After years of being focused primarily on gold, Ariab Mining Company now aims to become a multi-minerals company and an African leader. General Manager Nasr Eldin Elhussein (NE) explains how the company intends to achieve these goals
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LE: What are your company’s priorities, and how are you looking to attract foreign direct investment to Ariab Mining?
NE: Ariab Mining Company (AMC) was established in 1991 as a joint venture between the government of Sudan and BRGM (Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières) of France, and later the La Mancha company. AMC has maintained the standards of world-class international mining companies, with clear management, vision and plans. This will probably now require some sort of update, which will be one of the key points I will focus on.
Initially, I started by sending a message to all the employees explaining the four pillars of the company’s strategy. The first is human capital, which is about developing our employees and attracting new and young talent. We need fresh talent in the pipeline so we can disseminate new experience into the organisation. The second pillar is HSSE — health, safety, security and environment. This is very important to the company, and we need to invest much of our energy in it.
Our operation is environmentally friendly; even the new projects we are undertaking are regarded as green projects. We are going to use technologies that are not harmful to the environment. Mining operations in different parts of the world are not really environmentally friendly, but we want to do to less harm to the environment, and to be cautious about safety. We need to keep investing in HSSE and ensure top management’s commitment to it.
The third pillar is the bottom line and deliverables. The existing reserves of Ariab Mining are considerable. The company possesses two big concessions in a total area of 43,000km2. Yet we are only operating in the southern area of one concession. The prospects for mineral reserves in the other concession and in the remaining part of the existing one make us very optimistic. We are talking about billions of dollars. We can’t give the exact number yet, as we are still evaluating more prospects, but we are talking about a couple of million tonnes of copper and more than 150 tonnes of gold.
So how do you translate this into real deliverables? That is my challenge. It may require more technology, additional experience and opening up our doors to the world. This is an international company, so we need international input, whether technology, knowledge, people, experience, finance or investment.
The final theme is sustainable development of the local communities. Primarily, we have to continue supporting the local communities in education, development and empowerment of women, in health and essential medical care and in developing the skills and capabilities of the people who live near our mines. We have done some of this, but we need to do much more.
By delivering on these four themes, we will revitalise our image globally, achieve international industry standards, and attract people to do business with us.
LE: Please elaborate on the green projects that Ariab Mining is currently carrying out.
NE: By green projects, we mean the way that we extract the minerals. Currently, we use the conventional heap leaching process, which leaves the remaining gold within the tailing. The goal is to extract a maximum amount of mineral, but there are different ways to do this. We have chosen a way that is far less harmful to the environment. We use the carbon and bleach process to extract more gold from the heap leaching tailings and to manage the treatment and disposal of them in accordance with international standards.
The second project is about using more renewable energy sources and developing a hybrid system that can significantly reduce the emissions impact of our current thermal power generation.
Additionally, we’ve realised that that most of our work over the past 20 years or so has been done in the first zone or the oxides layer of minerals. Now, we want to go deeper to get more value out of the operation than we currently do. Rather than open too many pits and areas for drilling, it is better to go deeper within the existing pits.
The third project is the exploration of the areas that we haven’t done in the past. By using new technology, we are getting more value from our activities and doing less harm to the environment.
LE: How would you like to see foreign investors partner with Ariab Mining?
NE: We are looking for investors who are equipped with knowledge and authenticated best practice. We know the concessions that we are exploiting very well, but technology must be updated day by day. So we are looking for investors who are in the field, who know the new technologies, and are adapting to them.
Secondly, we need investors who can inject the resources needed to help us achieve our goals. Exploration must be continued, but it is not cheap. We have a huge concession area, but we are currently working only a very tiny portion of it. We welcome any investor who would like to join us in exploring, mining and extracting.
LE: What is your vision or ultimate goal as the head of this organisation?
NE: I can see this company in the next few years as the leader in mining in Africa. I say this for a couple of reasons. First, we have the proven reserves. We have a very wide geographical area that we are working on, where there are lots of prospects. The second is that AMC is now a multi-mineral mining company. We are shifting our paradigm from being a single-mineral company into a multi-mineral company. We have world-class reserves of copper, zinc, gold and silver, as well as considerable reserves of tungsten and manganese, which we will extract and deliver to the international market within a few years.
LE: What is your final message to international investors?
NE: Sudan offers a safe environment with very promising reserves. The country has reviewed its investment regulations to allow more freedom to foreign investors to develop their businesses, in compliance with international standards. The opportunities for long-term profitable business are here. With the downward trend in oil prices, minerals such as gold could save many businesses around the world from collapse. Sudan’s mineral resources have yet to be exploited and could provide unique opportunities for serious investors.