What is the genesis of Canada Fluorspar Inc.?
When Golden Gate Capital purchased Canada Fluorspar Inc (CFI) in 2014 it was a small, listed company on the TSX, and it had a joint venture with a large European chemical company. Golden Gate Capital purchased the company with the intention of building a new mine and processing facility, and invested a significant amount of capital over the next four years. In 2018, CFI had over 250 employees and started producing acid grade fluorspar. We are the newest producer of acid grade fluorspar in the world and our open pit mine is one of the top four fluorspar mines globally. CFI has shipped to customers all over the world, so we are not a junior mining company or a project, we are an operating business with some of the largest chemical companies in the world as our customers.
The fluorspar market has historically been volatile. What was the opportunity that convinced you to invest in fluorspar production in North America?
Since the 1980s, when the Chinese came in, prices have recovered substantially, as more uses of fluorspar besides the traditional aluminum and steel. Large chemical companies with huge R&D budgets use molecules like fluorspar, and they are always looking for new uses. For example, in 1980, when CFCs were phased out globally, companies innovated and removed the properties from future refrigerants. Today, the latest generation of HFO's contain a lot more fluorspar than the old ones, and they have zero carbon footprint as well. That is a hallmark of the innovative chemical companies that are our customers, and we work with them to supply an environmentally friendly and safely mined product. Not all fluorspar producers in the world operate with the standards that we do in Canada. We operate with the highest level of health, safety and environmental controls, and we monitor the carbon output of our operations. The majority of the world's fluorspar is produced in China, and they went from producing a lot of fluorspar and exporting it all over the world to now being one of the world's biggest consumers. The Chinese consumer is one of the most coveted in the world as they consume most of the fluorspar that is produced in China to the point where China has become a net importer. The dynamics there are that they are consuming a lot of fluorspar with their economy. Secondly, they have mined a large portion of their fluorspar deposits and certainly most of the high grade, high quality deposits. Most of the mines in China are underground and they are by-products of other types of mining like coal and tin mining. About 5,000 people die a year in those mines. Their environmental and safety standards are unacceptable to anyone in the Western world. The other convincing aspect was the growing use of fluorspar in light weighting applications. At its core, fluorspar is a next generation, industrial mineral that is used by a lot of industries, and green vehicles use a lot of fluorspar. If you want to extend the range of an electric vehicle, it is very hard to achieve this through improvements in battery technology. We are still using the same lithium-ion batteries that we used 20 years ago, so making it lighter is the easiest way to do that.
What is the biggest draw of being in Newfoundland?
Newfoundlanders are some of the hardest working, best people to work with. They have a great reputation throughout Canada and the world in the oil and gas and mining industries for their expertise, education level and their ability to get the job done. It is a pleasure to be based in Newfoundland and to be able to offer jobs to Newfoundlanders who have had a difficult time since the cod fishery came to a screeching halt 30 years ago. Being able to open up a new operating mine in Newfoundland allows us to be able to offer jobs to people and families who do not have other opportunities or have to work away to have a good opportunity. As one employee mentioned, it is the dream of every Newfoundlander to be able to work at home.