At gold mining company Centamin, they have a motto: “If it was easy, someone else would have done it already.” It’s apt for a business that has built Sukari, one of the world’s biggest gold mines, in a country better known for revolutions and regime change than digging up precious metals.
“Egyptian civilisation has been around 6,000 years, and they’ve been mining all that time,” says Andrew Pardey, the unflappable Australian chief executive of the FTSE 250 company. The problem is, he explains, that Egyptian mining lost its way, as investment faltered and legal uncertainty reigned. “Sukari was mined in pharaonic times and then Roman times. The last of the mining was done by the British before Egypt got independence.”
To hear Pardey tell it, the sands of Egypt are ripe for exploration: he brandishes a treasure map of the eastern Sahara, pockmarked with dots signifying gold deposits identified by the British and others before Nasser led Egypt to its freedom in 1953.
As the only miner operating in the country, Centamin is in pole position to exploit these opportunities. “Sukari’s not unique,” he says. “That whole eastern desert, there are similar deposits.”
Sukari is “the only world-class gold mine not in the hands of the majors”, explains Pardey, who joined Centamin in 2008 and took the top job in 2015. “We have a mine life in excess of 20 years. We have no debt and no hedging in place, so with the improvement in the gold price, we see all the benefits of that. Which is unique, compared to our peers.”
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