A Wish for Re­spon­si­ble Min­ing

Africa Outlook - - Contents - Writer: Matthew Staff

Cham­pi­oning le­git­i­macy in sourc­ing the world’s gold

Wish­bone Gold Plc started life as a gold exploration com­pany fo­cused on iden­ti­fy­ing and de­vel­op­ing pre­cious metal as­sets, mainly in Aus­tralia. Still in pos­ses­sion of four gold exploration li­cences cov­er­ing 34,700 hectares in north­east Queens­land - a re­gion known for sig­nif­i­cant pre­cious metal min­er­al­i­sa­tion - the busi­ness’s rise to promi­nence has been quick and rel­a­tively seam­less; virtue of an approach that places spe­cial em­pha­sis on and preser­va­tion and so­ci­etal en­rich­ment.

“In 2016 we an­nounced the ac­qui­si­tion of Black Sand FZE, to en­able us to of­fer a se­cure sup­ply chain through the UAE from min­ing to trad­ing,” in­tro­duces Wish­bone Gold Plc Chair­man, Richard Poulden. “Since then we’ve fo­cused on in­creas­ing our part­ner­ships with ar­ti­sanal min­ers across the world, and par­tic­u­larly in Africa, South East Asia and Cen­tral Amer­ica. This re­verse in­te­gra­tion strat­egy is now the core of our busi­ness.”

Africa Out­look caught up with Poulden to dis­cuss not only the Com­pany’s min­ing acu­men, but how Wish­bone is look­ing to ad­dress agri­cul­tural con­cerns through its move­ment into global mar­kets.

Richard Poulden (RP): It’s still early days, but the re­verse in­te­gra­tion strat­egy be­ing rolled out glob­ally is show­ing great prom­ise. Work has al­ready started, and now in our new­est ven­ture in Thai­land, we are see­ing fast re­sults. We’ve worked with a lo­cal Thai part­ner and have set up a new en­tity, Asian Commerce and Com­modi­ties Trad­ing (ACCT). This puts the trad­ing el­e­ment in the coun­try firmly in place.

Early in Fe­bru­ary ACCT sent a ship­ment of gold from Thai­land to the Wish­bone cen­tre of trad­ing op­er­a­tions in Dubai. The pu­rity of the gold re­ceived was as­sayed at 99 per­cent, and the vol­ume of ship­ments is set to rise.

Wish­bone has been steadily grow­ing on an international scale since 2017 when we set up our in­au­gu­ral Hon­duras site. Although we were de­layed due to bad weather, with the re­gion ex­pe­ri­enc­ing one of the worst hur­ri­cane sea­sons on record, this project has still proved to be a suc­cess for the Com­pany, lo­cal com­mu­nity and the Hon­duran Gov­ern­ment. We have now set our sights on Africa and with the help of con­sul­tant, Oliver Poole have be­gun op­er­a­tions in Uganda and Mali. There is also po­ten­tial to grow in the East as we fur­ther our re­la­tion­ship with Thai­land.

Africa Out­look (AfO): As you con­tinue to ex­pand, how im­por­tant is it to in­gra­ti­ate your­self into each new re­gion, es­pe­cially from an en­vi­ron­men­tal per­sec­tive?

RP: Lo­ca­tion is key to the suc­cess of our model as it re­quires us to un­der­stand fully the lo­cal mar­ket and gov­er­nance, and to pro­vide easy ac­cess to the coun­try lo­ca­tion. It is also paramount that we work with suit­able ar­ti­sanal and small mines (ASM) that have the po­ten­tial for in­creased pro­duc­tion and teams that are will­ing to work with the Wish­bone team and ad­here to our poli­cies sur­round­ing tax­a­tion, leg­is­la­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­ce­dures.

The Board of Di­rec­tors have a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in both the min­ing and nat­u­ral re­sources sec­tors as well as in CSR. I am a keen en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and work with and sup­port var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing on con­ser­va­tion in Africa and world­wide. That work has proved to be a cat­a­lyst and a use­ful in­tro­duc­tion for Wish­bone’s work with ASMs. One of the piv­otal is­sues with ASMs is the detri­men­tal im­pact they have on the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment. Our unique pro­duc­tion model pro­vides a di­rect so­lu­tion to this is­sue with our care­fully se­lected management teams im­ple­ment­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards in keep­ing with the lo­cal leg­is­la­tion.

