Cherie Leeden returned from the front line to the conference room last week, telling Metals of Africa shareholders in Perth and Sydney about the copper, zinc and high-grade lead found at the surface of the Rio Mazoe project in Mozambique.
It marks a new phase in Ms Leeden’s career, which has included the discovery of a significant coal resource while travelling aboard a motorised canoe in Indonesia, developing an iron ore project in Peru, and starting her own resource exploration company – Express Resources.
The Perth-born geologist now lives and works in Mozambique, exploring for base metals in a country only recently opened up for outside development.
During any downtime from her busy role, Ms Leeden likes to hit the beach, scuba diving off the country’s 2,500 kilometre long coastline and exploring island archipelagos.
Mozambique’s extensive coastline is one reason the south-east African country appealed to Ms Leeden, with its three operating ports offering easy access to markets.
Exploring for base metals also means the smaller volumes of ore can be trucked and don’t require significant transport infrastructure.
Last month, Ms Leeden and three Australian colleagues sold Express Resources to Metals of Africa, which was also exploring for base metals at the Rio Mazoe project.
Ms Leeden, during her three years in Mozambique, was granted 10 licences with Express Resources, while Metals of Africa had licences in its own right.
Ms Leeden and investor Mike Titchener, Grange Consulting managing director Ian Macliver, and Gary Seabrooke, who helped develop Riversdale Mining’s coal assets, financed Express Resources privately for the first 18 months. They then raised about $1 million through friends before choosing to sell to Metals of Africa.
“I’ve got a lot of faith that this project is a really nice asset to have and I want to advance this personally,” Ms Leeden told Business News.
As part of the sale Ms Leeden, who is a non-executive director of coal and uranium explorer Select Exploration, joined Metals of Africa’s board as executive director. In addition the four founders received a total of 18.2 million shares, giving them each major shareholder status in Metals of Africa.
Metals of Africa is looking to advance the Rio Mazoe project and several of its greenfields licences acquired by Ms Leeden.
Metals of Africa’s shares have varied between 12 and 13 cents during the past two weeks.
The opening up of Mozambique to outside development was only possible after a massive mine-clearing exercise following 15 years of civil war (1977-1992). “Up until now you haven’t been able to access this ground since the early 1970s, which is why I’m choosing to live there because there’s outcropping mineralisation and it’s just so rare that you get that as a geologist,” Ms Leeden said.
Metals of Africa is also speaking to several major companies Ms Leeden said had expressed interest in becoming joint venture partners.
While such arrangements were welcome for medium priority projects, Ms Leeden said she was less interested in JVs for high-priority projects.
She’d prefer Metals of Africa to develop these alone, and was buoyant about the future opportunities.
“If we find no hint of mineralisation, or smoke as we call it, then I’ll return (the licence) to the government because we’re definitely there to find a deposit, not land bank,” she said.
“We’ve got enough projects in Metals of Africa to never look for another project again. This is going to keep the company satisfied indefinitely.”