General Base Metals
Monumental Minerals (TSX-V: MNRL) Newly-Appointed CEO Dr. Jamil Sader on Advancing One of the Only Heavy Rare Earth Projects on North American Soil
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the newly-appointed CEO of Monumental Minerals — Mr. Jamil Sader.
Jamil, you move fast! Here, the last time I introduced you as Dr. Jamil Sader, the brand new director of Monumental Minerals, I congratulated you then. Here we are a few months later, and you've now been appointed CEO. Congratulations on the new position.
Dr. Jamil Sader: Well, thank you very much, Gerardo, and really appreciate being on the call today. It's great to chat.
Gerardo Del Real: We chatted a bit off air. It's difficult to know where to start. There is a lot going on in the rare earths space. It seems like every day there are more and more headlines. And unlike 2010, 2011 where I did extremely well with the rare earth names, those headlines back then, the geopolitical uncertainty was short-lived.
This go-round, it seems like it's a lot more disruptive and a lot more consequential. I would love for you to share some of your expertise and your take on the global macro perspective on all of the uncertainty in the rare earth space
Dr. Jamil Sader: Absolutely. Yeah, it's been a bit of a head spinner since we last chatted, I think, in early December, and there's just so much that's happened. And like you said, a lot has changed in the geopolitical space.
In late December, we saw the consolidation of several state-owned, rare earth groups in China. And that makes Western countries, especially the US, a little bit uneasy especially when it comes to supply chain and trying to secure a source of rare earths long-term. In addition to that, now you've got a tax system in China that really incentivizes rare earths to remain in-country, or the raw rare earths remain in-country, to be used in manufacturing rather than being shipped elsewhere for value-added manufacturing.
And then, on this side of the pond, you've got a bipartisan US Senate bill, which is unusual, I think, in US politics this day, but you've got a bipartisan bill that's through the US Senate that will make it illegal for US defense contractors to procure rare earths from China as of 2026. And this is interesting because this doesn't just affect the US. This affects other countries that also will use those defense contractors; that includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and so on.
So there are a lot of big changes. And then, most recently, we've had, yesterday, an announcement from President Biden that the US government will start to stockpile rare earths and will also provide incentives to companies to develop downstream rare earth processing and refinement. And a prime example of that is MP Materials. So there has been a lot of changes. And I think that, really, the US, and to a larger degree, Western countries, are looking to gain independence from China at least in terms of critical metals.
Gerardo Del Real: Here is what I find just absolutely fascinating. Simultaneously, the US, in a bipartisan fashion, is announcing that they want to further a bill that would make it illegal, essentially, for the US to purchase rare earths from China as of 2026. And at the exact same time, Beijing announces sanctions on two American defense contractors, and its top diplomat has accused the United States of using Taiwan to suppress mainland China, right?
And so you have all of these events playing out on the international stage. And when I see the solutions that are being offered up, I chuckle a little bit. Listen, I'm all in support of the bill to fund and subsidize recycling of rare earths, especially the heavies. I'm all in support to expedite and develop an independent critical metals supply chain. But the bottom line is there are zero heavy rare earth projects in North America that are actually progressing to permitting, correct?
Dr. Jamil Sader: Yes, you're absolutely right, Gerardo. The MP Materials project that I was just talking about, and the funding that the US government is providing, that's for heavy rare earths. But the fact of the matter is that as good as Mountain Pass is, it's dominantly a light rare earth deposit. So I don't know how much that will move the needle.
And then, other than that, more to your point, there really isn't much out there. And I think that that's where Jemi comes in as being a perfect option. It's right on the doorsteps of Texas. It's 30 miles south of the Texas border. And as we know, Texas is becoming a very fast-developing North American hub for rare earths and for refinement and processing of them.
Gerardo Del Real: And battery technology, right, with Tesla and the Gigafactory?
Dr. Jamil Sader: Absolutely. You've got Tesla. You've got Blue Line in Hondo, which is just outside of San Antonio. And then, MP Materials has now just announced the development of a facility in Fort Worth. So it's positioned perfectly, and, honestly, the timing couldn't be better to have that project come along.
Gerardo Del Real: Let's talk about Jemi, or as I privately and in my head call it, the Jemi Project, because it is a heavy rare earth project that has and benefits from excellent infrastructure.
I want to reintroduce the technical team that you've been able to put together, including, obviously, yourself, because I think, and excuse the cheesy pun, but it's going to be critical in advancing this project and allowing the project to be put on a fast-track to actually be able to contribute to what's clearly, clearly a big, big, big necessity for North America, which is, of course, the rare earths in general, but specifically the heavies that go into a lot of these magnets, a lot of these missile technologies, a lot of these defense systems that, again, China has not been shy about threatening to cut off, right?