AfO: Cen­tral to your suc­cess of course has been the key projects en­gaged in over the years, so can you firstly talk me through the land­mark ex­am­ples and your role within them?

RP: Be­fore Wish­bone I grew Sir­ius Min­er­als sig­nif­i­cantly through a sim­i­lar strat­egy of ac­qui­si­tion. In other in­dus­tries I have also fol­lowed a sim­i­lar strat­egy build­ing Al­liance Med­i­cal and Wharf­side Wine. It’s one that I believe works. But I’m proud­est of my work in con­ser­va­tion with or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Wild­fowl and Wet­lands Trust, the David Shep­herd Wildlife Foun­da­tion and the Gi­ants Club, work­ing to pro­mote in­vest­ment in con­ser­va­tion, busi­ness and tourism in Africa.

AfO: When iden­ti­fy­ing such projects, how do so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts drive your approach and your life­cy­cle management; es­pe­cially since turn­ing your at­ten­tions to Africa?

RP: A clean, ef­fi­cient site serves the ar­ti­sanal miner well and it in­creases pro­duc­tiv­ity for us. We in­sist on proper en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trols and it’s a great ad­di­tional ben­e­fit to what we do; in­creas­ing that pro­duc­tiv­ity to en­cour­age pros­per­ity.

“...I’m proud­est of my work in con­ser­va­tion with or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Wild­fowl and Wet­lands Trust, the David Shep­herd Wildlife Foun­da­tion and the Gi­ants Club, work­ing to pro­mote in­vest­ment in con­ser­va­tion, busi­ness and tourism in Africa.”

AfO: In what ways do you feel there is a short­fall in en­vi­ron­men­tal/agri­cul­tural con­sid­er­a­tions among the min­ing in­dus­try at present and how do you feel that Wish­bone Gold ad­dresses these is­sues?

RP: Around 20 per­cent of gold pro­duc­tion world­wide is pro­duced by ar­ti­sanal min­ers. In ad­di­tion to this there is a fur­ther fringe of il­le­gal min­ers across all sec­tors. It is this lat­ter area that is the worst en­vi­ron­men­tally and where there needs to be a fo­cus for change. It is im­por­tant to re­alise that these are not all crim­i­nals; some of them are just try­ing to scrape a liv­ing because there are no jobs that they can go to. This is a ma­jor area where we can ef­fect change.

AfO: What spe­cific pro­cesses do you have in place to fa­cil­i­tate long-term en­vi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion and agri­cul­tural safe­guard­ing?

RP: In some cases the mines we work with start out as un­li­censed min­ers, and as such are un­reg­u­lated. They sim­ply have the goal to pro­duce as much gold as pos­si­ble re­gard­less of the ir­re­versible consequences some of their prac­tices will have on the sur­round­ing ar­eas. Wish­bone has set out to change this by bring­ing the bet­ter of these mines into the le­gal fold and in­sist­ing that if they want our help they have to have le­gal li­censes. Once they ob­tain li­cences we also in­sist there will be: no mer­cury, no slash and burn, no de­struc­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment, and most im­por­tantly, they will have to pay taxes. This way, pre­vi­ously un­reg­u­lated mi­cro busi­nesses can be brought into the reg­u­lated fold.

AfO: What kinds of on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions have you formed with the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in which you work to com­pound this commitment to agri­cul­tural en­rich­ment?

RP: By pro­vid­ing in­vest­ment, mod­ern equipment and up­dat­ing min­ing tech­niques we can en­cour­age greater ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity. In some cases we can also re­duce the size of the ac­tual mine as pro­duc­tion be­comes more ex­act and pro­cess­ing is housed in spe­cially-built units.

AfO: Look­ing for­ward, how would you hope your own im­pact on this is­sue will progress and what goals do you have in place to this end?

RP: We hope to in­crease the use of our model glob­ally in or­der to im­prove the stan­dards, ethics and pro­duc­tion of ASMs. The goal for Wish­bone is of course to in­crease pro­duc­tion of gold from our sites for trad­ing, how­ever, we hope to change the ar­ti­sanal sec­tor and have it recog­nised as a le­git­i­mate source of the world’s gold.

A WISH FOR RE­SPON­SI­BLE MIN­ING State-of-the-art equipment fa­cil­i­tates sus­tain­able op­er­a­tions

Richard Poulden, Chair­man, Wish­bone Gold Plc

WSBN pro­duc­tion line; March, 2018

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