Cyprus-based EMED Mining has two exciting prospects on its hands: a copper development mine in Spain and a gold deposit in Slovakia. Developing both sites will require local expertise and a sensitive approach, as Becky Done finds out from Harry Anagnostaras-Adams.
Established in 2004, EMED Mining is a minerals developer focusing on copper and gold in the tectonic belt that extends 3,000 kilometres across Europe and the Middle East. The region is rich in deposits such as sulphide copper-gold, epithermal gold and porphyry copper-gold; and although the area has already undergone extensive mining over the years, EMED Mining has recognised that an abundance of opportunities still exists there.
Founded by Australian mining industry specialists and based in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, near the site of its first project, EMED MiningÔÇÖs 40-strong team now consists of specialists from Spain, Cyprus, Slovakia and the Americas, with the majority of its staff based in Spain.
Under the direction of founder and managing director Harry Anagnostaras-Adams, an Australian of Greek descent, the company is currently managing two key projects, the Poyecto Rio Tinto (PRT) copper development mine in Andalucia, Spain, which lies about 60 kilometres north-west of Seville; and the Biely Vrch gold deposit in Slovakia.
Founded in 1873, the Rio Tinto mine is the most significant known mineral deposit in Andalucia. Mining giant Rio Tinto owned or part-owned the site until the early 1990s; after that, it was owned by local private interests who shut it down in 2000 due to depressed copper prices. EMED Mining spotted the opportunity, acquiring a part interest in the site in 2007 and assuming full ownership in 2008, with the aim of commencing production in 2010.
ÔÇ£The mine is currently on care and maintenance,ÔÇØ explains Anagnostaras-Adams. ÔÇ£The reason for that is that it was surrounded by disputes among former owners and former financiers and we have had to do a doctoring exercise involving cleaning it up, negotiation, legal processes and so on. ItÔÇÖs been very expensive and more time consuming and challenging than we imagined. WeÔÇÖre probably 80 per cent of the way through now. If it had already been cleaned up and was ship-shape, it would have been operating years ago. ThatÔÇÖs really why itÔÇÖs still sitting there, not operating.ÔÇØ
It must be a frustrating processÔÇöthe site holds one million tonnes of copper resources and 600,000 tonnes of copper reserves, equating to contained metal worth around $4 billion. Anagnostaras-Adams expects the mine to have a minimum life of 14 years, but in reality it will probably be double that, he says.
Once PRT is in operation, it is expected to free up company resources and generate sufficient revenue to fund exploration and development at the Biely Vrch porphyry gold project in SlovakiaÔÇöEMED MiningÔÇÖs second main interest, and one which was discovered by the company itself.
Mining has been carried out in this particular area of Slovakia for around 800 years. EMED Mining has a 1,000 square kilometre licence area in the Central Slovakian Volcanic Field, the largest single holding in the country, which had not previously been examined with modern technology capable of detecting low-grade deposits such as gold porphyry. Biely Vrch, EMED MiningÔÇÖs gold porphyry deposit, holds an estimated one million ounces of contained gold.
ÔÇ£It was what we call a virgin discoveryÔÇöit was unknown prior to that,ÔÇØ Anagnostaras-Adams explains. ÔÇ£It was essentially discovered by applying proven techniques from other parts of the world to parts of Europe where they hadnÔÇÖt been applied before. We built a local team and trained them up and they set about the work in known gold districts. They made the discovery as a result of that.ÔÇØ
Often, success can first require a leap of faith. ÔÇ£We went there against conventional wisdom. The local people didnÔÇÖt know, or realise, or believe there would be any more economic deposits there, but this was an area where we thought going against conventional wisdom was warrantedÔÇöas was confirmed by the results.ÔÇØ
Porphyry gold deposits are much sought-after when close to the surface, as this makes them relatively cheap to mine and process using straightforward technology. Deposits are typically large, and tend to occur in clusters, with gold recovery of 60 to 80 per cent usually expected from a prospect.
ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖre now looking at completing our scoping study on how much we would develop into a mine in terms of the first operation,ÔÇØ Anagnostaras-Adams explains. ÔÇ£Then the next set of challenges will be to design, permit and develop an efficient, economic mine. To do so requires both technical work and also permitting work to make sure the local community is satisfied from every respect; but we do have very good relationships and a lot of support from them.ÔÇØ
The company lays a firm emphasis on sensitive development. ÔÇ£We think one of our core strengths is the way that we manage what we call ÔÇÿsocial licensingÔÇÖ,ÔÇØ he explains. ÔÇ£First of all, weÔÇÖre very, very careful about where weÔÇÖre prepared to get involved. Unless thereÔÇÖs a clear element of political will and support for economic development, we wonÔÇÖt get involved. Then we set about building relationships over some years, so that people develop their sense of trust in us, by working with us and seeing how we behave and so on.ÔÇØ
Closely linked to social awareness, of course, is respect for the local environment. ÔÇ£We imported some skills to Europe that helped us win a national environmental award in Australia,ÔÇØ he says. ÔÇ£So we apply those same standards in EuropeÔÇöthatÔÇÖs really one of the prerequisites for doing business here, where thereÔÇÖs so much pride and historical heritage in the villages and towns. It ranks right up at the top of our list.ÔÇØ
EMED Mining also has a number of other interests, among them a large mining lease in Georgia and a 30 per cent share in exploration company KEFI Minerals, which is active in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. KEFI Minerals also owns an extensive database of exploration data that provides a continuous pipeline of further exploration prospects.
There is no denying that, like every industry, mining and exploration has suffered since the onset of the global downturn, but Anagnostaras-Adams remains optimistic. ÔÇ£I think the industryÔÇÖs one of the few bright spots in the global economy,ÔÇØ he says. ÔÇ£The industrialisation of China and India means that one third of the worldÔÇÖs population is experiencing their industrial revolution, so they need feed stocks from primary industry, be it agriculture or minerals, in order to build. I donÔÇÖt see those processes slowing, despite the travails of North America and Europe.
ÔÇ£Generally, whoever is feeding minerals to the industrialising parts of the world will prosper and the very rapid recovery of mineral prices over the last six months is evidence of that. Any company thatÔÇÖs focused on the efficient production of minerals and metals over the next few years will enjoy relatively high success, compared to most industries,ÔÇØ he concludes.