MINING START-UP Geophysx, which holds some 70 licences to explore for copper, zinc, gold, and rare earth minerals, will seek two partners to augment its new drilling projects.
The partnerships will serve as a precursor for a possible capital raise on the Jamaica Stock Exchange.
“We want to select one to two partners. I have spent tens of millions of US dollars so far, and a partner will allow us to maximise our opportunities quicker,” said Robert Stewart, founder and principal in Geophysx, in a Financial Gleaner interview.
The company disclosed two imminent projects. The first involves “remediating” the mud lakes across the island in search of rare earth minerals and iron.
“We have licences covering the major red mud lakes in the island. We are beginning the work to prove the technology available, and setting up our pilot plant,” he said.
It will set up the pilot plant next year. Then in 2025, it plans to set up an operational plant, with the input of a large overseas partner.
Rare earth relates to some 17 elements found in the soil, but in high quantities. Once extracted, it becomes an essential component in modern electronics such as cell phones and electric cars.
“We will remediate the red mud lakes and make it suitable for farming again,” he said, after extracting the rare earth and iron.
The other project in Portland involves drilling for copper and gold.
Stewart is in talks with the top seven largest mining entities globally. He wants one partner for the rare earth project and another for the copper exploration.
Last month, it received approvals from the environmental regulators – National Environment and Planning Agency, NEPA, – to drill in 11 zones in the Bellbottom area in Portland.
Stewart expects to drill in two or three of the 11 locations, following the results of his electromagnetic survey, using an in-house helicopter. In Portland, the company will finish boring its first drill in a month. Then, it will set up a second drill during summer. Stewart expects to complete the drillings and analysis by year end.
The company plans to hire some 15 staff in preparation for the projects, which will bring its direct workforce to 50.
Both projects continue from where foreign investors failed. Japanese investors exited the search for rare earth; and Canadians in search of copper and gold.
Stewart remains confident in his prospects, largely in part to expanding the search beyond the historical mineralised areas, and also using newer electromagnetic technology.
“This is new technology that did not exist a decade ago,” said Stewart, about the competitive edge over other failed mining entities.
He said that historically there was no islandwide soil sampling to inform science. Additionally, the use of electromagnetic surveys, if done at all, previously focused on existing mineral zones. Stewart explained that when an overseas company exits, the entity that replaces it also focuses on the same mining belt. This tended to be the case in central Jamaica.
The company remains self-funded from the hotel executive-turned-mining developer. The company started explorations in 2018, harnessing soil samples from across the island over three years. It resulted in the company amassing over 40,000 soil samples. The results of those samples from Canadian labs have informed the company in its 70 licence applications to the Ministry of Mining.
In 2019, Stewart described mining as a rocky business, with the chance of success at 10,000-to-one, but with a high return on investment following discoveries.
Stewart entered the business after taking a sabbatical from the Sandals Resorts hotel chain, where he has held leading senior positions in technology and marketing. Following recovery from a life-threatening illness, he decided to venture into mining.