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Natural Resources & Energy

Successful Bidders On Occidental Assets Have A Plan Forward

Orion Mine Finance

The likely new owners of four million acres of mineral rights and a million acres of land primarily in Wyoming is Orion Mine Finance, a subset of the investment management firm Orion Resource Partners. Jon Lamb, portfolio manager with Orion Resource Partners, spoke with Cooper McKim regarding the firm's thinking behind the purchase and their plans forward.

Jon Lamb: So, Orion is an investment firm. We specialize in the mining sector. We have a couple of different strategies that we focus on. One that is really at play here is investing in mineral royalty opportunities, and building platforms around those. So, for this investment we've created a new company to hold our interests - Sweetwater Royalties - which will be focused on base metals and industrial minerals royalties, such as the trona mineral leases in the land grant. Beyond that, part of our investment strategy is also focused on financing mining projects from the development stage into production. So, we've been very active in financing the construction of new gold mines, copper mines, lithium mines, globally.

Cooper McKim: So, what does your involvement mean practically on the ground? Is it you guys who are hiring folks to help mine trona or is it contracting companies to do that mining? How does that actually work as far as you guys making money?

JL: Our focus here is to partner with the existing operators that are on the ground for them to continue kind of the business as usual operations as they're currently being run, as well as working with other individuals who have an interest in doing further exploration work or other work on other pieces of the land grant where we have mineral rights. We're happy to partner with those groups and encourage further development. There's a significant amount of mineral acreage in this transaction: over 4 million acres as well as surface acreage where there's certainly lots of potential beyond just the current areas that are producing trona or oil and gas or other other minerals today and as well with some of the significant transmission projects and other renewables projects coming in. We also see an opportunity for development on some of the surface acreage that's part of this transaction as well. So, looking to partner with people who are looking to work on those new projects.

CM: What about recreation, grazing, hunting, I know that some of the concerns that Wyoming citizens have are about land access, and that the focus from a company might be more on the development side rather than the land access side. So, what are your thoughts there?

JL: We want the current users of the land to continue to enjoy the access that they have been with the land. We recognize that there's a lot of acreage here being used for grazing and other things. We want to continue to be supportive of our partners there who are using the land and try to find ways to continue to work together with those people.

CM: Any considerations into investing in recreation or grazing or hunting or any of those sort of state-specific things or is the focus right now on investing with development opportunities?

JL: I think we would certainly entertain a view on what other opportunities are there for the surface, whether it be on development or on recreational opportunities, I think we're... we recognize the importance of both sectors.

CM: Great. Well, that's all my questions, anything else you'd like to add?

JL: At this point in the transaction, looking forward to being a long term partner in Wyoming... active in this area, it's an investment that we're very excited about. Something that hasn't been the easiest to do a transaction in the time of COVID-19. But something that we were very, very excited to be here to be purchasing these assets and looking forward to hopefully a long successful partnership with the operators and the community's here.

CM: Well, thanks for making time for us today.

JL: Thank you very much.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Cooper McKim, at cmckim5@uwyo.edu.

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