Woman in Mining – Needing to add some serious diversity to the all male blog posts so far, I could not wish for anyone more decorated in her field, so this week’s blog Q&A is with Georgette Barnes Sakyi-Addo Executive Director at Georgette Barnes Limited, Volunteer President at Women In Mining, Co-Founder of the Accra Mining Network and volunteer Elected President of the Association of Women In Mining In Africa with all of that work I was not sure she would have time for little old me and my Q&A but thankfully Georgette agreed, so here goes!
1. So as usual can you tell us a little about yourself to kick off this week’s Q&A blog session?
My name is Georgette Barnes Sakyi-Addo, I run a mine support company based in Accra and servicing clients all over West Africa.
2. Tell us more about Georgette Barnes Limited and what the company does?
We offer exploration, geological and drilling supplies and maintenance services on mine sites. We stock drilling fluids we are the local representatives for AMC muds. We also stock specialized tools & instruments targeted specifically for the mining industry. GBL also offers geotextiles, liners and Core shed equipment as well as drilling consumables.
3. Ghana is where you are based and we have seen a number of changes in the local gold mining business, is mercury still a major problem in artisanal & small-scale mining? What developments are being put in place to eradicate this issue in mining?
Mercury I believe is a global problem in the artisanal and small scale mining sector and not limited to Ghana, the miners, academia and government continue to work towards solutions to improve the situation.
4. What changes can be made by the government agencies to help the artisanal and small-scale miners in West Africa?
The government continues to engage miners and also there are technical training opportunities offered I believe. The sector I believe needs more financial support, innovation, and technology.
5. You seem to have made the switch into mining back in 1993 and only in the last decade we have seen a big push to be more inclusive of women in mining with such organizations as those you chair or represent, how was it back then compared to now especially for the medium to large scale mines in Africa?
Now there are more women participating in the mining sector and also, they are more visible compared to back in 1993. The emergence of women groups in the mining sector and a general global push for more inclusion has contributed to this growth and visibility. Social cultural behaviours or thinking greatly influence our choices, so in our communities we tend to aspire to be what we see and what we are exposed to in the media etc.
6. I have been watching with admiration from afar the work you do on the ground, can you tell us about the work you do with the Association of Women In Mining In Africa?
I work with AWIMA : The Association of Women in Mining in Africa (AWIMA), this is a network of African women in mining, oil and gas national associations. AWIMA was created on August 19th 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya during the African Women Business Linkages Forum organised by the African Union Commission. This network of associations from the Southern, Central, Western, Eastern and Northern regions of Africa advocates for the participation, representation, leadership and inclusive empowerment of women in the extractive sector in Africa. AWIMA is currently running a jewellery completion, The AWIMA Jewellery project aims to connect African women across the continent, to capture and share the opportunity equitably along the value chain. Funds raised from the sale of the jewellery will go towards projects that improve the health and safety of women in mining. The AWIMA Jewellery Project builds on the increasing demand for ethical products resulting from responsible supply chains and is aligned with and is delivering on the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Mining Vision, and is responding to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. More information is on our website awimaafrica.org
7. What changes are you witnessing today that were not viable back in the 90’s for Women in Mining?
I wouldn’t call them changes but rather an increase and visibility of the work of technical women on mines. This also inspires other employers to give more job opportunities. There are still some challenges to overcome. I am however optimistic and will describe the status as dynamic. We need more opportunities for women professionals and women in ASM. We would like more to be in C-Suite positions, it is a process and we continue to engage stakeholders. Women In Mining Ghana also periodically holds information sessions on opportunities in STEM for Junior to High School girls in the hope of inspiring more of them to pursue further education in Mining.
8. How can younger women that are looking to get into mining help themselves to push that passion?
Education I believe is key, knowing which subjects to study is usually a great first step, and you need to educate yourself generally about the industry. There are so many options for accessing information these days if you have access to the internet. Follow your mentors on-line, follow your subjects of interest online as well so you can be informed of updates and innovations in your area of expertise.
9. How can people find you online or connect with you for business or the social work that you do?
You can follow me on LinkedIn at Georgette B. Sakyi-Addo
My company’s professional page is georgettebarnes.com, for our work with women in mining our websites are Women in Mining Ghana wimghana.org, and Association of Women in Mining Africa awimaafrica.org
Matt Watson is the Founder and Principal of Precious Metals Commodity Management LLC, based near California’s Silicon Valley. Specializing precious metals market research, hedging strategies, thrifting strategies, trading support, and overall risk management. Utilizing extensive experience in the Precious Metals Commodity markets to help clients make better decision, reduce costs, drive thrifting activities, improve trading performance, reduce risks, create and implement hedging strategies. My clients range from mining entities, investors, industrial precious metals users, processors, and recyclers.
My ongoing mantra is that this will be the century of clean energy and mineral constraints.
