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MZI Accelerates Sales Plans After Early Processing Milestone

MZI Resources (ASX:MZI) is targeting first sales from its Keysbrook mineral sands operation in Western Australia by December after processing its first saleable product at the separation plant.

The first batch of zircon concentrates and the titanium dioxide products L88 and L70 has been produced one month ahead of schedule.

This allows MZI to advance its expectations for achieving first customer sales from an original target of early 2016 to next month.

In September, MZI confirmed the signing of binding offtake agreements for 85% of production under five-year sales agreements with blue chip customers Chemours and Tricoastal-Wensheng.

Separation of the first saleable products follows the start last month of heavy mineral concentrate production three weeks ahead of schedule and on budget.

The company is now targeting full production in the current quarter.

Commissioning activities are now well underway and ahead of schedule at both the Keysbrook wet concentrator plant and the mineral separation plant at Picton.

Big ambitions

The start of production at Keysbrook puts MZI on the cusp of becoming the world's biggest primary producer of leucoxene, as well as a substantial producer of zircon.

What makes Keysbrook so compelling is that it is a high-margin long-life project with strong growth potential.

It is scheduled to produce over 95,000 tonnes of leucoxene and zircon products annually and has resources equivalent to +30 years of life at currently planned production rates, yet there is still significant upside to expanding its resources.

Global resources total 155 million tonnes while reserves stand at 26 million tonnes.

The project's low forecast operating costs and high-value product mix also promise to make MZI one of the highest-margin suppliers of premium mineral sands products to the global market.

This is thanks partly to the fact that mining will be in free dig sand with an average depth of 2.2 metres and no strip ratio. The material is low in slimes and considered easily processed.

Testwork, however, has confirmed the potential to further increase heavy mineral recoveries - specifically for L88.

Financial metrics are impressive as well, with first full-year EBITDA forecast at $39.9 million.

$45 million raising

Last month, MZI moved to raise about A$45 million in order to simplify its capital structure during its transition into producer status.

The fund raising is made up of a placement where MZI has received irrevocable commitments for 106,837,381 shares at $0.40 per share, and also a share purchase place (SPP) which will raise up to another $2 million.

The SPP will be at the same price as the placement, and will allow up to $15,000 per shareholder.

The fresh capital will be used to repay amounts drawn down under existing bridge loan facilities provided by MZI major shareholder, Resource Capital Fund (RCF).

The balance will be retained for working capital purposes.

RCF, which currently holds 30.2% of the company's issued share capital, has participated in the placement and acted as a cornerstone to the raising in the amount of $20.7 million.

Analysis

Achievement of this processing milestone heralds MZI's emergence as a producer of saleable high-quality mineral sands products.

It also emphasises that Keysbrook continues to perform above expectations as it ramps up to full production and begins sales ahead of schedule.

MZI's demonstrated efficiency in bringing Keysbrook into production bodes well for ongoing mining, plant commissioning and immediate plans to ramp up to full production.

Importantly, 85% of production has already been locked up in sales deals with major international customers.

The project is Western Australia's first primary producer of leucoxene, and with an impressively efficient operating flowsheet, is set to transform MZI into the world's largest primary leucoxene producer.

Considering a stable mineral sands market with modest long-term price growth forecasts, Keysbrook's profits could ride a re-rating in the commodity higher.

Shares in MZI were last trading at A$0.43, or 37% stronger than at the beginning of the year.

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