‘If you compare to oil and gas where there are hundreds of private equity funds, there just isn’t that number in mining’
MICHAEL Scherb’s Appian Capital Advisory burst on to South African screens following a dispute with Sibanye-Stillwater which in 2021 had agreed to buy two Brazilian assets, Serrote and Santa Rita, from Appian only to bail on the deal several months later, citing a geotechnical event. A $1.2bn suit for compensation brought by Appian is subsequently moving through the UK High Court.
But Appian is noteworthy for far happier reasons following an announcement in June last year it had bought a controlling stake in Namibia’s historic zinc miner, Rosh Pinah (via Trevali Mining Corp.). Trevali had filed for creditor protection in 2022. Appian plans to restore the 54-year-old mine to its former glory producing 170 million pounds of zinc compared to 700,000 lbs currently. Pleasingly, Appian is retaining the mine’s 450-strong staff complement. The investment is potentially one of many African-focused mining investments to come from Appian which, at the time of writing, had an estimated $3.6bn in assets under management.
In September, Scherb appointed Khathutshelo Mapasa, the former CEO of construction group Basil Read, as Appian’s Africa head who will lead a concerted push into the continent. Scherb says key target jurisdictions for Appian are Namibia, Botswana and Zambia, as well as “selective jurisdictions” in East and West Africa. Appian had previously invested then sold out of mining properties in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.
LIFE OF MICHAEL
Born in Taiwan, Scherb became a citizen of the world early in his life after attending schools in seven countries across Asia, Europe and the US. He started work in Beijing structuring foreign debt before joining JPMorgan’s metals and mining team in London. He founded Appian at a tender 29 years in 2011, quickly establishing a reach that sees him spend around 200 days per year travelling. Out of work his passion is sport, any sport: hence Scherb is a follower of Cincinnati Bearcats (that’s baseball), Ohio State football and, confoundingly, West Ham United. True to his battery minerals interests, he drives a Tesla. He is father to two boys.