VAST Resources PLC (LON:VAST) has made big strides in recent months and is set for potentially one more sizeable step by the end of 2017.
The junior has so far brought not one but two mines into production, Pickstone-Peerless in Zimbabwe and Manaila in Romania.
With a fair wind it might have a third up and running by the end of 2017 as it has just been selected for the right to mine at the polymetallic Baita Plai mine, also in Romania.
Drawn-out process nears end
Getting a licence for Baita Plai has been a drawn-out process for VAST, but with this recommendation, from state-owned mining company Baita, the major hurdle has been overcome believes chief executive Roy Pitchford.
A final association licence is required to allow mining to begin. This requires a Ministerial Agreement, regulatory approvals from Romania's National Agency for Mineral Resources (ANRM) and the final negotiations of the terms and conditions of the association licence.
But the green light from Baita means there is a clear path to get the licence issued. A change of mood in Romania is also helping with the government working with the mining sector and keen to open new mines.
As a result, Pitchford hopes a licence can be agreed within 45 days.
Baita Plai was originally a molybdenum play, but VAST will mine it for copper (primarily), lead and zinc with good credits for silver and gold.
Its other mine in Romania, at Manaila, already produces copper and zinc but the cost of production is lower and ease of access better at Baita, says Pitchford. The cost of bringing the mine on stream is forecast to be US$1.2mln.
Competing offers to fund Romania
Vast already has the funding teed up to start mining, though having inked a US$10mln finance package in July, it received a matching proposal from Sub-Sahara Goldia last month.
The two potential financiers are talking with each other as well as VAST over nailing a funding deal and having two prospective investors can only be good news, said Pitchford
“Our role is to facilitate constructive dialogue with the two parties.”
At Manaila, operating progress was also notable in its quarter to June.
There was a 41% increase in the three months in the amount mined, compared to the previous quarter this year and a 57% increase in tonnes milled.
At Pickstone-Peerless in Zimbabwe, ore mined rose by 33% with a 36% increase in gold production versus the first quarter.
Pitchford said the production upturn was expected to continue throughout the third quarter.
Pickstone-Peerless should also get the benefit of a sulphide processing facility from this quarter onwards, which can double production he says.
Work meanwhile is also set to start on proving the vaue of Giant, a second mine in Zimbabwe.
"We remain confident that the underlying quality and value prospects of our mines in both Zimbabwe and Romania are excellent and expect production rates to be further enhanced going forward."
At 0.42p, Vast is valued at £21.6mln.