patience). If they don't get the finance, they WILL go broke. However if the associated commodity prices rise enough (particularly nickel and cobalt, plus the outlook for scandium demand - which is reasonably non-existent right now), then the chances of this thing being financed rise a lot.
However, patience is the key, and not tipping in more than you can afford to lose.
24th July 2018:
Clean TeQ Water:
Clean TeQ Water continued to work toward delivery of its existing contracts as well as building a pipeline of new business opportunities both within Australia and overseas.
Oman – Waste water treatment project
During the quarter, Clean TeQ made excellent progress towards completion of a significant supply contract with Multotec Process Equipment (Pty) Limited (Multotec), Clean TeQ’s South African based distributor. The contract is to design, procure and commission a Clean TeQ CIF® wastewater treatment solution at a minerals processing plant under construction in Oman. Construction of the Clean TeQ waste water treatment plant was completed in May and first stage cold commissioning was completed in June 2018. Construction of the mineral processing plant (which will be the source of waste water for the Clean TeQ plant) is expected to be completed during the third quarter, after which Clean TeQ will complete final commissioning and hand over. The plant is designed to remove toxic pollutants, sulphate, antimony and arsenic from wastewater from a flue gas desulphurisation scrubber at the minerals processing plant.
Africa – Metals processing plant in Democratic Republic of Congo
Clean TeQ is also delivering a +A$2 million contract to design, supply and commission a metals processing plant using Clean TeQ’s proprietary Continuous Ion Exchange processing technology at a base metals project located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As with the Oman contract, the project is being delivered to Multotec. During the quarter, works focused on procurement and manufacturing with construction on site expected to commence before the end of 2018.
Australia – Fosterville Gold Mine waste water treatment project
At the Fosterville Gold Mine, Clean TeQ has been engaged to design, supply and commission a 2 million litre-per-day Clean TeQ DeSALx® mine water treatment plant. The plant is designed to deliver a more sustainable water management solution by treating mine process water for reuse in the mine operations.
At the end of the quarter, the majority of the plant’s components had been manufactured and delivered to site, with construction expected to commence in November 2018 before commissioning in Q1 2019.
Continued in a different "ASX Announcements" straw - ran out of room here.
Disclosure: I hold CLQ.
25-Jun-2018: CLQ released the following announcements today:
They included an indicative timetable in the second announcement that may have spooked some punters, as the CLQ SP is down around 12% today at 3:30pm (Sydney time), having been slowly dropping all day. I'll try to paste that timetable in here now:
3 years is a long time in investing - to many people. Well, just over 2.5 years - until commissing at Sunrise, IF everything goes to plan.
The main surprise however is the massive extra cost - at least A$1.77 billion now.
Sunrise was originally called Syerston, and the original 2015 scoping study envisaged a scandium mine costing A$78.4m - see here.
The October 2016 DFS envisaged a nickel/cobalt/scandium mine, worth A$912m - see here.
This is now a HUGE project which will cost at least A$1.77 billion - with a minimum 40-year mine life based on current ore reserves.
The other thing that could be worrying some investors is that it's all about the nickel and cobalt now - the battery metals, which are more bankable - they have existing markets where credible future price modelling is possible. Future scandium demand (and therefore prices) is a lot more difficult to predict. They need Sunrise to stand up on the Ni & Co alone, with scandium being a bonus. There would be some people who got hooked in by the scandium story - "If we build it, they will come!" - and scandium is taking a back seat to nickel and cobalt now.
They still need to lock in more binding offtake agreements for the nickel & cobalt, announce a final funding package, and then the FID (final investment decision) by the CLQ board, which is not scheduled until December or January according to that timeline.
Also, the fact that the actual construction phase is going to take over 18 months and not finish until 2021 is material. It's BIG, and is going to take time to build, and there are a few more things that need to happen before we even get to that building phase.
I'm still bullish on Sunrise getting built, because of the people involved, and because it makes sense. CLQ is a long term play which will take years. Clean TeQ's Water division still isn't profitable so as things stand CLQ is not investment grade. They are pure speculation. I continue to hold them, but I wasn't buying any more today. I'll see where the dust settles and then reassess.
From that article (published on July 6th):
Shares in Clean TeQ have fallen from A$1.06 the day before the Sunrise definitive feasibility study was released to 76c as of yesterday's close.
"I can only assume the market was not impressed by the reaction we saw in the share price," Riggall told the Sydney Mining Club yesterday.
Clean TeQ had already flagged that capex would be higher than the most recent figure of $784 million, published in November 2017, due to the upscaling of the project.
"It's very hard to go back and retrofit an HPAL plant," Riggall said.
"We made the decision to take the hit now."
He admitted the US$1.49 billion capital cost was a "big sticker price".
