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Former BHP and Orica executive takes Arafura Rare Earths reins

Updated: Mar 21

New Arafura Rare Earths managing director and chief executive officer Darryl Cuzzubbo. Credit: File

Former BHP and Orica executive Darryl Cuzzubbo has taken the reins at Arafura Rare Earths as managing director and chief executive officer and will have the responsibility of driving the company’s Nolans rare earths project in the Northern Territory to completion.

Cuzzubbo has been on the company’s board for the past two years and that should provide him with an elevated insight for the project that has a large, high-grade resource.

The new Arafura boss has extensive executive leadership experience in the global resources sector having been a group executive and president of Auspac Asia with Orica after a 24-year career with BHP. He held various senior positions with the world’s biggest mining company, including three years as president of the Olympic Dam mine, with responsibility for operations and expansion projects, in addition to an organisation-wide transformational change program.

He has experience in running operations in more than 30 countries and has made his entry to the Arafura MD role at an exciting time for the company.

The Nolans rare earths development is a shovel-ready, world-class neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) project in the NT, about 135km north of Alice Springs. Access to site is provided via a major nearby airport and there is also other infrastructure including the Stuart Highway about 10km to the east, major rail access in Alice Springs and a deepwater port in Darwin.

The project has a resource underpinning 4440 tonnes per annum of NdPr oxide production and a minimum 38-year mine life.

All NT government approvals are secured, a mineral license and mining authorisation have been granted and a native title agreement is in place.

There is also strong Government support due to a close alignment with the Federal Government’s critical minerals policy.

Darryl has acquired an extensive understanding of Arafura and the rare earths market during his time with our Board and that means he will now hit the ground running as he is well-known to our team and to our many major stakeholders in the project. The Board firmly believes that Darryl is the right leader to build on our progress to date and to complete the Nolans Project. Arafura Rare Earths chairman Mark Southey

Cuzzubbo was last year tasked with providing management support services to the company’s executive leadership team. It allowed him to glean detailed knowledge of its current financial and operational status.

Arafura has binding offtake agreements in place with Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors and Siemens Gamesa for up to 2020 tonnes per annum of NdPr oxide. The deals see about 53 per cent of the company’s binding offtake target met already, with it targeting 85 per cent of its nameplate production to be committed to such agreements.

Management has indicated that four other companies are in contract negotiations, representing about 42 per cent of the binding offtake target. It includes the offtake deal with GE Vernova for 375 tonnes per annum of NdPr oxide that is currently being finalised.

Southey also praised the outstanding contribution of departing managing director Gavin Lockyer in securing Arafura’s international standing as the next major rare earths producer, with the capacity to add substantial NdPr production into strategically-important supply chains.

The automotive sector is forecast to be the primary consumer of neodymium magnet supply, with a prediction by energy consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie that about 51 million electric vehicles (EVs) are likely to be sold in 2032. Achieving supply-demand balance in the next decade would require a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in NdPr supply of about 6.9 per cent.

The forecast supply gap represents about 88 per cent of current global supply, equivalent to more than 12 Nolans projects.

Arafura maintains a strong financial position with a pro forma cash balance of $81 million. It is expected to support the company’s activities through to June, with a sufficient liquidity buffer.

With the expected growth in demand for rare earths going forward and the quality of the offtake companies secured, the ascent of Cuzzubbo to the top role may indeed prove to be rare timing.

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