MUSCAT, JUNE 25 - The joint venture Strategic & Precious Metals Processing LLC (SPMP), which has set up an antimony-gold processing facility in Sohar Freezone, is preparing to commence operations nearly six months after “technical” snags stymied the keenly-anticipated launch of this one-of-a-kind project. SPMP’s plant is billed as the largest antimony roaster outside of China, as well as the world’s first ‘clean plant’ designed and built to EU environmental standards. At full capacity, the high-tech facility is designed to produce in excess of 20,000 tonnes of antimony metal and antimony trioxide (ATO) per annum. A valuable byproduct of antimony production includes gold dore — a semi-pure gold alloy that needs to be further refined to yield pure gold. Output of gold dore is estimated at 20,000 ounces per annum (approximately 560 kilos).
Oman Investment Fund (OIF), a sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman, has a 40 per cent stake in the venture. London-based mineral processing firm Tri-Star Resources has a 40 per cent shareholding as well, while DNR Industries — part of Dutco Group in the UAE — owns the balance 20 per cent stake.
In a statement, Tri-Star Resources, which helped spearhead the antimony roaster project, announced that remedial works to address the technical issues revealed by SPMP in February this year have been “largely completed”. A new gas cooling solution has been installed, while modifications to the electric furnace have been successfully carried out as well, it said.
“SPMP now expects to be able to move to the production phase of processing antimony and gold dore. Accordingly, the Company looks forward to making further announcements in this regard over the coming months as ramp up commences,” it stated.
Tri-Star says it is also looking at securing additional debt funding to help meet the cost of improvements to the plant, as well as other expenses racked up by SPMP during the past year. To this end, SPMP has appointed Hannam & Partners (H&P), a London-based independent investment bank, to secure further debt funding for the company.
“It is considered by the SPMP board that the most likely funding sources will be the regional banks and specialist debt investors,” said Tri-Star Resources in its statement. “It remains the intention, as noted in the announcement dated March 20, 2019, that approximately $52 million of SPMP’s existing Mezzanine Loan (including accrued interest) will be converted into an interest free shareholder loan and/or equity on a pro-rata basis to OIF’s, Tri-Star’s and DNR’s current shareholdings with the balance of approximately $15 million remaining on existing terms.
This is in addition to the $35m of shareholder Mezzanine Loans from OIF and DNR agreed in March. SPMP and Tri-Star continue to investigate how best to structure the conversion for the benefit of all stakeholders,” it added.