"Why doesn't $1.5 billion necessarily faze us?"
Riggall said Clean TeQ co-chairman and major shareholder (and original owner of Sunrise) Robert Friedland was no stranger to raising funds, with his Ivanhoe Mines raising an estimated $15-20 billion over the past decade for projects in more challenging jurisdictions.
"Our view is raising another $1.5 billion in happy-clappy New South Wales is not going to be a problem," he said.
"We have significant access to capital for this project."
Clean TeQ's previously appointed banking syndicate, comprising the International Commercial Bank of China, Natixis, NAB and Societe Generale, has been mandated to provide $500 million in debt.
"By the time that comes to syndication, we hope we can get that to $700-800 million."
Riggall said Clean TeQ had experienced strong demand from potential customers, many of which were had been in a data room for some time.
"The challenge over the next 6 months is to turn those discussions into reality," he said.
"An opportunity like this, with so much cobalt coming out of a very safe jurisdiction part of the world, and they understand that."
Sunrise has a long history - it was previously being promoted as a scandium mine - and Riggall estimates that by the time full construction starts, there would have been $200 million already spent on the project.
Riggall admitted that nickel laterite projects had a bad name, but said Sunrise's size, scale and economics meant it was rightfully the first cab off the rank in a new generation of developments.
"We have to execute well because failure for us will probably put every other project back a decade - so it's a lot of pressure to get this right."
I hold CLQ.
They are planning to announce an FID (final investment decision) on Sunrise between now and the end of this calendar year, but they have guided that it would likely be towards the end of the year.
I assume that gap between the FS and the FID would be to give them time to secure offtake agreements and a funding package. Therefore, other potential catalysts would include the announcements of offtake agreements and a funding package.
Other potential catalysts are less predictable, and include further contract announcments for Clean TeQs water business.
Highly speculative opportunity. Could have a lot of upside. Could go to $0 for a 100% loss of capital. For those who like to roll the dice. This one is more like backing a racehorse though, and I've been studying the form guide. Robert Friedland, who owns at least 16% of CLQ, has good form for getting even the most difficult projects up and running, including sourcing funding for them. By contrast to some of his projects, this one should be a doddle.
Sam Riggall, CLQ's MD & CEO owns almost 20m CLQ shares himself and has been working with Robert Friedland for a long time. These guys have a lot of skin in this game, and a lot of reasons to get Sunrise built and operational. These are the Ivanhoe Mines guys who discovered commercially viable copper and gold at Oyu Tolgoi (Turquoise Hill) in Mongolia, which has now become a massive copper/gold mine operated by Rio Tinto.
Disclosure: I hold CLQ shares.
Warning: Only for those with a high risk tolerance, and plenty of patience.
24-Sep-2018: CLQ: "Joint venture to progress graphene oxide technology development" - see here.
This is the 2nd straw relating to this announcement - and contains the second half of the announcement:
...In early 2017, Clean TeQ and Ionic entered into a partnership agreement which required Clean TeQ to fund a $200,000 programme of works for graphene oxide product development and testing with the Monash research team and at Clean TeQ’s facilities. Subject to Clean TeQ successfully completing this product development and testing phase prior to 30 September 2018, Clean TeQ may, at its election, form a joint venture with Ionic for the purpose of bringing the products to market in the field of water purification. Given the positive progress demonstrated during the product development and testing phase, Clean TeQ has elected to progress to the next phase of the partnership with Ionic through the formation of the joint venture.
The joint venture with Ionic will be structured as a newly incorporated joint venture (JV Co) owned 75% by Clean TeQ and 25% by Ionic. Ionic will grant a sub-licence of its GO technologies to JV Co in the field of water purification. Both partners will fund pro-rata expenditure in JV Co to progress development and commercialization of the technology.
Once established, JV Co will be focused on achieving commercial scale production of graphene oxide and GO-Membranes, as well as water purification modules targeted at wholesale and retail customers.
The JV Co will be led by Peter Voigt, Clean TeQ’s founder and Chief Technology Officer, who said “Through the use of advanced materials, like graphene oxide, we have an opportunity to significantly improve and grow the membrane water filtration market. Graphene’s amazing properties provide a window into a new world of water recovery and reuse.”
Commenting on the decision to progress to the next phase of development via the establishment of the joint venture, Clean TeQ’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Sam Riggall, said, “Clean TeQ’s vision is focused on empowering the clean revolution through incremental innovations that provide better performance at lower cost. The application of graphene oxide-based membranes to water treatment is showing strong commercial viability and we look forward to this new joint venture continuing the groundbreaking work in this space.”
For more information about Clean TeQ Water please visit www.cleanteqwater.com.
Disclosure: I hold CLQ.