If you think there is gold under your property, you might be tempted to dance a jig and yell ‘gold, gold’, but then you must bargain on a long wait before you get your first ingot.
The Martabe gold and silver mine in North Sumatra, for example, is facing a rite of passage; in the next six months it envisages pouring the first gold from its deposit, but that's after the mine has been through many pairs of hands as it moved towards development.
Normandy Mining held the first claim on Martabe. That firm was taken over by Newmont in 2002. Then Newmont decided it did not want to commit any more funding to Indonesia as they had other local issues to handle and preferred not to add to their burden.
So the mine was sold to Oxiana Limited, which later changed its name to Oz Minerals. The global financial crisis took its toll on that company, and Martabe was sold for $210 million to Hong Kong-listed G Resources.
That firm is chaired by Hong Kong tycoon Chiu Tao and the vice-chairman is Owen Hegarty, who used to work at Oxiana and worked on the Martabe project.
G Resources raised equity to buy Martabe, it then raised $500 million to develop it as a gold and silver mine. It has no debt on its books, except for an undrawn $100 million stand-by facility.
Proven and probable reserves are three million ounces of gold and 34 million ounces of silver, found in a 45 million tonne ore deposit that will be mined in an open pit with a low strip ratio. Under the current plan, the mine has a life of at least 10 years, but is potentially extendible given indicated and inferred resources; the scale of the project could be as much as 180 million tonnes.
G Resources has a 50-year licence over the project, where costs of production are $242 per ounce. With gold prices at around $1,700 per ounce today, miners are a lot less interested nowadays in selling gold production forward, in a climate when most gold mines are a lot less marginal than they ever used to be, so they do not need to lock in their revenues.
“The hedging gene has been removed from my DNA, even at these levels,” says Hegarty, talking to AsianInvestor on the sidelines of our Asian Commodities Investment Summit in Hong Kong this week, held in conjunction with our sister publication FinanceAsia.
G Resources aims to become a one-million-ounce-per-year gold producer. So Martabe alone is not big enough to get them to that level. Their future strategy, therefore, sees them exploring and acquiring gold miners elsewhere in Asia, particularly on the geologically rich area known as the Tianshan Mineral belt, a vast swathe of land that extends from Uzbekistan in Central Asia to Mongolia.