And so, when I look at what's going on with Russia and the Ukraine and the US, and by proxy, China, it's just absolutely fascinating to me that this situation looks to me like it's not going to be like 2010, 2011 where all of the rare earth names go up 10, 15, 20-fold and then do a round trip a year or two later.
I actually think that projects that are substantial and meaningful and actually can get developed are going to command an insane premium in the market.
Dr. Jamil Sader: I totally agree with you. I mean, every car manufacturer in the next, let's say, 10 to 15 years, sometimes even less, are planning to switch over most of their fleets to EV. And in order to do that, they need a lot of rare earths, permanent magnet rare earths. And again, that's where Jemi comes in, especially with the heavy rare earths.
In terms of our team, I'll just do a very quick introduction here. So we have, of course, myself and CEO of Monumental as of yesterday. Still sit as a director. And my career is in mineral exploration. I have 20 years of experience; held several positions with major miners and service providers, most recently with Anglo American Exploration in the Americas. But enough about myself.
I mean, the real key here is having a really good team. And that includes Max Sali who's the director, founder, and former CEO of Monumental; also of Defense Metals. Mark Saxon who brings just a ton of experience in the rare earths space from his experience and his work at Norra Kärr in Sweden.
And Kris Raffle who has over 20 years of experience in exploration and has seen many projects and also worked on many rare earths projects as well. And like I said, having that key team together and the depth of that team is really, really important in progressing Jemi quickly and efficiently.
Gerardo Del Real: It's interesting to me that the announcement from the Biden administration included, and I mentioned the subsidies, and correct me if I'm wrong, I believe it was a US$35 million subsidy, essentially, to MP Materials to go ahead and extract the heavies, which they have very few of, right? And when I look at Monumental's market cap… where does it sit right now?
Dr. Jamil Sader: Yeah. Again, you're absolutely right. And what that indicates to me, anyways, is that at this point, the US federal government doesn't see another option in the near-term, and so that's why they've provided this funding to MP Materials.
But like I said, the Jemi project can be advanced very quickly. It's drill permitted, and I think that we can progress this quite quickly to the point where we do become a consideration by the US government and by perhaps Mexico and Canada, as well, to secure critical metals and heavy rare earths.
Gerardo Del Real: And Jamil, walk me through what the next steps are. How do we take the sub-C$10 million market cap that Monumental currently is being valued at right now and take it to where I think it can go, which, I think, this is a company that, if the project is advanced and mother nature delivers, and you're able to fast-track this because of the excellent infrastructure, because of the excellent team, because of some of the sampling results that you've gotten seem very perspective… it’s early stage, obviously, but if you are able to develop an economic resource there, this is a company that could have a market cap in the hundreds of millions of dollars from a baseline of eight, nine million dollars, Canadian, today, right? What comes next for Jemi?
Dr. Jamil Sader: Yes, that's exactly what we're planning here. And to do that, what I can say is that we've finished our airborne radiometric and magnetic geophysical survey. That was finished last week, and we're just waiting for the data to be processed and interpreted. And as soon as that's done, we'll get to site and have a look.
And that's what we need to do most is we need to get out to site; we need to assess how many of these dykes, these intrusions, these mineralized bodies exist. Because right now we know, from the samples we've got so far and the assays that we've got so far, is that we have grades that are consistent with Norra Kärr in Sweden.
But we just need to better assess it. And doing some work on the ground and just boots on the ground, some traditional exploration methods of mapping and hacking away at rocks is what's necessary.
Gerardo Del Real: Well said. I am looking forward to feedback from that site visit. I would love to have you back on. I would also love to have… you mentioned Mark Saxon… Mark is someone that I've known for... wow, and I'm going to date myself a bit here but for over 13, 14 years and someone that I did extremely well with in the rare earths space following some of his advice and some of his guidance and expertise way back in the days.
And so I'm obviously looking and hoping to repeat that this go-round. And again, much like in the uranium space, I actually think this bull cycle has a potential to be an even more violent and sustainable one to the upside. So definitely exciting times! Can't wait to have you back. Congratulations again on the new position… looking forward to chatting again. Anything to add to that, Jamil?
Dr. Jamil Sader: No, I just want to say thanks again for having me on today, Gerardo. It's great to be chatting.
Gerardo Del Real: There's going to be lots to talk about this year so can't wait to have you back on. Thank you.
Dr. Jamil Sader: Thank you very much.