Kitco Interview: Platinum group metals demand to soar in face of biggest dilemma in history
1. Matt lets dig in and start from how you got into the precious metals business around 20 years ago?
I started my career as an industrial statistician, teaching over 800 Engineers design of experiments and statistical methods, and consulting with those students from a broad range of industries. Interestingly I won an award for the best global application of the Taguchi DOE Method in 1989 on a gold plating 96-pin connector project in England. After that I quickly became a yield and process improvement hired gun.
At an Six Sigma Awards Ceremony, and to everyone’s surprise, Matt Bear Hugs Seagate CEO Steve Luczo. Who is the real winner here?
After helping with the turnaround of a few hard disc drive substrate factories resolving persistent yield issues, I found myself working at Seagate on a series of precious metals PVD sputter target improvement projects. One day they moved me into the Commodity Management Global Materials Team and handed me responsibility for $540 million dollars’ worth of Platinum and Ruthenium products, along with sourcing and purchasing responsibilities. I was one of the precious metal’s industrial user big fish customers for several years.
I then moved on to a Solar PV start up consuming larger Silver paste, Ruthenium PVD and other critical metals. From there I joined Tanaka as the head of their business development activities in the America’s for 4.5 years. And from there now I have launched my own consulting practice.
Once the precious metals bug bit me, I’ve been hooked ever since. I now also support both the International Precious Metals Institute and the Silver Institute on projects.
2. Starting in a corporate function sourcing of precious metals what changes have you witnessed over time in terms of responsible sourcing changes over time?
Great question. Clearly responsible sourcing in the Electronics Markets leads you to a number of compliance issues, including Conflict Minerals. Over time of course we have seen the magnitude and complexity of those compliance requirements grown leading into blockchain and other compliance practices. Responsible Artisanal Mining still needs more work in a number of regions globally.
Mr. Frank Tanaka (5th generation Tanaka CEO) receives a large Canadian/American Sandwich
I think the segment of the precious metals markets that have changed the most in terms of responsible sourcing are the recycle and refine markets, especially in the areas of Jewelry and auto catalysts. All of the practices and terms surrounding recycle have become more transparent, and corrupt practices and business dealings have been dramatically reduced. Of course, recent changes in the banking and financing sector have essentially helped the larger publicly traded recyclers gain more clout, while many of the privately held independent operators struggle to secure financing services.
Seagate R&D Celebration
Recently my clients have led me into the lithium battery mineral space, where responsible mining is questionable at best. I’ve been preaching about the dumping of nickel mine tailings directly into the Indian Ocean. Nickel mines in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia in order to reduce mining operations have lowered costs by fouling one of the most sensitive ocean regions on the planet called the Coral Triangle. Of course today 65-70% of the global cobalt comes from the DRC, where cobalt is not treated as a conflict mineral. Human rights abuses in the DRC including child labor and militias controlling artisanal mining are still a significant issue that needs more attention.
3. Given the regulatory push in responsible sourcing and the ESG buzzwords being pushed across assets do you envisage this will have an overall impact on global pricing across the precious metals space?
No doubt it already has. Again, in the recycle and refine space for auto catalyst for example, has seen Banking and financial institutions tighten their compliance requirements significantly, and frankly refusing to work with privately held independent operators, pushing larger publicly traded recyclers into much stronger position when it comes to setting terms with scrap collectors.
We recently witnessed the industry recoil from Peruvian money launderings schemes, taking down entire US organizations along with it. We have also seen a major silver and gold refiner in Miami go down after inventories simply did not add up. Financers and customers across the US paid dearly for yet another default.
The net of market disruptions like these again assists the well-established larger publicly traded processors and refiners, putting the independents in a tougher and often thinner margin operating space.
4. Silver had a stellar year in 2020 but to me the Platinum Group Metals to the market by storm, can you give us your thoughts around Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium for the year ahead in 2021?
Silver is still going to keep rocking. Working through the Silver Institute, I presented a paper at a Chinese conference this year where I highlighted that industrial silver demand today at 61% will grow to 67% by 2025, and keep climbing from there.
Consider 10% of the global supply of silver, recycle plus mined supply, goes into Solar PV. This year globally we made some 115 GW of new Solar PV installations. Those installations will double by 2025. With design thrifting I project silver solar PV demand will grow to 14-15% by 2025. But wait, many clean energy advocates foresee a state by 2040-50 timeframe where 3-4 TW (terawatt) or 36x today’s market. Where will that silver come from? Silver is used as it is the worlds most conductive mineral. Copper is second. Using copper on solar cells and modules would result in a 20% electrical efficiency loss, and the expected module lifetime would reduce from 25-years down to 10-15 years. That’s why the use the silver.
Matt Presenting at a China CISC Silver Conference
I agree with you on the PGM’s. Rhodium is off the charts setting records weekly now, and that trend will continue. Rhodium is key NOx emissions. The most likely design shift will be to use 6:1 Palladium to augment the Rhodium loadings in auto catalyst. Given Rhodium mining is tapped out, and actually declining over the next 2 decades, this design shift will come.
