Jonah’s firm foundation
Ghanaian turning down his ‘ambassadorial’ duties
SAM JONAH, former chairman of AngloGold Ashanti, is to form a diversified mining company – Jonah Mining – that may provide a platform for separately floated businesses.
After several years of sitting on the boards of other people’s companies, the Ghanaian mining entrepreneur wants his own. “It’s time to put something behind the brand,” says Jonah in an interview. “I’m getting some friends together and we’re putting money in.”
However, he’s coy concerning the financing. Standard Bank will be indirectly involved through its participation in Jonah Capital, a private financing firm that will help capitalise Jonah Mining. But his “friends” could be almost anyone. Jonah has an ambassadorial range bridging politics and business. “I’m going to the Central African Republic. The president wants to see me.”
Hanging in the reception area of his Sandton office are pictures of Jonah sharing a joke with Thabo Mbeki. There’s a more sober photograph of him with Nelson Mandela. In another, he’s pictured ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on the listing of Ashanti Goldfields, the firm he created and eventually merged with Anglo’s would-be orphan, AngloGold.
Bobby Godsell, AngloGold Ashanti CEO, recently described Jonah as “a big man” – which he is in presence – without being tall. But his business network is equally giantic, as evidenced by the extraordinary number of company boards on which he currently serves, mostly as a non-executive director.
But Jonah says those days are over. He recently resigned the chairmanship of AngloGold Ashanti and has plans to step down from a number of other positions, including Equinox Minerals, a Toronto-listed firm. He also stepped down from Mittal Steel SA last year but currently has positions on the boards of Torontolisted firms Moto Goldmines and Uramin, as well as AIM-listed Copper Resources. There are others: Sierra Rutile, Equator Exploration, Ghana Airways, Range Resources. The list goes on.
“My passion and interest have always been to have an association with the junior mining industry,” says Jonah, explaining why he sits on so many boards. “Anglo put me on several boards as well.” Jonah has since resigned those, including a seat at Anglo Platinum. “But now I have Jonah Mining,” he says.
The plan is for Jonah to become executive chairman of the company, which will develop “a diversified portfolio of assets”. “It will almost be like a mining house with separate divisions, ranging from tin to diamonds. Whatever becomes large enough will be separately listed.”
Jonah Capital also has the rights to refining technology that can be turned to account in both the iron ore and base metals industries, he says. “We can produce copper in three hours compared to the week required by the standard electro-winning technology.”
With so many options on the table, it’s still no surprise that Jonah will retain some board positions for the time being. One is Uramin, a Canadian firm with offices in Sandton. Jonah is chairman. It’s a uranium exploration firm that’s seen its market value grow to more than US$1bn. It recently retained BMO Nesbitt Burns to consider strategic options. “We’re interested in collaboration or consolidation, either as a passenger or for Uramin to be in the driving seat,” Jonah says.
“The president wants to see me.” Sam Jonah