Appian regards social, environmental and governance standards as crucial elements within all investment opportunities and portfolio companies

Local schoolchildren at Yaramoko village near Appian portfolio company Roxgold (West African gold producer)

Kalbar Operations

Kalbar Operations Pty Ltd (‘Kalbar’) is a mineral sands development company with its principal asset located in Victoria, Australia.

Kalbar owns 100% of the zircon rich Fingerboards Mineral Sand Project (‘Fingerboards Project’) which is an advanced stage, high grade mineral sands project containing zircon, rutile, ilmenite and rare earths. These minerals have a broad range of uses including in ceramics, tiles, pigment coatings, catalytic converters, water purification, specialist foundry alloys, electric vehicles permanent magnets and wind turbines.

The deposit was discovered in 2004 by Rio Tinto and has the potential to be a high margin operation. It is currently ranked by the leading industry consultant as the best zircon project on an inducement pricing basis, driven by the zircon rich mineral assemblage. Appian is partnering with an experienced management team and shareholders who have an excellent track record of asset development in the mineral sands sector.

Health and Safety

In all aspects of its activities, Kalbar is committed to providing a safe work environment where no injury or harm to health is considered acceptable and all activities are undertaken without compromising safety and health. Kalbar adopts the preventive principle that a zero injury frequency rate is achievable and therefore it is a key management objective.

Coronavirus has presented a fast evolving and significant challenge to global health systems and economies and as such has required Kalbar to develop a COVID-19 plan able to evolve as each situation changes. To ensure Kalbar is prepared for any changes, a ‘Traffic Light’ action plan was developed. This plan is reviewed at the weekly toolbox meeting and changes are made as required. The weekly review will consider:

  • Latest advice to hand from the Chief Health Officer
  • Transmission rate of COVID-19 in East Gippsland
  • The relevant column in the plan (using column description)
  • Apply the recommended actions in the column beneath the relevant phase

All employees are notified each week of any changes within the plan and of the current status Kalbar is operating under. Employees are encouraged to work from home if able and utilise online meetings and discussions. Deliveries and outside contractors are required to complete a COVID-19 declaration stating their current health and recent travel. Kalbar is committed to reducing the spread of COVID-19 on all platforms of its workspaces and will continue to adhere to the strict requirements as detailed on DHHS website. All positive COVID-19 cases are now required by law to be reported to Worksafe under Part 5 of Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

Community

The Fingerboards Project will generate numerous benefits and opportunities for the local area, wider region and state, including economic benefits through approx. A$190m of capital expenditure, operating costs of A$2.4bn and revenue of A$4.9bn. Royalties to the government are expected to be about A$115m, and total taxes over A$650m.

The project will create 200 jobs in the area, with a further 200 created in support services and industries that will supply the mine. Kalbar will preferentially employ local and regionally based personnel where practicable. There will be additional safety benefits through upgrades to existing sub-standard roads and intersections in the local area.

Through networking and collaboration, the Regional Infrastructure Working Group was formed – a Kalbar initiative to help identify the existing skills, capabilities and skills gaps in East Gippsland. The Working Group has grown rapidly and organically with participation increasing to include representatives from local trades, transport, horticulture and civil contracting businesses, TAFE Gippsland, other East Gippsland mining proponents, the Minerals Council of Australia, and government agencies.

To date, accessing training and upskilling locally has been challenging for East Gippsland businesses as apprentices and trainees have needed to commute to the Latrobe Valley or beyond to Melbourne for the classroom components of training. The Working Group is now exploring opportunities to provide relevant education pathways for trades and skills training in East Gippsland, in collaboration with TAFE Gippsland and Federation University. Kalbar is proud to be at the forefront of this Working Group to ensure that future demands in East Gippsland are met which will help reduce impacts on other industries where mining activities are growing. These actions assist communities to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports or non-local supplies and services. Control stays in the local community and where Kalbar believes it belongs.

