TOM Albanese’s Vedanta Resources has been a beacon of hope in South Africa’s mining industry after unveiling plans in 2014 to build the 250,000 tonne a year Gamsberg zinc mine in the Northern Cape. In a country where a pall of divestment hangs low, capital expansions of this scale are welcome news. The heavy correction in commodity prices saw Albanese & Crew sharpen their pencils cutting the project’s capital cost a third to $400m. Now, however, an improvement in the zinc price has given fresh momentum to Gamsberg where a further expansion, costing $500m and taking zinc output at Gamsberg to 400,000 tonnes/year, is being discussed. This supports comments by Vedanta chairman, Anil Agarwal who, during a state visit of Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi to South Africa in July, said that the company could expand its South African footprint. A decision is due in 12 to 18 months. Zinc concentrate from the first stage expansion at Gamsberg is due mid-2017. Zambia remains a place of mixed fortune for Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM). Remember the government’s madcap reversal of some dotty fiscal changes? Now a UK court has now found Vedanta must pay $103m to the state-owned copper company for a participation deal. Still, life goes on: KCM is to produce up to 140,000 tonnes of copper in the firm’s 2017 financial year.
LIFE OF TOM
Albanese joined Vedanta in 2013 after a six year period as CEO of Rio Tinto – a period that had its highs and lows. The lows continue to haunt him with the Securities Regulation Panel investigation deciding whether the group was tardy in declaring impairments at Rio’s Mozambique’s coking coal assets. In a investigation into the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, Albanese seemed aware of payments made to a project consultant that may amount to bribery. Albanese, a qualified mining engineer, joined Rio Tinto in 1993 and was CEO of its copper division and head of exploration in 2004.
“I am focusing on the job in hand”: when asked about the Rio Tinto claims.”
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