Traders Cafe with Zak Mir: Lars Brünner, Interim CEO GreenRoc Mining
Lars Brünner, Non-Executive Director of GreenRoc Mining Plc, the developer of critical metals projects in Greenland, has recently taken over the reins as CEO of the Company on an interim basis while GreenRoc secures a permanent successor to Kirk Adams. Although temporary, this is an interesting appointment in the sense that Mr Brünner has decades-long professional and personal experience of the country, he speaks the language (or, at least, one of the main dialects) and knows most of the key movers and shakers in what is still a relatively small and tight-knit governmental and business community.
“Many people refer to Greenland as the new mining frontier, and it’s true that many are only now beginning to understand the significant resource potential of this fantastic country and the pro-mining attitude of the Government, but it’s by no means new to me,” explained Mr Brünner when I caught up with him recently.
A Dane who has been immersed in Greenland for more than 40 years, a large portion of which was as an environmental consultant working for governmental bodies and mining companies, Mr Brünner has an in-depth knowledge of Greenlandic culture and environment, as well as its legal and regulatory framework. In short, he knows precisely what is required of a mining company like GreenRoc, with advanced exploration projects which it is seeking to fast-track towards development.
“Whilst my job title might be different at the moment,” said Mr Brünner, my overall objective and focus remain unchanged, which is to use all my experience to support GreenRoc in its move from explorer to developer, as we advance our key Amitsoq Graphite and Thule Black Sands deposits towards production.”
Since it came to market last year, GreenRoc has made clear progress towards its goal of progressing swiftly into the development phase, announcing this week a significant increase to the Exploration Target at the Amitsoq Island Deposit in southern Greenland, one of the highest-grade graphite deposits in the world. If converted to a JORC Resource by the forthcoming summer drilling programme, the upper end of the new Exploration Target of 5-15 Mt at a grade of 18-20% would see Amitsoq Island’s revised total Resource of 4.93 Mt of contained graphite rival that of Talga Group’s main asset, Vittangi in Sweden. The reference to Vittangi is apposite because both Vittangi and Amitsoq happen to be the two highest-grade advanced graphite deposits in the world. While Vittangi is at a more advanced stage, Talga’s current market cap of around AUD $400m (or approximately £225m) gives some indication of the blue-sky potential of GreenRoc’s flagship project.
The new Exploration Target followed on the heels of the unveiling in March of a significant Maiden Resource for the Amitsoq Island deposit of 8.28 Mt at an average grade of 19.75% and a total graphite content of 1.63 Mt.
“The progress we have achieved in such a short period of time since listing is testament to the quality of our assets, the strength of our operational team and our commitment to project development,” explained Mr Brünner.
He is, however, keen to note that GreenRoc is only just getting started. More than half of the 5-15 Mt Exploration Target area remains undrilled, with an upcoming drill programme due to put this to the test this summer, and further upside remains from the wider portfolio, notably at Thule Black Sands, its mineral sands deposit in north-west Greenland.
“Our focus at Amitsoq is on building the Resource tonnage to a level that will support a detailed feasibility study. We have shown that we can convert our high-grade ore into high-purity graphite, which is what battery manufacturers require to support the explosive global demand for electric vehicles, and now we intend to prove that we have the scale too,” said a bullish Mr Brünner as we wrapped up our chat.
Clearly, what will be interesting to see is whether the stock market is able to fully value not only this upgrade, but the full potential of the company. Part of the issue here may be that while many investors are aware of the importance of graphite in the EV and energy storage revolution, the upside is perhaps still yet to be defined. On this aspect, Mr Brünner is passionate: “Our commercial value is clear. Market demand continues to rise for graphite and there is a critical need for new projects such as Amitsoq; namely those that not only have the grade quality and resource quantity but also have the operational and jurisdictional security.”
Indeed, part of the attraction of GreenRoc is that it is operating in a safe, western jurisdiction. In recent years, the Greenland Government has been keen to up the ante and support the mining sector in terms of streamlining the process for obtaining a mining licence, even going so far as to waive all expenditure commitments for mineral exploration companies for the full two years of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The elements and compounds that will play a key part in the transition to net zero clearly include graphite, the largest component by weight in an EV battery - which brings to mind the comment made by a certain Elon Musk a while back that Tesla’s “lithium-ion batteries” should really be called “nickel-graphite batteries” due to the relative importance of those materials in the make-up of every EV battery.
Shares in GreenRoc are currently trading at a little more than half the level they were when they came to market, but given how incrementally more important the EV revolution has become since the pandemic and, in turn, since the rocketing oil prices after the Ukraine invasion, allied with the exceptional grade and quality of the graphite at Amitsoq, it seems just a matter of time before the valuation of the Company catches up with its strong operational performance.
Certainly, the involvement of Lars Brünner, and his steadfast commitment to the GreenRoc cause, looks likely to continue to be invaluable to the future prospects of the Company in the months and years ahead.
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