Noventa: Marropino Tantalum Mine Producing Once Again

- April 28th, 2010

Tantalum miner Noventa (AIM:NVTA) announced this week that its sidelined Marropino mine in Mozambique will once again be churning out tantalum concentrate.

By Melissa Pistilli—Exclusive to Tantalum Investing News

Tantalum miner Noventa (AIM:NVTA) announced this week that its sidelined Marropino Mine in Mozambique will once again be churning out tantalum concentrate. And along with a new CEO, Patrick Lawless, due to replace John Allan in June, the miner is also looking to list on the TSX.

The market welcomed the news, and Proactive Investors reported Noventa’s shares rallied about 18 percent after the news broke Monday of this week.

Marropino’s return to production is significant to the tantalum market because there are so few major producers of the metal worldwide; especially, since Talison halted production at its Wodgina mine, the world’s largest tantalum-producing mine, in 2008 and Cabot Corp. suspended mining and processing operations at its Canadian mine last year.

In 2008, the Marropino mine was considered the world’s second-largest tantalum mining operation, according to Tom Vulcan, writing for Hard Assets Investor.

In May of 2009, Noventa placed the mine on care and maintenance to preserve cash resources in the midst of the worldwide economic downturn and said it wouldn’t be able to restart without more investment. The company’s share price by this point had fallen 95 percent over the past year.

In July 2009, a new board took over the company “with the goal of implementing a turnaround strategy.” Based on the positive outlook for tantalum demand, the new board decided later that year to reopen the Marropino mine in the spring of 2010. Noventa wants to avoid the mistakes made in the past this time around.

The current board “believes that the approach that was historically taken to bring the mine into production was incorrect and not as effective as it should have been,” Proactive Investors sub-editor Andre Lamberti reported in August of 2009. “Each element of the process from extraction through processing and distributing to clients is being examined to identify and eliminate losses and inefficiencies. The reserves are being re-examined and assays of the open mine are being taken to verify the ore projections to compare historical assay data with fresh assays.”

On April 25 of this year, Noventa began implementing its three-stage process for bringing the mine back to its former glory. The first phase starts with reprocessing mine tailings, then processing previously mined oversize material in phase two, before moving on to processing new material. This last phase, the Run-of-Mine stage, is slated to begin at the end of 2010 and will involve higher grade tantalum from the main ore body.

Noventa expects to present its shareholders with a newly developed 3-year plan sometime in the next few months, which may include expansion at Marropino, and advancing its Mutala and Morrua properties.

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