Typically, local businesses are owned by people who live in the local community, are less likely to leave and are more invested in the community’s welfare and future. Kalbar is a local business and its staff are invested in the East Gippsland community.

Kalbar is a member of GROW Gippsland which is a government initiative to promote the networking and collaboration of areas to increase local content whilst enabling social procurement. This program has been a huge value to Kalbar in finding suppliers on its doorstep that Kalbar was otherwise unaware of.

Kalbar is also undertaking various sponsorship programs. Amongst others, the company is sponsoring Aislin Jones (left), a female skeet shooter from Lakes Entrance. Aislin won the Australian National Championship in 2016 to become the youngest woman to hold that title and represented Australia in the Rio Olympic Games the same year. She has won numerous Championships both nationally and internationally. Kalbar’s sponsorship contributed to her being able to train and compete to a spot in the Australian Shooting team for the Commonwealth Games in 2018. Aislin is currently competing in the Tokyo Olympics selection and is a proud Gippslander paving the way for more women in the shooting sports arena.

Kalbar was also a major sponsor for the Twin Rivers Bream 2019 Classic event which showcases the pristine waters of East Gippsland and assisted in promoting more people into fishing as an outdoor activity.

In addition, Kalbar employees attended and assisted with sponsorship for the Biggest Blokes BBQ to raise funds and awareness of Prostate Cancer. Kalbar have been active in this space for a number of years.

Another event that Kalbar sponsored in 2019 was the local East Gippsland Football Netball League which covers much of the area the Fingerboards Project will have an impact on in terms of workforce and suppliers. Representation was through advertisements within the weekly game books at each of the 6 games along with some print media on shirts and training tops.

This was the first time that Kalbar participated in this amazing event. Kalbar has now begun a collaboration with two other local mines hoping to be operational around the same time. The intention is to have an East Gippsland Alliance Mine Rescue team.

Environmental

Kalbar supports a range of environmental initiatives throughout the process of gaining approvals for the project. Kalbar’s commitment to the local environment is evident with its flagship Native Grasses Rehabilitation project initiated and lead by Dr Paul Gibson-Roy.

Grassy woodlands are common features across many agricultural landscapes. They can broadly be identified as areas of open grassy paddocks with scattered large trees. However, while common, almost all are dominated by exotic species including pastures and crops. Very few grassy woodlands dominated by native species remain.

Before Europeans arrived in Australia, indigenous peoples managed the landscape meticulously to ensure their food, cultural and spiritual needs were met. In large part, this was done using carefully planned firestick burning by which means they were able to manipulate the structure and composition of native vegetation to high degrees to match their various needs. Therefore, the open grassy woodlands and grasslands first viewed by Europeans were to large degrees artefacts of aboriginal management.

In these open states they were viewed as prime lands for agriculture (rather than denser treed bushland that had to be laboriously cleared). Over time, as agricultural practices became more intensive (e.g. artificial fertilizers, pesticides, hybrid varieties), factors such as overgrazing and extensive cropping led to the decline of native grasslands and grassy woodlands, and in many cases, local extinction of native species.

For this reason, the Fingerboards project has set itself ambitious goals to play a part in reversing this critical loss of native biota. As part of its post-mining rehabilitation, Kalbar has committed to plans that will attempt, over the 15-20-year mine life, to restore species-rich native Redgum Grassy Woodland to ~200 hectares of its project site in an area that is currently Bluegum plantation forestry. If successful, this would be likely to represent the largest and most complex ecological restoration of its type in Victoria.

Kalbar’s Grassy Woodland restoration project will not be simple or straightforward. However, Kalbar staff are committed to achieving these outcomes. Securing adequate supplies of native seed from a broad range of species will be a major hurdle, and Kalbar will develop native seed ‘farming’ approaches to do so. Kalbar hopes to harness the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm of many Gippslanders to reach these ambitious restoration goals. Key actions, that include the development of early seed production capacity, have already commenced.

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