Jaydeep Biswas - Astra reveals corporate strategy for future growth
Jaydeep Biswas - International diversified resources company, Astra Resources Plc (FWB Code: 9AR), has revealed its corporate strategy for the company’s growth into the future.
The central planks of Astra’s business model are mining and related opportunities, and technology opportunities including the revolutionary T-Steel technology, both of which will enable the company to become a major player in the international resources sector.
Astra CEO Dr Jaydeep Biswas says the company’s mining focus includes direct involvement in the extraction of iron ore, gold and thermal and coking coal, as well as risk management strategies including secondary mining opportunities and mining services housing. The mining projects, which Astra is pursuing, are logistically close to market, are licensed or within 12 months of operation, require no major infrastructure infusion, and are in known resource areas and open-cut operations.
“We have established a number of primary mining opportunities for iron ore in India and iron ore sands in the Philippines, both which will provide benefits through supply to the market and for our own needs,” Dr Biswas says.
“The recent granting of trading licenses covering the main iron ore producing regions in India will allow Astra to trade and transport self-mined and third party mined iron ore to Paradip Port for export from our own storage and shipping site.
“We have also signed a memorandum of understanding for a world scale iron sands development in North East Philippines with the Cagayan River Construction & Development to establish a joint venture entity to manage and put to use the iron sands deposits in the Cagayan River Delta.”
Astra’s gold interests have recently been given a boost with a favourable report from the company’s well-respected geologist confirming that the Ratanakiri licence area in North East Cambodia has the potential to host a world class Intrusion Related Gold System that may be developed into a significant open cut low cost gold mine.
Dr Biswas says Intrusion Related Gold Systems have only been recognised in the last 12 years and have been shown to host some of the largest recently discovered gold deposits, with many similar systems typically hosting between one and three million ounces of gold.
Astra’s Managing Director, Silvana De Cianni, says the company’s opportunities in coal in Nigeria are some of the most exciting with the opportunity to secure the joint venture development for a thermal coal exploration license.
“Nigeria is struggling to meet the growing nation’s energy requirements using electrical power, resulting in a renewed focus on alternative energy sources,” Ms De Cianni says.
“As Nigeria has major underexplored and underexploited high quality coal resources, the Nigerian government is focusing on developing coal-fired power plants and in turn revitalizing the coal mining industry.
“The coal present in the district and surrounds of our license area is low in sulphur and ash, and high in calorific value making it ideal for power generation and export into the international market.
“This project creates a beach-head for growth in a region which has the potential of 800 million tonnes of thermal coal.”
Astra has developed a risk management strategy to underpin its primary mining activities with the provision of mining services housing, with an agreement in place with Dubai based facility management company, Janayen, which will include the development of Astra’s land holdings in Rockhampton, Queensland.
Technology, spearheaded by the revolutionary T-Steel, forms the second major part of Astra’s corporate strategy.
T- Steel is a technology that enables existing steel factories to produce steel with improved physical characteristics such as higher tensile strength, better machine ability and higher fatigue limits at a lower cost.
Dr Biswas says the development of T-Steel dates back to the late 1970’s where the applications were entrusted to a number of senior metallurgists and engineers in the then DAM Steel Works in Hungary.
“During initial development, which was carried out on a ‘no cost spared’ basis, the general directive was that the quality of the steel had to be equal to or better than what was manufactured in the United States and Germany,” Dr Biswas says.
“Astra owns a substantial interest in the Intellectual Property pertaining to this technology, has retained full management and control of the technology and retains a number of the experts involved in the original research and development.”
Astra recently increased its shareholding in the technology by 15 per cent, resulting in 45 per cent ownership. The valuation model estimates the global commercialisation of T-Steel technology has an NPV of €4.47 billion, assuming that the risk level of the project is in line with the industry average.
A number of secondary opportunities under Astra’s technology platform are carbon efficiencies, green technologies and coal conversion.
Astra is acquiring 76 per cent of Carbony Pty Ltd, the technology company that owns the intellectual property for a carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction technology that separates the CO2 and sulphur dioxide emissions produced by the combustion of carbon-containing matter.
The main targeted market for the CO2 reduction technology is the heavy industries where the carbon credits and carbon trading arrangements over the next ten years may force a major crisis in terms of taxes and operating and consumer costs.
Astra’s green technology project is Green Gum Technologies, a patented process that is able to produce fine rubber granules of 200 and 300 microns and superfine granules of 180 microns to 150 microns with a small carbon footprint and the ability to provide carbon credits.
The need for rubber granules in road building and road maintenance alone is expected to be in excess of 35,000 tons per year over the next five years with considerable use of the product throughout Europe.
Ms De Cianni says while both the CO2 reduction and green technologies are well advanced as part of Astra’s corporate strategy, the inclusion of coal conversion to the technology table was something the company was aggressively pursuing.
“The purpose of our coal conversion strategy is to develop the technology to allow the use of local low quality coal reserves for power generation in high demand countries,” Ms De Cianni says.
“Because of their quality these identified coal reserves cannot be used directly for power generation or use as coking coal.
“The technology will however help to develop these reserves to reduce the reliance and costs for high demand countries to import increasing amounts of coal from other producers.”
Dr Biswas says Astra’s corporate strategy focusing on intertwined mining and technology opportunities will ensure its growth well into the future.
Astra Resources global portfolio includes gold interests in Southeast Asia, coal mines in Africa, iron ore in India and the Philippines, the production of the high-strength T-Steel technology in Hungary, and the provision of mining services housing in Rockhampton, Queensland
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