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MinRes has continued to make waves in the Western Australian lithium frenzy by acquiring 100 per cent of Pantoro’s lithium, nickel, copper and cobalt rights at the Norseman gold project.

Pantoro first acquired 50 per cent of Norseman in July 2019. In February 2023, it announced a merger with Tulla Resources to acquire the remaining 50 per cent of the project, which was completed by June 2023.

Now, the new $60 million Norseman transaction will see MinRes pay $30 million in cash upfront and a further $30 million when a final investment decision is made on any mining operation related to the critical minerals.

Pantoro managing director Paul Cmrlec said the transaction provides the company with “strong immediate value” for critical minerals that haven’t been identified in economic quantities at Norseman yet.

“Realisation of value from the assets allows Pantoro to continue to concentrate on production and exploration of its gold assets, with potential value from platinum group elements retained for future consideration,” he said.

Pantoro will retain a two per cent net-smelter royalty on all the nickel, copper and cobalt recovered from the site, as well as a 0.75 per cent lithium royalty. Both royalties are subject to MinRes’ thresholds being met.

The transaction was made after MinRes invested $19 million in up-and-comer Wildcat Resources, bumping its original 19.8 per cent stake to 19.94 per cent.

MinRes also recently raised its stake in Azure Minerals to 12.29 per cent, soon after the $1.63 billion SQM transaction was announced.

MinRes’ lithium moves follow in the footsteps of Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, which recently acquired an 18 per cent strategic stake in Azure and upped its stake in Liontown Resources to 19.9 per cent.

Rinehart’s Liontown move was said to be part of the reason why Albemarle walked away from its $6.6 billion takeover of Liontown, although Albemarle cited the downward trend in lithium prices as the main reason for its withdrawal.

As a result, Albemarle is now looking to scale down production at the Greenbushes mine in WA and has said it’s finished participating in the state’s lithium frenzy.

Another company wary of the WA lithium landscape is Arcadium Lithium, the merged entity of Allkem and Livent.

Arcadium Lithium chief executive officer Paul Graves said last week that current WA lithium assets may be valued too high.

“There’s a massive disconnect today – massive – between the value someone’s ascribing to a very, very, very early stage, or technically challenging, projects in Australia with only a maiden resource (and) without full ownership,” he said.

“There’s a lot of value being assigned to those by various people down there in Australia and so (it’s) a little challenging to me, to be perfectly honest, to know where the Australian M&A (mergers and acquisitions) market plays out.”

However, Graves said the company is willing to be “aggressive” once it better understands the situation.

What the next big WA lithium spend will be is yet to be seen.