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Great Western Continues Transition To REE Producer With Marc LeVier As New CEO

Shares in Great Western Minerals Group (GWMG) (CVE:GWG) were on the rise Wednesday after the rare earths processor announced the long-awaited appointment of Marc LeVier to the position of president and CEO, effective immediately.

Its stock rose more than 10 per cent this morning after the news, and was lately higher by nearly 6% to 29.5 cents.

LeVier, who joint the company's board late last year, has been actively involved in overseeing the finalization of the preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for Great Western's restart of the Steenkampskraal project in South Africa.

The news comes just a day after the company announced that it added mining veteran Ron Hochstein to its board of directors. New board member Hochstein has served as the president, CEO and a director of Denison Mines Corp. (TSE:DML) for the past three years.

The appointments are in prepartion for a new stage in the life of the company, as it aims to become a fully integrated rare earth producer.

Investors have been eagerly awaiting for the appointment of a new chief ever since March of last year, when prior chief Jim Engdahl recommended a transition process be put in place to recruit and select a new CEO. Engdahl retired in October, and was replaced with interim chief Robert Quinn.

LeVier has been president and CEO, as well as a director of Texas Rare Earth Resources Corp, where he oversaw the completion of a PEA, and established the strategic direction for the company.

Prior to this, he spent over 20 years with Newmont Mining in senior metallurgical and management positions, including general manager of the Zarafshan/Newmont joint venture and senior director of metallurgical research and development.

"GWMG is exceptionally pleased to announce the appointment of a CEO with such significant mining industry expertise and commitment to our company," said interim chief Quinn.

"His oversight role in the development of the PEA means he is intimately familiar with GWMG's fully integrated business model and by virtue of moving into the CEO role immediately he will take a lead role in the communication of the results of the PEA, positioning GWMG to move quickly on the execution its strategic plan."

The company's former producing Steenkampskraal rare earth mine is under development through refurbishment, as Great Western also builds a rare earth mixed chloride plant and a rare earth solvent extraction separation plant near the mine.

The aim of the preliminary economic report is to further develop operational and financial projections based on an independent analysis of the mining of rare earth-bearing monazite, extraction to mixed chloride, the separation of oxides and metal and alloy production.

The company is expecting to release the results of the PEA this month, after extending the original scope of the report to include a new resource estimate for the area of mineralization found at Steenkampskraal in recent months.

Currently, Great Western is a rare earth processor, whose specialty alloys are used in the magnet, battery, defence and aerospace industries. Produced at the company's subsidiaries Less Common Metals (NYSE:LCM) in Birkenhead, U.K. and Great Western Technologies (GWT) in Troy, Michigan, these alloys contain aluminum, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements (NYSEMKT:REE).

Its development program at Steenkampskraal is central to ensure a strong flow of feedstock for its downstream processing - the company intends to be one of the first to produce significant quantities of the more valuable heavy rare earth oxides, which are important materials for alloys.

It holds 100 per cent of Rare Earth Extraction Co. Limited, which owns a 74-per-cent equity stake in the Steenkampskraal mine. It also holds interests in four rare earth exploration and development properties in North America as part of its vertical integration strategy.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.