Metro eyeing further global bauxite customers  

Metro Mining (ASX:MMI) has its eyes fixed on potential offtake partners in India and the Middle East towards the second half of the decade to ship bauxite from its flagship Bauxite Hills Mine in North Queensland.

Speaking to Mining.com.au on the sidelines of this year’s Brisbane Mining and Investors Conference yesterday (13 March 2024), CEO and Managing Director Simon Wensley predicts India will come online in the back half of this decade once China — where he recently met with existing offtake customers – caps its aluminium production. 

“We have in the past shipped domestically in Australia, but India is a market I think is slowly growing but probably in the back half of this decade will really come on strong. We have also been looking at the Middle East and so these are all potential markets for us. 

China is going to cap their aluminum production which means someone is going to have to step in to start making aluminium, and I think most of these countries like to backward integrate into their alumina. 

From that perspective India has some bauxite but not enough to do that. They also have big ports where we can take our Capesize vessels.

Realistically in the next couple of years it will still be China, but those markets will factor into the other half of this decade.”

The CEO told this news service the company is looking to trial new 220,000-tonne vessels as part of its OFT, which is one of the most ‘significant’ elements in its expansion plan to reach 7 million tonne per annum capacity in 2024.

Meanwhile, Wensley has taken the opportunity at this year’s conference to demonstrate to investors bauxite’s place amid the plethora of precious, base, and battery metals on display yesterday. 

“Some of these other metals seem sexy but there is a lot of risk with them. Bauxite is a nod to iron ore, it is probably the original critical mineral and underpins the most important metal in this energy transition, aluminium. 

Whether you are driving a Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), which had got aluminium in the frame, in the doors, in the batteries, in the wheels, or whether you are putting solar panels in your roof, building a wind turbine, building a grid, which all have to be done over the world, aluminium is core to all of those things. 

In terms of a volume beneficiary of this energy transition, it’s aluminium. If you want to be part of that in the upstream way, then bauxite is the place to be and we are the only ASX-listed pure-play bauxite operator. So if that sounds interesting you should be looking at Metro and investing in Metro. 

Right now, we have raised all the funds, we are on the cusp of realising our vision, this year is the key year. We are in the departure lounge and ready to take off.”

When asked what the market can expect to see from the company in the near future, Wensley explains: “This is the key year for us, we were cash positive last year but still made an accounting loss. 

This is the big year where we really get these economies to scale through the business. We are guiding the market to 6.3 to 6.8 million tonnes, which means we effectively have all our capacity up and running. We should have all those pieces finally in place through Q2 this year. We are targeting 2 million tonnes through Q2 this year and the rest of it in the second half.

It is always a bit of a stretch but I am really confident we have plenty of equipment and am really confident we have a really good year ahead of us. 

By the end of the year, we are targeting to pay down about $30 million in debt to deleverage the company a little bit from where we are and be in a good place to get into for the end of the season.

The market is very strong and there is a lot of appetite for our product. Prices are still moving up as of this quarter as well, so that is a great base to start from.”

The company’s Bauxite Hills Mine is scheduled to begin production in the coming week. 

Metro Mining is an independent bauxite producer and explorer, with its wholly owned Bauxite Hills Mine operating on the Weipa bauxite plateau about 95km north of Weipa, near the coast of the Skardon River. 

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

Images: Metro Mining
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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.