Asante Gold acquired the Bibiani gold mine from Resolute Mining for US$90 million. How did this opportunity come about?
Resolute did a superb job of care and maintenance on the asset, which is a big complex sprawling hundred of houses, together with mill facility, offices and 450 staff. Resolute also carried out exceptional community relations work such as sponsoring the local football team. However, to get the mine into production as an underground operation would have required another few years and probably another US$100 million and Resolute had other assets as priorities. Meanwhile, we were looking for a bigger asset, so it made sense for them to sell to us.
What makes Bibiani special and what has attracted your interest to this asset?
I call Bibiani a “sleeping giant” as one of the foremost Ghanaian mineral deposits. It poured first gold 100 years ago, and I have no qualms saying that the mine will still be producing for another 50 years because Bibiani is a very large deposit based on a very strong structure. It is incredibly rare to find an asset with both high upside potential and near-term production, and this is what makes Bibiani a truly phenomenal acquisition. Bibiani holds at least 10 million ounces in exploration potential.
Also, we are very excited to refurbish the mill. When it was still in production back in 2006, the gold price hovered at around US$700/oz, which rendered the mill facility on care and maintenance. Today, we have an aggressive timeline to bring Bibiani back into production by July 2022. We are helped by the high gold prices and a market keen to provide the needed capital to wake up this sleeping giant.
How did you find the financial support for this US$90 million transaction?
A series of factors aligned: On one hand, we had a wonderful acquisition opportunity to present to investors. On the other hand, we live in a climate whereby global investors are looking for gold supply. The two cornerstone investors each backing us at 19.9% of the issued share came from the UAE; in recent years, Dubai has been making moves to become the world’s gold trading center. We offered them an acquisition opportunity to convert their cash assets into what could be millions of ounces of gold.
What are the latest developments at your Kubi asset in Ghana, and what synergies could be realized between Bibiani and Kubi?
At Kubi, we used to be limited by the lack of a mill facility, but this has changed now. There are only 100 km between Kubi and Bibiani, and the distance is covered via paved road. We could ship material from Kubi to Bibiani and lose only about half a gram on the head grade. This could see the value of Kubi instantly tripling. Kubi has quite high grades running at 5-6 g/t Au. We already obtained the forest access permit and now we are working on the EPA permit. Once this is obtained, we’ll kick-start an intense drilling campaign on the 800 m strike length of the ore body to draw potential reserve wireframes and put together a mining plan. This would fit nicely with the timeframe of bringing Bibiani into production.
Can you elaborate on your broader exploration strategy, given the recent land acquisitions?
What makes Asante different from many large or mid-cap companies is that both Malik Easah, our executive director, and I, are very aggressive explorers with a vested ability to find new ore bodies. We acquired different properties on both Ashanti and Asankrangwa Gold belts, and we have eight concessions in the pipeline. By this time next year, we hope to have started exploration on about six of these.
Asante Gold announced plans to list on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE). What motivated this move?
Listing on the GSE is a key part of our vision to build a Ghanaian mining company. Trading here will also create very interesting arbitrage opportunities between Ghana and the other markets we’re listed in, like Canada and Germany, while giving local companies the chance to trade securities, or get involved in the mining business in their own country. The plan was delayed by the Bibiani acquisition, but we hope to finalize the listing this fall.