Mining veteran Mick Davis has cut ties with Niron Metals, an investment vehicle he co-founded in 2019 to develop Guinea’s Zogota iron ore deposit, previously owned by BSG Resources (BSGR).
The former Xstrata boss, who was chair of Niron, ceased to be a director last week and is no longer a person with “significant control” of the private company, filings at Companies House, England’s registrar of companies, show.
Niron was appointed Zogota’s developer as part of a settlement between the Guinean government and BSGR, the mining group controlled by the family of Israeli diamond tycoon Beny Steinmetz.
“People with knowledge of the situation said Davis had come to the view that it could take many years before Niron would be able to secure a route to market for Zogota’s iron ore and that he wanted to focus on other projects,” FT.com reported .
Guinea, which has some of the world’s biggest unexploited iron ore deposits in its southeastern region, is also one of the countries where it is very difficult to bring assets into production, mainly because of the absence of infrastructures to ship the ore.
Niron had been able to ink a memorandum of understanding with neighbouring Liberia to use a rail and port to export iron ore from the Zogota deposit. Gaining access to the shipping route, the same one Guinea vetoed for years for the much larger Simandou project, could have helped Davis bring the proposed mine into production quickly and relatively cheaply.
Davis is a well-known name in the mining industry as he led Xstrata from a $500 million business in the early part of the last decade to an operation so big that — at one point — it made a takeover offer for Anglo American (LON:AAL).
As finance chief of miner Billiton, which he helped list on the London Stock Exchange, Davis was also a key figure in the 2001-megamerger with BHP, which created the world’s largest mining company.
In 2012, he sold Xstrata to Glencore (LON: GLEN) and ventured into setting up X2 Resources, a mining fund that was unable to score any deals in the three years after launch.
The mining veteran now wants to seize the opportunity presented by the increasing need for battery metals with his newly founded investment firm Vision Blue Resources (VBR).