“We’ve secured this very exciting project in Portugal. It could be the best lithium project in Europe.”
It’s a bold claim to make, given the strength of the competition from the likes of European Metals Holdings and European Lithium.
But in making that claim, Archer has a geological trick up his sleeve.
“Our Mina do Barroso project in Portugal is in spodumene,” he explains. “Hard rock spodumene is a demonstrably successful mode of producing lithium from mines. The product is highly sought.”
Other projects on the continent do stand out for their size or location, but in Archer’s book the geology of Mina do Barroso trumps it all.
“It’s open-cut and the metallurgical work says we can produce a 6% lithium concentrate,” he says.
READ: Savannah Resources hits "some of best grades ever seen in Europe" at lithium deposit in Portugal
What’s more, it could be very sizeable indeed.
Overall, Savannah’s Portuguese land package comprises more than a thousand square kilometres of ground, with Mina do Barroso the only area which has been looked at really closely.
And even here, much of the previous work focused on the production of ceramics rather than lithium. That’s left a situation in which strike length, width and down-dip potential hasn’t yet been properly assessed. It’s a process that Savannah is beginning to rectify, with encouraging results.
Among the most recent highlights have been drill intercepts from the Grandao deposit of 109 metres at 1.04 Li2O, 71 metres at 1.06% Li2O 32 metres and 31 metres at 1.2% Li2O. A second deposit at Reservatorio is also being drilled out, with equally promising results.
All told, Savannah put more than 5,000 metres worth of drilling into the ground last year, part of a programme which is rolling straight over into 2018.
Already the company has established an initial inferred mineral resource of 3.2 mln tonnes of ore grading 1% Li2O at Reservatorio, with a resource for Grandao expected shortly. It’s also been mooted that a development decision might also be taken this year, though with drilling continuing it’s also possible the company will want to see exactly how extensive its lithium resource base really is before it sets the bulldozers rolling.
The backdrop to all this is of course the burgeoning market for lithium, as used increasingly in batteries and particularly in electric vehicles.
“We see a very strong emerging lithium requirement in Europe,” says Archer. “European car manufacturers are very keen on securing the whole value chain. And we’re the closest European analogue to the successful Australian producers.”
Even so, Archer is keen that Savannah doesn’t put all its eggs in one particular basket.
“We have a pipeline of projects,” he says. “We are not a single project company.”
To that end Savannah also holds the Mutamba mineral sands project in Mozambique, the Block 4 and 5 copper projects in Oman, and the Somero and Eräjärvi lithium projects in Finland.
Of all the traditional metals, copper is in many ways the metal of the moment, having been on its longest consistent winning streak in nigh on thirty years. Markets are bullish on the ongoing industrialisation and modernization of Asian economies, not to mention the opportunities presented by the rise of the affluent middle-classes in ever-greater numbers.
“Oman is in the final stages of licensing and we hope to have that completed in the next few months,” says Archer. “It’s a project that’s on a fairly modest scale, but we’ve been overwhelmed by the degree of interest from copper traders.”
Meanwhile, at Mutamba the successful completion of a scoping study has led into pre-feasibility work. This project, too, Archer sees as benefiting from the rise in electric vehicles, as titanium is also a major component in batteries.
Following a £4 mln raise that was completed in the latter part of 2017, there’s money in the bank to make all these plans happen. The company is well-supported, including by an Omani conglomerate which is as interested in the energy assets as in the Omani copper projects.
So, what should investors look out for this year? There’s no doubt Portugal will play a leading role in Savannah’s newsflow.
“The government is looking to support the development of a lithium industry in the country,” says Archer. “And Tesla has been looking around in Portugal. I think we’ll be leading the charge there.”