JCI, Investec controversy boiling under

[miningmx.com] — CONNOISSEURS of fiery company meetings hoping for excitement at Friday’s annual general meetings of JCI and Simmer & Jack Mines (Simmers) were largely disappointed, as in both cases the most contentious items were removed from the agendas before the meetings started.

At JCI, expected keen debate on the terms of the “rescue” package from Investec was stymied by an urgent court application brought on September 28 by offshore investors (headed by South African expatriate Monty Koppel) and a consequent court order postponing consideration of this until an adjourned meeting on November 30).

I am told that these interests are not necessarily opposed to the Investec deal, but want more information.

Well, they’ve chosen a sledgehammer way of eliciting it, and I wouldn’t be too confident that the adjourned meeting will be trouble-free.

Still, as it was, the only significant questions were raised by a spokesperson for ex-JCI financial director Chris Lamprecht, apparently designed to show that the proposed sale of the stake in the Letseng diamond mine was not JCI’s best way forward. Considering that Lamprecht had been party to the sale negotiations, and indeed signed them off, this raised a few eyebrows.

No counter-offer received

Chairperson Dave Nurek nevertheless went out of his way to emphasise that the deal was the best on offer (I understand, by a margin of almost 50%), and that options like listing Letseng separately or developing the kimberlite pipe adjacent to that now being worked, with a view to doubling mine production, had been considered and rejected as unfeasible for lack of capital or technical resources.

Letseng, he felt, could not sustain a listing on its own, and in any event would be unlikely to command the same high rating as Canadian producers enjoy on the Toronto exchange.

No counter-offer had been received to that from Clifford Elphick’s Gem Diamond Mining.

Other shareholders seemed satisfied, and the resolutions for the sale of Letseng were approved by margins of 90%-plus.

Questions centred on uranium interests

At Simmers an hour later, unhappiness at the size of its board – 13 members – was assuaged by the resignation earlier this week of four of them: two executives and two non-executives.

Here, questions centred on how Simmers plans to develop its uranium interests.

Thinking seems to be for a dual structure like that adopted by Afrikander Lease when it separated its gold and uranium interests, though the details will depend on tax and regulatory issues and the state of capital markets when a decision to go ahead is taken.

With luck, Simmers still hopes to be able to provide further details, including the optimal capital-raising structure, by year-end.

Progress reported

In other snippets, progress was reported on prospecting and mining right applications for the TGME property.

Delays have been caused by a huge backlog at the Department of Mining & Energy’s Witbank office, which has some 1,500 applications on its plate.

Some prospecting licences have been granted and more, plus the first mining rights, are hoped for by year-end.

The Buffelsfontein mine is profitable and building up output, though more slowly than hoped.

Its life has been doubled, from 10 to 20 years, by recent strength in the gold price.

One senses the ghosts of the Kebble era

No decision has yet been taken on whether it will issue quarterly reports.

Simmers is now based at the old Randgold & Exploration head office in Selby.

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One senses the ghosts of the Kebble era in its beautifully panelled offices, to say nothing of the others who’ve over the decades walked the passages of this elegant survivor of the Rand’s opulent early days; but with its present occupants, the future looks more promising than it has for many years.

Michael Coulson is a columnist for fin24