The debate on the environmental impact of rare earth extraction and processing will undoubtedly increase as our sector moves as one associate cleverly stated to me earlier this week from the “theoretical to the practical.” So it was with great interest that I read the news release on Texas Rare Earth Resources Corp. (TRER, OTCQX: TRER) purchase lease yesterday and did a double take because it essentially amounts to a rare example of a conservation group becoming a major shareholder in a resource company.
U.S.-based TRER has released a statement announcing the completion of its recent surface lease purchase for its Round Top project (also referred to as the West Lease) that explains how they have completed not only a deal but have in the process, secured a conservation group as a major shareholder. The heavy rare earths explorers arranged the purchase with the Southwest Wildlife and Range Foundation (SWWRF) for $500,000 in cash and 1,063,830 shares of restricted TRER common stock.
The West Lease area runs across 54,990 acres in Hudspeth County, Texas, and the agreement is now paid in full until 2028 (creating a lease value of roughly $293,000). Added terms require TRER to support SWWRF conservation efforts at Lake Amistad (near Del Rio, Texas) and at the nearby Rio Grande Basin. For these contributions, TRER has committed to annual payments of $45,000 for ten years in what essentially
Most significant, however, is the fact that TRER will now have unrestricted surface access in the deposit area and its adjacent lands, enabling the company develop and mine its Round Top project and proceed on to its next phases. The finalization of this latest agreement is an important milestone in the development of the deposit, and will go far to support confidence in the overall economic viability of the Round Top project. With funding for the lease purchase falling within TRER’s budgetary guidelines, the project is well-positioned to add long-term value to the company’s resource portfolio.
TRER is currently on course to complete its Pre-Feasibility studies, which are expected to further refine engineering studies, plant and mine design, and pilot tests. Once further financing is obtained, a full Feasibility study will be scheduled for Summer 2014, and this is expected to solidify project economics and establish viable options for bringing the Round Top project into the production phase.
This latest agreement is likely to bring some overdue positive attention to TRER, and more specifically as an eco-friendly company that stands out in the industry. SWWRF Director Susan Potts has called TRER a “good neighbor and steward of the natural resources in Texas.” Potts went on to say that SWWRF is “pleased to be a part of the company and is looking forward to a long relationship with TRER in continued resource management efforts at one of Texas’ crown jewel mineral deposits.”
The news of the agreement follows previous TRER press releases showing that insiders and the company itself recently purchased more than 1.5 million TRER shares, which is more than 4% of the common shares outstanding based on 36.6 million shares of common stock outstanding as of December 27, 2012. This supportive move was seen in anticipation of TRER’s efforts to move forward with its larger game plan and maximize the value of its Round Top assets (the historical beryllium and potential uranium resources) later this year. TRER initiated the process with an air quality baseline study at its Round Top location, opening the way to permit future operations and making the properties more attractive for strategic alternatives. According to CEO Dan Gorski, recent repurchases in shares of common stock show that the TRER management team believes that the company is undervalued at current levels, saying “We are optimistic about the strategy and business plan we have set forth and believe we have sufficient capital to execute these strategies through 2014.”