SIBERIAN anthracite, the model for Atrum Coal's giant Groundhog project in Canada. Photo: survincity.com

SIBERIAN anthracite, the model for Atrum Coal's giant Groundhog project in Canada.
Photo: survincity.com

 
 

Atrum's New Board

Issue 135, August 2015

Atrum Coal has been the standout success story in the coal market in recent years. Arguably, it has been the only success story.

The tiny Australian company listed in 2012, but it has since drilled-out a multi-billion tonne deposit in British Columbia, scooped-up assets as others have fled the sector and remained glued to high-value anthracite, the one corner of the market to remain isolated from a price collapse. More than half of Atrum's stock is meanwhile held by the three directors who floated the company.

It was the ultimate “Mom and Pop” business, using cash and conservative financing to minimise equity issuance, co-founder Russell Moran told Global Mining Observer as shares rocketed in 2013. But then Mom and Pop fell out. Really terribly badly.

The shares went into suspension in June and after weeks of silence, court papers emerged showing that Moran had sought an injunction against the company, blocking it from reporting personal loans he held against his shares. The injunction was overturned, the company disclosed his personal debts and Moran and fellow director Gino D'Anna promptly resigned from the board.

Moran meanwhile told The Australian that holding nearly a fifth of Atrum's stock, he could seek an EGM, promising an ugly rerun of Nathan Tinkler's exit from Whitehaven in 2012, still fresh in the memory of Australian coal investors. But for the first time, directors on both sides have given their views on the board divide and the tone is overwhelmingly conciliatory.

Any Resignation's Hard

“It was an argument over balancing the rights of privacy with the obligation of the company to make disclosures,” Russell Moran tells Global Mining Observer.

“Any resignation's hard, but we're at the cusp of receiving the necessary permits to move into development, I have a particular skill-set and it's not in developing mines, so the company has always needed to go through a change in structure and this is part of it. It is what it is.”

Moran is based in Perth, but speaking from Sydney, co-founder James Chisholm, who remains Atrum's chairman and largest investor, says Russell's injunction, resignation and interview with The Australian all caught the board by surprise.

“Up until this loan issue, all resolutions had been passed unanimously by the board,” he says, in a rare interview. “I got resignation letters from both of them one afternoon within about half an hour of each other, so it was a bit of a surprise.”

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“I got resignation letters from both of them one afternoon… so it was a bit of a surprise.”

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