Sandfire’s Simich to step down as copper miner concludes $150m Motheo finance package

Karl Simich, outgoing CEO, Sandfire Resources

SANDFIRE Resources CEO and managing director, Karl Simich is to step down having recently expanded the firm’s international footprint including the planned commissioning of the Motheo copper mine in Botswana.

The Australian-listed firm announced today that its chief operating officer Jason Grace would serve as interim CEO whilst a search was undertaken for a successor to Simich, CEO of the company for about 13 years.

The company said “now is a logical time for a leadership transition” having also completed the $1.87bn acquisition in 2021 of the MATSA Copper Operations. Shares in Sandfire edged down 0.53% on the Australian Securities Exchange today.

Sandfire upgraded production guidance for the 2023 financial year (ended June) following a strong first quarter showing. It produced 28,000 tons in contained copper for the September quarter. Full year production was now expected to be 83,000 to 91,000 tons of contained copper, it said.

Sandfire also announced it had concluded $140m in project financing for the Motheo project. Final documentation had been signed with Nedbank and Société Générale.

Including a $71.9m expansion announced in August, Motheo is expected to incur capital expenditure of $397.4m. It will bring on initial production of about 3.2 million tons of contained copper in March next year before ramping up to 5.2 million tons annually.

Over its initial 12.5-year mine life, the mine is projected to deliver royalties to the Botswana Government totalling $70m and corporate income tax in excess of $200m.

“In parallel with this development, we are also continuing a major exploration campaign both in the near-mine area as well as across our extensive landholding in the Kalahari Copper Belt aimed at defining additional ore sources that can feed into our expanded processing hub at Motheo or support the development of new production centres across the region,” Simich said in August.

The development of Motheo underpins the emergence of Botswana’s Kalahari as a new copper producing district. The emerging copper belt could help Botswana diversify beyond its mainstay diamond mining, which contributes 70% to its export revenue, said Reuters in a report in August.

In 2021, Khoemacau Copper Mines produced the first copper-silver concentrate from its Boseto process plant in Botswana

The Khoemacau Copper Mines has the capacity to produce 155,000 to 165,000 tons of high-grade copper and silver concentrate a year, containing 60,000 to 65,000 tons of payable copper and 1.8 to two million oz of payable silver.