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New CEO brings rare earths development expertise to Tanzania project

Following the resignation of MD Darren Townsend in September, rare earths developer Peak Resources approached Rocky Smith, the COO of Peak Resources at the time, to fulfill the role of interim CEO.

Smith, a mining industry professional with more than 35 years of international experience, is one of the very few western mining executives who possess an in-depth knowledge of the rare earth industry, including the supply chain, coupled with extensive experience with start-up and operations of complex chemical process facilities including rare earths, Peak Resources notes.

Smith was formerly MD for Molycorp’s Mountain Pass rare earth operations in the US prior to joining Peak Resources.

His focus has been on increasing operational margins, improving safety performance, energy and natural resource optimisation and implementation of operational excellence.

He has worked in multiple metal and non-metal mines in both operational and technical management roles, focusing on customer service and continuous improvement of operations.

Peak believe the fact that it can attract and retain an executive of Smith’s calibre is a further validation of the strong fundamentals of the Ngualla project currently under development in Tanzania.

Smith’s current focus is to deliver the near-term objectives of Peak’s strategy to progress the project to development to meet the expected upsurge in demand for the neodymium/praseodymium magnet metals resulting from the electric vehicle revolution.

The key work streams include:

  • Finalisation of permitting and grant of the mining license application for Ngualla through active engagement with the Tanzanian government and other stakeholders;
  • Advancing offtake discussions with potential customers;
  • Develop strategic partnerships that will assist Peak’s working relationship with the Tanzanian government;
  • Advance discussions with potential financers; and
  • Progress opportunities identified which may further improve the


“The Board is delighted that Smith has accepted the CEO role. To date his insights and involvement in the development of the processing route have made a significant contribution to the outcome of the Bankable Feasibility Study and consequently, the

Ngualla project’s outstanding economics. His experience and expertise will be invaluable in the successful development of Ngualla,” says Peak Resources chairman Peter Harold.

Commenting in his appointment, Smith said he looks forward to the task of pushing this ‘best of class project’, step by step towards construction and then operation.

Chantelle Kotze
Chantelle Kotze is a Johannesburg-based media professional. She is a contributor at Mining Review Africa (Clarion Events - Africa) and has created content for the media brand over the past 6 years.