MINEX Eurasia 2019 summary

The 8th MINEX Eurasia Mining & Investment Conference took place in London on 28 November 2019. The conference has brought together 200 participants from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, North Macedonia, Russia, Switzerland, Tajikistan, UK, USA and Uzbekistan.

During the course of the day, presenting companies held over 30 one-on-one meetings with 15 Natural Resources Funds, Investment Banks, Family offices and Private investors.

Mongolian Transport Ministry and Mongolian Railway Authority held, alongside the Conference, a round table meeting with investors and supply chain companies. The Mongolian delegation presented a New Railway Project which consists of 2,000 km of new railway base and extends the links to major mine sites such as Tavan Tolgoi.

Alongside the conference Simmons & Simmons presented its Mining Legal Database which has been developed in response to demand from investors, financiers and developers evaluating and/or developing mining projects in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The database provides information on the key legal issues to consider and be aware of in 43 jurisdictions across Africa and 16 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The Eurasian region is often viewed as a challenging place to do business, yet many companies are benefiting from its rich resources and low operating costs. This year MINEX Eurasia Conference provided an insight from companies investing and operating in Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz Republic.

The conference commenced with the keynote address by Eric Rasmussen, Director of Natural Resources of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development who presented the EBRD overview of the Eurasia mining sector. EBRD is a key investor in the mining sector in the region with 85 equity and debt projects under management across the whole value chain including exploration, mine development, reclamation/clean-up and drilling. Mining industry plays important role in Eurasia creating jobs, spurring innovation and bringing investment and large-scale infrastructure development. However, if managed poorly, mining operations can also lead to environmental degradation, displaced populations, inequality and increased conflict, among other challenges. Through its investments, the Bank strives to implement a number of processes in the mining industry which help advance transition to a well-functioning market economy.

Laziz Kudratov, First Deputy Minister, Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan presented a keynote on country’s economic reforms and investment opportunities. The 2017-2021 Economy and Legal reforms include the liberalisation of foreign currency, reduction of the state involvement in the economic activities, the reform of the judicial system, administrative reforms and introduction of anti-corruption laws. Alongside the Conference, the First Deputy Minister Kudratov met with MINEX Forum Secretariat and expressed interest in endorsing the 2nd MINEX Uzbekistan Forum planned in 2020. Uzbekistan is one of the largest Central Asian countries with untapped mineral wealth and immense business and investment opportunities. Uzbekistan’s Gold resources are the 3rd largest in the World. It also holds the 10th largest reserves of zinc, silver, tungsten, the 11th of uranium and the 12th largest resources of copper.

Ayuna Nechaeva, Head of Europe – Primary Markets, London Stock Exchange Group; Patrick Barnes, Head of Metals & Mining Consulting EMEARC at Wood Mackenzie; Hélène Piaget, CEO of Responsible Mining Foundation; Terry Heymann, CFO of World Gold Council; Emily Harris, Principal Consultant at SRK Consulting and Sir Richard Shirreff, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Strategia Worldwide, addressed challenges of creating safer and responsible mining to secure investment and licence to operate, which remains the most significant risk in the industry.

H.E. Edil Baisalov, Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic opened the Kyrgyz session with the keynote speech “Political and Social Stability in Kyrgyzstan: Democracy Delivers”. Karybek Ibraev, Deputy Chairman, State Committee for Industry, Energy and Subsoil Use of the Kyrgyz Republic and Christopher Weafer, Chief Executive Office, Macro-Advisory Limited, provided update on mining outlook and subsoil use regulation in the Kyrgyz Republic. Chaarat Holdings, the second largest investor in the country, presented its projects and talked about investment opportunities in the gold sector in the country. Oktiabrin Sadyrov, President of Stewart Assay and Environmental Laboratories concluded the session with a case of creating a state-of-the-art testing laboratory in Kara-Balta.

At the Kazakhstan session Nigel Robinson, CEO of Central Asia Metals Plc, gave a talk about the company’s strategy for building a sustainable business. Mukan Arginbayev, Head of Representative Office, Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund, presented its strategy in the mining segment. Ryan Booth, Head of Marketing, IntelliSense.io, showcased a delivery of the first digital mining plant for Altynalmas Gold Mining Company. Notably, on 29 November 2019 the Group of companies led by Altynalmas attracted 470-million-euro loan from VTB Bank for the implementation of the Aksu gold project with capacity of 5 million tons of ore per year.

At the Russian session Roman Panov, First Vice-President of Gazprombank, the third largest private-owned bank in Russia, talked about the successful funding of exploration projects and presented the bank’s new Mineral Assets Fund. Rethinking corporate governance to prepare for a rapidly changing future was the theme of presentation by Tania Tchedaeva, Director, Corporate Governance and Company Secretary of Polymetal International, a precious metals mining company listed on the London Stock Exchange and Moscow Exchange. In September 2019 Polymetal has re-joined the FTSE 100 Index becoming the second Russian blue-chip company on the London Capital Market. Dr. Alexander Yakubchuk from Toronto-listed Orsu Metals and Azarga Metals presented the precious metal and copper projects which the companies are developing in Russia’s Transbaikalia.

The theme of the next session was the Future of mining and practical application of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain and Satellite Monitoring in mining and exploration projects. James Gilbertson, Managing Director of SRK Exploration presented the “Absolute Prospectivity” Unified Exploration Model developed by SRK and the School of Mathematics at the University of Exeter. Absolute Prospectivity is offering a powerful tool to explore/defer/drop decisions and capital allocation. Alexander Vinogradov, Head of Innovations and Supply Chain of Nornickel presented the company’s DIGITAL LABORATORY – an open-end R&D platform for the development of prototypes of digital solutions for operational problems. Nornickel’s DIGITAL LABORATORY builds more than 30 implementation-ready prototypes per year. Denis Miganov, Innovations Advisor of Nornickel presented one of the innovative technologies developed by the DIGITAL LABORATORY, a CleanOre project. Ore clogging is the most common problem for mining enterprises. The CleanOre technology is controlling the ore clogging with a novel application of AI. Tanya Matveeva, Geologist at Kamni Consulting, offered an overview of the advancement of blockchain technology into mining. Until recently, application of blockchain was limited to tracking ore from mine to markets. Tanya presented several cases of cross industry blockchain applications developed by RCS Global, BHP Billiton, MineHub, Nornickel, ALROSA, De Beers, White & Case and some others. Maral Bayaraa, Earth Observation Specialist from Satellite Applications Catapult concluded the session with the presentation of use of satellite-enabled technologies in the mining cycle.

H.E. Masud Khalifazoda, Ambassador of Tajikistan, presented new trade and investment opportunities in the country and invited delegates to take part in the first Mining and Exploration Forum to be held in Dushanbe on 18-20 May 2020.

Steven Rudofsky, Founder of Talex Commodities Capital, Bert Koth, Partner of Mining Fund at Denham Capital and Mark Tyler, London Representative of Auramet International, took part in the final panel and discussed the international investors’ views on funding mining companies operating in Eurasia.

The conference concluded with the networking drinks hosted by Simmons & Simmons.

MINEX Forum secretariat thanks Simmons & Simmons International Law Firm for hosting MINEX Eurasia Conference for the third time.

We are also grateful to the event sponsors – Highland Gold Mining, Stewart Assay and Environmental Laboratories and SRK Consulting for their contribution to MINEX Eurasia Conference this year.

The MINEX Eurasia materials will be published online on 9 December 2019.