THE leading executives behind Ghana’s Ashanti Goldfields until it was merged with AngloGold in 2004 have teamed up again, this time looking for gold in Mali.
Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan has been appointed a non-executive director of Roscon Gold Corporation, a Toronto-listed firm that has Sir Sam Jonah as its chairman.
Sir Sam was CEO of Ashanti Goldfields until the merger with AngloGold. After the transaction, Sir Sam took a non-executive role at AngloGold whilst Venkat served as AngloGold’s CFO, and then as its CEO for five years until 2018.
The two were an improbable partnership in terms of personal styles. Sir Sam was the expansive, nattily dressed frontman to Venkat’s meticulous behind-the-scenes bean-counter. As a CEO, however, Venkat proved himself a voluble communicator.
He went on to join Vedanta Resources but, in a surprise development, resigned in 2020, less than a year into the job.
Roscon is exploring Kandiole, a prospect in west Mali near the Fekola mine which produces about 600,000 ounces of gold a year for B2Gold.
The combination of Venkat and Sir Sam comes at a time when gold exploration is finding fresh investment support, partly driven by the Covid-19 pandemic which, with its twin social and economic anxieties, is driving up the gold price. But there is another concern that existing gold producers underinvested in resource renewal and development.
Questions about supply are also driving the industrial metals market which is simultaneously being driven by energy and drive-train transition. Analysts say a new super-cycle is afoot and involving a wider number of metals, including arcane sounding minerals such as neodymium, a rare earth.
In the context of precious and industrial metal optimism, other mining industry veterans have re-emerged including Sir Mick Davis, the former CEO of Xstrata who has raised $60m in search of battery minerals. Earlier this month, Cynthia Carroll, previously of Anglo American, was appointed non-executive director of Glencore. Whilst at Anglo, Carroll fought off Xstrata’s hostile “merger of equals”.
“I think there’s probably a need for the grey hairs who have seen the last cycle,” said James Allan, the former diamond and platinum analyst, when asked about the prospect of more familiar names stepping back into the limelight.
“As an almost veteran, I like it,” said Bernard Swanepoel, the former CEO of Harmony Gold. “But tackling new, complex issues with oldies …?”