Brett Boynton has barely had time to warm
up his seat as the new CEO of StratMin Global Resources and
already he is beset by suitors eager to team up over the
company’s Loharano graphite mine in
"I’ve had my feet under the
desk 10 minutes and already I’ve got incoming
calls offering collaboration opportunities," Boynton told
"We are definitely open to offers and have
had some discussions, but we’re waiting for the
right opening to come along."
StratMin’s main attraction is
its ability to produce flake graphite with consistent purity of
over 94% C at a steady rate – currently in the mid-200
tpm (dry) range, but with a design capacity of up to 350 tpm
– from its 5.7m tonne JORC inferred resource, mine and
plant in northeast Madagascar.
All of its output above the 94% C
benchmark is contracted to an undisclosed offtaker at market
prices and shipped out of the eastern port of Tamatave, two
hours away by road from Loharano.
|Floating its graphite boat: StratMin's
commercially-operating plant in Madagascar is one of its
key assets (source: StratMin).
Boynton is the company’s latest strategic
addition. A former corporate financier with roots in Zimbabwe
and the UK, the Australia-based high-flyer was announced as CEO
of UK AIM-listed StratMin last week, replacing the incumbent,
Manoli Yannaghas, who stood down from the company board with
Dubbed "Holy Manoli" in some circles for
his feat of turning overpromising and underdelivering StratMin
from an investment shell with a two-decade-old mothballed mine
into a commercially operating facility, Yannaghas has left
Boynton to pursue a different, if no less arduous, task of
growing the company’s size and reach.
With infrastructure and a buyer for its
products already in place, plus the capacity to expand,
StratMin is in a prime position to consolidate into a supplier
of some clout in the global graphite market, which is presently
dominated by China.
As a potential partner, therefore, the
company is a very eligible proposition and Boynton will have to
decide on a match – a goal that not all that long ago
might have seemed quixotic.
Secretive and fiercely competitive, the
graphite industry is not renowned as an arena for making
friends, let alone forming long and committed
But as funding tightens and the selling
price of graphite casts an unforgiving light on the economic
viability of exploration projects, making many look much less
attractive than they did at the height of the graphite boom in
2011, companies are beginning to sense there might be strength
Fresh as he is from leading positions at a
number of Australia-listed resource companies, Boynton is well
aware of the penchant for graphite in both the Australian media
and on the ASX.
His role at StratMin will be to channel
this fervour into momentum for the miner, whose share price is currently
hovering around the £0.05/share ($0.08/share*) mark
– some way off the £0.71/share high seen in
"My job with StratMin is not to be a
technical expert but to build a team that can deliver the best
results," Boynton told IM. "The company
has made a successful transition to a commercial graphite miner
and now we’re looking at expansion opportunities,
from both strategic and organic points of view."
In March, the company confirmed it was
looking at options to finance expansion at
Loharano, following the publication of exploration results in
February, which revealed the presence of graphite grading up to
11% C at the previously unexplored Mahefadok, Mahela and
Plans to increase the size of the project
are expected to involve the opening of additional mining pits
and the installation of a second processing plant, for a total
production capacity of 1,000 tpm graphite.
"Madagascar is not the right environment
for a 100,000 tpa plant," Boynton said.
"We would look at other areas in Africa,
but at the moment we are concentrating on maximising the value
of what we have. Strategically, we’ve already got
the infrastructure set up in Madagascar, so it makes sense to
use that. Collaborations could be on a logistical or
operational level, or both," he added.
Boynton is also looking at opportunities
to produce more valuable graphite products, particularly given
what he calls the "dynamic shift" in the global graphite
"We think this shift is going to be both
supply led and demand led, with the clean-up
that’s going on in China and the drop-off in grade
affecting supply and new growth markets shaping demand,
particularly in India. For us, Asia is definitely the expansion
space," he told IM.
With experience as a senior banker at top
financial institutions including UBS and Credit Suisse, Boynton
is part of a trend of financiers who have made the leap from
banking to mining. He admits that executives with this type of
background have something of a chequered reputation in the
"Some have done fantastically well and
others not so well. I don’t really view myself as
an ex-banker, though – I saw the job in finance as an
international passport and took an opportunity to move over
into another sector where I felt I could make an impact."
Boynton’s first tasks, after
ingratiating himself with StratMin’s UK-based
investors, will be to get the Loharano plant up to its
nameplate capacity and broadening the company’s
appeal back home.
"The Australian market is really focused
on graphite at the moment, with successful companies achieving
excellent valuations," he said. "I will be taking the StratMin
story to this audience to diversify the London shareholder
*Conversion made June