Incorporated as Nimbus Resources NL in 1994, the Company focused on the exploration and evaluation of base metal prospects and began seeking opportunities to diversify following its listing on the ASX in 1997. In 1998 Nimbus acquired its current name, Mineral Deposits Limited, following the acquisition of the Hawks Nest mineral sands operation near Newcastle in New South Wales. The ‘Mineral Deposits’ brand traces its history to the Mineral Deposits Syndicate – a pioneer of Australia’s mineral sands industry – which started operations in Southport, Queensland in 1940.
In the early 2000s, MDL shifted its focus from Australia to Senegal and acquired rights to develop the Sabodala gold mine (‘Sabodala’) in south eastern Senegal and the Grande Côte mineral sands project (‘GCO’), north of Dakar along Senegal’s coastline.
Hawks Nest Mineral Sands Operation
The Hawks Nest operation, located on the east cost of New South Wales, some 70km north of Newcastle, was acquired by MDL in 1998 from BHP Titanium Minerals Pty Ltd for approximately A$9.0m. At the time of acquisition Hawks Nest operations were well-established and consisted of wet dredging at two locations – Viney Creek and Fullerton – to produce a heavy mineral concentrate which was trucked to the dry separation plant near the township of Hawks Nest for extraction of rutile and zircon. These premium products found ready acceptance in global markets.
MDL closed operations at Hawks Nest in 2003 and continues to fulfil its rehabilitation obligations in the area.
Sabodala Gold Mine
MDL successfully progressed the Sabodala gold project in south eastern Senegal from exploration to construction and into operation between 2004 and 2009. At the time of its construction, Sabodala was only the second major mining operation in Senegal’s history.
The operation poured its first gold in March 2009 and during the 2009/10 financial year, MDL produced in excess of 172,000 ounces of gold, exceeding its ambitious projections for a start-up operation.
During 2010 it was determined that the interests of shareholders would be best served by separating Sabodala and GCO into two separate companies, allowing shareholders to have direct ownership of both a pure West African gold producer with exciting growth prospects, and GCO, a mineral sands project with the potential to be a Tier One resource asset. This was ultimately achieved in December 2010 through the C$650m demerger of Sabodala.
The knowledge and practical expertise gained during the development and operation of Sabodala assisted in the start-up phase of GCO.
Grande Côte Mineral Sands Project
In September 2004, MDL was selected by the Government of the Republic of Senegal to explore and develop the Grande Côte Mineral Sands Project. A Presidential Decree was granted in 2007, providing MDL a Mining Concession of 25 years. The Government of the Republic of Senegal is a valued project partner, holding a 10% interest in the operations.
To develop the project, the Company entered into a 50/50 joint venture with ERAMET. Under the joint venture agreement, MDL contributed its interest in GCO and ERAMET contributed its interest in the then named Titan Titanium & Iron ilmenite upgrading facility.
Construction of GCO began in 2011 and was completed in March 2014 after 11 million man hours at a cost of US$650 million.