Stephen Mann Resigns From Lion One

Mr Mann said it was a difficult decision to leave and was grateful to have been involved in the exploration and development of a fantastic project in Tuvatu.
10 Jun 2021 16:18
Stephen Mann Resigns From Lion One
Lion One managing director Stephen Mann.

Lion One managing director Stephen Mann has resigned citing personal reasons.

Mr Mann is expected to complete his term in August.

He has been with Lion One at Tuvatu, Sabeto, in Nadi, for almost 10 years.

Lion One is working to develop a gold mine at Tuvatu, over the hills from the big Vatukoula Mine.

“When I arrived, the company had about 12 employees, and since then we have grown organically with very few, if any expatriates,” said Mr Mann.

“It was a very difficult decision to leave Fiji, because my time in Fiji has been a significant part of my life.”

Mr Mann said it was a difficult decision to leave and was grateful to have been involved in the exploration and development of a fantastic project in Tuvatu.

Below are excerpts of an interview with Mr Mann:


What are some of your main achievements with Lion One?

During my time at Lion One, the company has grown so much, it is hard to know where to start.

I have had an exciting and often fulfilling experience, having worked with an extremely competent and capable local team, and have overseen the significant growth and development of the company.

With the hard work of the local team, I have managed the company through:

  • Building an onsite geochemical and metallurgical laboratory,
  • development of Lion One’s own drilling division. Both the laboratory and drilling division are unheard of anywhere in the world in small companies the size of Lion One.
  • the completion of the Environmental Impact Assessment,
  • the Construction and Operational Environmental Management Plans,
  • Rehabilitation and Closure Plan,
  • granting of the Special MiningLease SML62 and the associated Surface Lease,
  • the renewal of each of the Special Prospecting Licenses to enable continued exploration,
  • the final grant of Special Prospecting Licence, SPL 1512 after progressing through the tender process, and landowner discussions and negotiations, and many years of effort,
  • Completion of several drilling programmes, as well as geophysical, mapping, geochemical and sampling programmes.
  • Mineral resource estimations to show we have at least one million ounces of gold, though we hope recent drilling will increase that figure dramatically.
  • Development of detailed mine plans, Published Preliminary, Economic Assessment Reports.

We have had over 350 official and unofficial consultation meeting with landowners, community, government, and stakeholders during that time to ensure everyone understands the project.


Why are your plans?

I will still be with the company for the next few months, and I have offered to stay on a little longer to ensure there is a smooth transition going forward.

There are many exciting opportunities in the exploration and mining world.

One way or the other, I hope it is not too long before I come back to Fiji for one reason or another.


What advice can you give to your successor?  

I am not sure who my successor might be, but if that person is an expatriate, he or she needs to listen to the local Fijians and understand the culture which makes Fiji unique.

Spend time understanding Fiji, the environment, the family structure, the regulators, the government, the businesses.

Listen and learn.

If the company is to remain in Fiji, of course it needs to make money, but at the same time it needs to add value to the country of Fiji, to its employees, and to the communities in which it works.

Everyone can and should benefit from the company’s presence.

I have learnt an incredible amount since first coming to Fiji 10 years ago.

I am especially indebted to my Fijian colleagues and the communities in which I have worked for imparting that knowledge and experience.


Could you please tell us how Tuvatu is operating?

Lion One’s Tuvatu project is going well.

The company is fully funded, having raised about $90 million from international shareholders in 2020.

Lion One has its own state of the art, world class geochemical and metallurgical laboratory, and six of its own drilling rigs in Fiji.

The laboratory and drill rigs are run by locals, as are most of our activities.

The company is currently building a large workshop which will cater for drill rigs and mining equipment services and repairs.

We are completing an updated mine design and mine plan and have ordered several pieces of mining equipment which are expected to arrive in Fiji over the next few months.

It is finalising discussions with two suppliers to design, engineer and construct the process plant facility.

Lion One hopes to prove the concept that there are many millions of ounces in the Tuvatu area. COVID-19, and to a lesser degree, the wet season, has slowed the company down.

In early March 2020, as managing director, I was one of the first in Fiji to develop a detailed COVID-19 Policy and guidelines to protect its employees and the community in which the company operates.

Since that time, the company has had weekly (and sometimes much more often) meetings with all its employees to reiterate the seriousness of the pandemic and the importance of safe work practices.

At the same time, during the last 12 to 15 months of COVID-19, Lion One has increased its workforce by over 40 per cent.We have ensured that all our employees are financially stable during the lockdown periods.

In the end, our employees are our most important asset, and the company is committed to their safety and well being.


Is Lion One fully operational?

No, we are always expanding our activities and operation though.

As we have intersected some spectacular drill results, we must keep going back to the drawing board to cater for the new results. The incredible success we have had has slowed the move into mining.


Are there any new developments?

Drilling has returned some spectacular results since mid-last year with potentially economic mineralisation being intersected to almost one kilometre depth.

The accelerated drilling programme is ongoing and further drilling results will keep expanding the size of the project.


How many are now employed?  

Lion One has over 100 local employees, and as we expand into mining, the numbers will grow to close to 300. The company has been training employees from the local communities where possible.


How soon would you expect to make your first gold shipment?

As we need to build a process plant and tailings dam, it may be 18 months to two years before the first gold shipment.




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