Ian Prentice is the Managing Director of Technology Metals Australia Limited (ASX:TMT), a mining company in the exploration and development of its World Class high grade Gabanintha Vanadium project in Western Australia.
What’s your journey in becoming a CEO?
I am a Geologist by training, having studied at the University of Western Australia, and spent the first 10 years or so of my career as a field geologist across exploration and mining throughout Australasia. I then pivoted into the financial markets, where I spent 7 years as a sell side Mining Analyst in the equity capital markets. This experience was the foundation for my transition into management roles in the Mineral Exploration and Development sector, with my first role as the founding Managing Director of a gold developer that we listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.
Tell us a bit about your business and how you are commercializing?
Technology Metals Australia Limited (ASX:TMT) is an Australian Securities Exchange mineral exploration and development company based in Perth Western Australia. We listed TMT in December 2016 with the aim of progressing the development of our flagship Gabanintha Vanadium Project (GVP) located in the mid-west of Western Australia, about 700km north east of Perth. GVP was a relatively early stage exploration play when we listed which we have now taken through a number of exploration and resource definition drilling phases, generating one of the World’s highest-grade large-scale vanadium resources. We completed a PFS on GVP in June 2018, only 18 months from listing, and then progressed through to delivery of a high-quality Definitive Feasibility Study in August last year, demonstrating a lowest quartile operating cost project. The focus now is building on customer relationships to establish binding offtake agreements, heavily supported by a development project in the World’s best mining jurisdiction and pilot scale testwork demonstrating one of the highest purity vanadium pentoxide products on the market. In parallel with this work we are also focused on establishing the project finance mix to rapidly progress the development of the GVP to be the next primary vanadium mine in the World.
How are you managing with the current COVID-19 pandemic on both business and personal front?
On the business front we moved quite quickly to remote working arrangements, with the team staying engaged via regular video conferencing, and immediately put in place a range of cost reduction measures to ensure balance sheet strength through the period of disruption. We are fortunate that we completed the complex work streams involved in the Definitive Feasibility Study in 2019, so the level of field and laboratory work required has greatly diminished. Our focus on progressing the commercial discussions is continuing apace via teleconference and video communication platforms, which is achievable largely due to the relationships we have built with counterparties over the past two years when I have been doing a lot of travel to conduct those all important relationship building face-to-face meetings. Personally I have adjusted to working from home quite well, keeping in regular contact with the team and other stakeholders via online platforms, modifying my daily exercise routine to offset the fact that my local swimming pool has closed and even getting a few of the jobs done around the home during our weekends in isolation.
What’s the most exciting thing about running your business?
Establishing a team of highly skilled professionals and then working collaboratively with that team to progress the GVP from that early stage exploration project to completion of a high quality Definitive Feasibility Study on one of the highest grade, largest scale, lowest operating cost vanadium development projects in the World in a little over two and a half years. This has now got us to the starting line for what is going to be a hugely exciting period of time as we finance and then develop the next primary vanadium mine in the World. Building on the team to deliver on that promise is a very exciting proposition.
How do you measure success?
Success in my view is all about delivery. Delivering on our collective vision, delivering on the growth potential of individuals within the team, growing the value of our underlying business and ultimately contributing to the society in which we live and work. The GVP is located in a remote part of Western Australian close to the regional town of Meekatharra – ultimate success for me is the development of a profitable mining project that generates returns for our shareholders, provides our employees and contractors with a safe, rewarding workplace that they take pride in but most importantly generates long term meaningful social and economic benefits for the community in which we operate.
What do you think is the most important quality of being a CEO of a listed company?
In my view successful management is all about communication. So whether you are CEO of a listed company or the president of the local sporting club how you communicate to all of your stakeholders is of paramount importance. Achieving “buy-in” is incredibly important and that starts and ends with communication.
What is your favourite book?
Early on in my TMT journey I was at a vanadium conference in Wuhan, China and was recommended a book called Mr China by Tim Clissold – an Englishman who spent sixteen years travelling, working and investing in China. A great read to explore the emergence of China as one of the World’s economic powerhouses and how a “foreigner” came to develop an understanding of the Chinese culture and business practices. From a more recreational point of view I have just finished reading Jeffrey Archer’s seven volume The Clifton Chronicles, following the trials and tribulations of a range of families as they navigated there way through the twentieth century.
What message do you want to send to our readership in Asia?
Technology Metals is at a really exciting time in its emergence as a vanadium producer in a period when vanadium demand growth has been steadily outpacing supply, driven by growth in consumption in the traditional steel market but also underpinned by the exciting emergence of the vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) market. As the World progresses to more and more green energy solutions, effective, affordable and sustainable energy storage will become crucial and VRFB is going to be a key player in that revolution. GVP will be a low cost producer of the high purity vanadium required for VRFB deployment and when developed will be just the fourth “primary” vanadium mine in the World.
How can people connect with you?
Technology Metals Australia Website: https://www.tmtlimited.com.au/