KEFI Minerals plc (LON:KEFI) Executive Chairman Harry Anagnostaras-Adams caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss reduced funding for the Tulu Kapi gold project, reaching an inflection point, the lift on the Ethiopian state of emergency, Ethiopia for business and KEFI’s timetable
Q1: Now Harry, KEFI Minerals announced this morning that the funding requirement for the Tulu Kapi gold project has been reduced further. Things seem to be coming together now, is that the case?
A1: Yes, it’s not an unusual predicament, in my 40-year working life half the time I’m asked, ‘why did you get involved in such a tough challenge?’ and the other half of the time, the question is ‘how can it be so good, the leverage be so good?’. We are indeed, now, coming together and we’re at an inflection point where we’re moving from the tough challenge to the leverage opening up.
Q2: So, there has been some strong progress but would you really say you’re reaching an inflection point with the project?
A2: Yes, one only takes on a start-up project in a new jurisdiction for mining, community issues, politic issues, financial issues and so on, if the leverage is super to justify the efforts, anyone that gets involved in this game only does so on the basis of the leverage justifying the effort.
The leverage is terrific and because we’re at the point where it’s coming together now, we’ve just got the remaining few bricks in the wall, we are indeed at an inflection point where the leverage should open up ahead of us.
Q3: Has this been harder than you thought?
A3: I switched from a non-executive Chairman’s role to being involved in an executive capacity, a bit less than 3 years ago, and at that time, we didn’t fully foresee Ethiopia’s state of emergency or the contraction of the mining bank sector, particularly for a start-up so yes, it has been tough. I suppose there’s some consolation in the fact that the prize has turned out to be bigger than we’d originally thought and certainly consolation that now KEFI Minerals are, as you say, at an inflection point.
Q4: Now, you mentioned the Ethiopian state of emergency, can you explain that for us?
A4: It ended about a week ago, it had been in place since last October. There are good states of emergency and like in Ethiopia, in my opinion, and there are states of emergency that are bad, for what I consider to be bad reasons like for instance I would say in Turkey.
Ethiopia is the world’s highest growth country this year according to the World Bank and has been in the top 10 for growth countries for 15 years straight before that. It’s a country determined to go on being in that sort of position to educate, improve the health, improve the mortality, all these things of its 100 million people, as it has been doing. It’s gone from second poorest status in the world to middle of the ranks in terms of poverty ratings, hugely improved child mortality, education, all these things, and it’s gone on a massive anti-corruption purge via the executive rights granted under a state of emergency which I think was a terrific thing.
These were good for KEFI Minerals, good for anyone developing in the country so I was actually surprised it was lifted yet because I think they could do more. I think it was a reflection of their determination to keep the show on the road and do so in, what only can be regarded as, a clean first-world basis and I commend the country for that.
Q5: How does Ethiopia compare with other countries for keeping business moving and above board?
A5: I can only talk from my personal experience, I would rank Spain as difficult and Ethiopia as better than any country I’ve worked with other than Australia.
Spain to me was a shocker and we had extortion being attempted continually, assaults and threats continually and attempted forgery and fraud and the three main culprits, two of them already in jail now and one going to jail. So, that sort of stuff I experienced in the so-called first world country of Spain.
In Ethiopia, I’ve experienced the opposite, I’ve experienced the regime there basically clearing a pathway to make sure nobody was holding up the show in any unnecessary or inappropriate manner. Again, I thank them for that and them putting money in as our partner so you can’t ask for more than that, I think.
Q6: What’s the KEFI Minerals’ timetable now?
A6: Well, we want this all closed, work’s beginning by the end of the year so we’ve unleashed the hounds, the lawyers and other people for various parties now working and expanding what appears to be an expanding army of people putting together the various paperwork and consents. So, we have a timetable to get that altogether over the next 2 months, the government approvals, internal governance approvals for each organisation and then closing, all by the end of the year.
So, a lot of hard work on what you might call ‘detail’ but the devil’s always in the detail and at the same time, we’re running around doing the last brick in the wall stuff on the financing which we could only turn to when we’d defined all the big bricks. Our announcement today was putting some complexion on how it’s coming together for the bricks in the wall so no change to the timetables, get the thing moving by the end of this year so that’s where we’re at.