Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) (MinRes) has entered into an implementation agreement with the deed administrators of Alita Resources regarding the proposed acquisition of the Bald Hill lithium mine in Western Australia.
McGrathNicol was appointed the administrators of Alita in December 2020.
Alita is subject to a deed of company arrangement under which US-registered lithium products group Austroid Corporation proposed to acquire the Bald Hill mine. This transaction was blocked by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) in July 2023.
Austroid is also the secured creditor of Alita and appointed KordaMentha as receivers and managers in December 2020. MinRes reports KordaMentha acts in the interest of foreign-owned Austroid, not the shareholders of Alita.
A wholly owned subsidiary of Alita owns and operates the Bald Hill mine.
The Bald Hill mine was briefly cashflow positive in 2019 when its lithium-rich spodumene concentrate averaged a price of US$780 per tonne.
The administrators have started an application in the Supreme Court of Western Australia seeking various orders, including for Alita to be placed into liquidation to allow for the implementation of the proposed MinRes acquisition.
If the court orders the liquidator to be appointed, MinRes will pay out the secured debt and acquire Alita’s interest in the Bald Hill mine, which will provide a material return to Alita. The consideration that MinRes will pay under the transaction is subject to a number of factors, including an independent expert valuation.
MinRes, which has a $14 billion market capitalisation, says the outcome of applications in the Supreme Court is currently uncertain with no guarantee that the transaction will be able to proceed, and details are currently subject to commercial confidentiality between transaction parties.
MinRes expects to fund the potential transaction from existing resources and does not intend to raise equity. Notwithstanding the FIRB rejection, it has been reported that the Bald Hill lithium mine operates under effective foreign control through a complex corporate structure.
It is also reported that the lithium mine operates at a loss under these arrangements, with profits transferred overseas via an offtake agreement with a Hong Kong-registered entity, Yihe Cleantech Material Limited.
It has been alleged that this offtake agreement has also led to an under-payment of state royalties. MinRes says the successful acquisition of the Bald Hill mine will ensure that the mine is being operated by an experienced ASX-listed lithium miner, and any profits are generated and taxes and royalties paid in Australia to the benefit of its taxpayers.
MinRes is the largest lithium miner in the Goldfields region of Western Australia, operating the world-class Mt Marion lithium mine, and is one of Australia’s largest diversified resources companies. If the Treasurer’s decision-making power under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (FATA) has been circumvented, and there is a risk the mine remains in the effective control of foreign entities whose proposed acquisition has been rejected by FIRB, MinRes believes the Australian government should use its powers under FATA to intervene.
Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au
Images: Mineral Resources