IN AUGUST 2008, the high-flying Lynas Corporation offered to pay $US500,000 to a South African geologist, Michael Saner, if Saner would drop his claim over a rare earths deposit in Malawi.
That's according to Saner. Citing a confidentiality agreement, Lynas has declined to comment.
Lynas had already told the market that it had ''acquired'' this rare earths resource a year earlier, in September 2007.
Fast forward three years. Although Saner never relinquished his claim, and has a Malawi High Court order stating the rights to this deposit cannot go to anybody else, it was only last Thursday that Lynas finally disclosed, and even then rather cryptically, that the ownership of its Malawi asset might be in dispute.
Not sure Mutt, but it only makes sense that this issue will be resolved in good time. These assets are only valuable to Lynas because they are the only company in South East Asia that can process them… Lynas doesn't really need them right now, it is a sit and wait situation...
Oh I know that. It will most likely take the building of another concentration plant in Malawi to be able to process that stuff. My issue is with Curtis pulling stuff like this. The guy has very little credibility left. He always seems to jump the gun: We acquired the rights to Malawi, the Malay government said we could store the waste on site forever, we're be online Q4, we'll have a decision on the permit by the end of the year. I'm just hoping there was very little validity to the NYT story, because I could definitely see Curtis trying to cut corners and hope it slides through. I just hope Mitsubishi has really leaned into him to fly straight.
In 2008, Lynas, a ''market darling'' of the resources sector, was taking off.
The vision of its founder, Nick Curtis, to become a global player in rare earths had already enticed the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and the Capital Group to the share register.
Privately, Curtis's backers were already ascribing billion-dollar values to the company and the rare earths deposit at Mount Weld in Western Australia.
And there was more blue sky still. Curtis and his corporate wingman, Dr Matthew James, had put their foot on a rich rare earths deposit in the landlocked African republic of Malawi.
The rub was that, according to the highest legal authority in Malawi, this Kangankunde (KGK) prospect didn't actually belong to them. Enter Michael Saner.
At a meeting in Lynas's Sydney offices on August 21, 2008, the South African geologist explained to James, Lynas's counsel, Andrew Arnold, geologist Matthew Edler and Curtis - who got to the meeting later - how the transfer of the KGK licence had not been legal.