Milan Jerkovic, the former Straits Resources boss who took the reins of Wiluna Mining during its last existential crisis in 2018, is leaving the troubled miner by “mutual agreement”.
The WA mining veteran’s departure comes after Wiluna was forced to tap the market in May in an emergency capital raising, with the company citing a near-term funding requirement on the back of ramp up delays caused by COVID-19, the skilled labour shortages, inflationary cost pressures, shipping delays of key equipment and delays to concentrate sales.
The embattled miner avoided immediate collapse after locking in commitments of $50 million from shareholders and its contractor Byrnecut agreeing to convert about $13.4m of payables into scrip.
It also won the support of its secured lender Mercuria, which waived the event of default while the company was bedding down its raising.
Wiluna said on Wednesday non-executive director Rowan Johnston would take on the role of non-executive chairman while former Highland Gold chief operating officer Michael Monaghan had been appointed acting chief executive.
The pair would be supported by former Bardoc Gold boss Robert Ryan as acting chief operating officer and an on-site team led by the company’s existing open pit mine manager Jon Pluckhahn.
Wiluna said the renewed focus of the company under the new team was to reset the mine plan to take advantage of the company’s 5.5 million-ounce gold resource at its namesake operations.
Wiluna, formerly known as Blackham Resources, has struggled for years with production problems and high costs caused partly by Wiluna’s hard-to-process refractory ore.
But Mr Johnston said on Wednesday the question of metallurgy at Wiluna had been answered with its new flotation plant producing saleable concentrate and operating at a higher than name-plate capacity and improved specifications.
“The gold is there, it can be extracted and recovered,” he said.
“With most of the upfront capital expenditure on the WilTails project already spent and its commissioning currently being targeted for October, we will have a further revenue stream coming online.
“Now we will focus on finalising a realistic, executable mine plan over the coming months that will provide a return to our shareholders, whilst also ensuring a focus on cost management.”
Mr Jerkovic transitioned from non-executive chairman to executive chairman of the then Blackham in 2018 when the company did not have the cash to make a $14.6m debt repayment after a $60m funding package fell through.
Blackham only survived after its lenders agreed to a temporary standstill on the repayment, giving the company time to refinance its term loan and square away a $36m rights issue.
But Blackham, which changed its name to Wiluna in June 2020, has continued to struggle for profitability at Wiluna and been forced to regularly tap investors for more cash to sustain its operations.
Wiluna shares closed up 0.5¢ at 23.5¢ in a rough day for gold players after the price of the precious metal dipped below $US1800/oz.