Long-standing chairman of Ortac Resources Limited (LON:OTC) Anthony Balme will stand down at the company’s next annual general meeting, to be held in September of this year.
Balme held Ortac together pretty tightly when the global financial crisis dragged many of its junior peers under, keeping the show on the road with a focus on a Slovakian gold asset.
That’s been a slow-burner, however, and now that plans are well advanced to put it into a joint venture with a local partner, and now that the mining markets are showing signs of life again and Ortac is doing other deals, Balme has decided that it’s time to step aside.
For Vassilios Carellas, the company’s long-standing chief executive, Balme’s departure is a poignant moment, but also marks the beginning of a new focus on African assets.
According to the press release that heralded the board changes, Carellas will “focus in the near-term on supporting the development of Casa’s Misisi gold asset.”
Following the conversion of a loan note, Ortac will own approximately 45% of Casa Mining, which itself owns 71.25% of Misisi, a gold project in the Democratic Republic of Congo that already boasts a resource of well over a million ounces and which Carellas reckons could go as high as three million.
“Casa’s aspirations are to be able to get to a resource of two to three million ounces,” he says.
But there’s plenty of work to be done yet before it can get there. A preliminary programme will likely be followed by a more substantial one.
And Ortac will be closely involved at all stages.
“We need to shepherd that through,” says Carellas. “We will be working with Casa and its consultants providing oversight on the technical side of things. News flow from the drilling will probably start coming in within the next two months.”
But with the guiding light of Balme now bowing out, what do Carellas and incoming chairman Nick von Schirnding, previously CEO of Asia Resource Minerals PLC and senior executive at Anglo American envisage for the Casa investment?
“Casa has had offers from Venture Exchange companies that are looking for flagship assets,” says Carellas. “They’ve had approaches, but we didn’t feel the terms offered reflected the value that we believe is there.”
But that’s not to say that interested parties won’t be round for a second bite.
“Potentially there could still be a reverse or a major could come in,” says Carellas. “It’s an asset that’s on the radars of a lot of people. And possibly the exit will be Ortac, but we just don’t know.”
So, these are exciting and changing times for Ortac. As an asset with already more than a million ounces to its name, Misisi is getting the lion’s share of the attention.
But there are also stakes in Zamsort and Andiamo, both in Africa too, that could come alive in a big way quite soon.