Palladium will see continued strong demand through 2030. Eventually increased auto catalyst recycle and expanded N. American, Russian, Zimbabwe, and S. African Northern Limb mining will push Palladium from its current structural deficit into a structural surplus. I argue this is still over a decade off. China 6A, Euro 7, and tighter US standards will keep the pressure on Palladium.
Platinum is the metal of the hydrogen economy. Today’s PEM based fuel cell loadings are over 30x higher in fuel cells than auto catalyst. Even with further design thrifting, FCEV’s and other aspects of the hydrogen economy will put Platinum into an eternal structural deficit. There is literally no hope of significant additional mining to help ease that market on the horizon.
I presented on Iridium and Ruthenium at this year’s IPMI Annual conference. I predicted Iridium’s climb. Continued electronics demand including 5G and LED, along with a new set of demand coming from PEM Green Hydrogen Electrolyzer plants will keep this metal climbing as well. 2020 COVID impacts on S. African mining, and the Anglo ACP plant failures of course added to supply disruptions. Ruthenium will hold flat for another year before some additional electronics demands put pressure on that minor metal.
PGMs are indeed scarce.
5. South Africa the major supplier of Platinum and Palladium have been suffering over the last few years with power outages and more recently Covid shut downs, where do you see growth in output of Platinum Group of Metals globally to take up some of this slack?
Several new clients of mine are PGM Mining investors. There are a couple of large palladium rich deposits that are very shallow in the S. African Northern Limb and neighboring Zimbabwe to the north. Norilsk in Siberia is of course adding processing capacity as well, which will bring more Palladium and Platinum to market. And then there is the Montana Sibanye-Stillwater Blitz project, and expansion of mining there which will again help on Palladium. Finally, there are some Ontario Canada mines that will come online including the Marathon Palladium project.
The common thread with all of these is that they are on the lower end of the cost-curve for mined palladium, and some platinum. Little is added to the PGM minors including Rhodium, Ruthenium and Iridium.
On the recycle front, auto catalyst Platinum and Rhodium returns will be fairly flat, although the palladium returns from gas vehicles already on the road will more than double over the next decade. This weight is baked into the cake already so to speak. We are simply waiting for the older vehicles to go end of life to harvest their weight.
6. With Precious Metals being deployed across technology and clean energy products do you see these being the main drivers of price momentum or are we going to see an increase in investment products tying up metals for industrial use?
- Palladium, Platinum, and Rhodium in auto catalysts whose ICE vehicle demand will peak until around 2032. Tighter emission specification coupled with new real world test conditions has exploded the loadings per vehicle.
- Platinum in FCEV’s PEM Fuel Cells. Platinum is the only usable catalyst material in this space. Best in class platinum loadings are 30x higher than auto catalyst.
- Iridium and Platinum in PEM Electrolyzer for green hydrogen production. Iridium market is already extremely thin and spoken for, now comes more incremental demand for green hydrogen.
- Ruthenium is used in Direct Methanol Fuel Cells. Not a big demand yet, but commercialization is just getting underway.
- A little platinum is used in Alkaline+ Electrolyzer for green hydrogen production.
- Large stationary fuel cells that burn hydrogen to generate energy to balance the power grid use Platinum.
- Ruthenium is used as a catalyst for Ammonia and Fertilizer, a key source of dense hydrogen. Look for this demand to accelerate over time.
- Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) supply chain loop typically uses Ruthenium, Palladium and Platinum
- Palladium foils used as hydrogen permeable films are great for ensuring hydrogen purity.
- Silver is essential for Solar PV. 10% of the global silver supply goes into solar.
- Small amounts of Platinum is the key enabler for Fiberglass Wind Turbine production. Wind turbines and their blades are only getting larger and larger over time.
- Ruthenium’s use in electrochromic (or smart) glass will see industrial demands grow as attention of building CO2 emissions and power management takes off.
- I’ll even throw in Copper. 75% of copper is used in wires for all industries and energy distribution. This includes 55 pound of copper wiring used per gasoline passenger vehicle, 110 pounds in a typical Hybrid Electric Vehicles, and 165 pounds per full BEV. Add in Wind Turbines where an average utility scale wind turbine generates 1.76 MW today and uses 6.3 mt/Copper.
- Scandium use for strong aluminum used in vehicle light-weighting.
- And then electronics in general. EV’s use lots more electronics consuming Gold, Silver, Palladium, Iridium and Ruthenium.
- Passive components like high-temperature MLCC’s using silver and palladium are in high demand as EV’s and 5G networks/devices grow.
- The list is long, but there are even more I could list.
7. By country which countries are the biggest physical buyers of Platinum Group of Metals?
- China, China, then China
- USA/North America
- Japan and the rest of Asia
8. What capacity does the worlds refineries have in terms of Platinum Group of Metals?
The last analysis I did on global PGM’s was back in 2018. Then I came up with global recycle capacity of 214 mt of PGM refine capacity. The breakdown then was ~45 mt of Platinum, ~93 mt of Palladium, ~11 mt of Rhodium, ~62 mt of Ruthenium (which is about 2.8x the annual mined Ru FYI, the highest ratio of any PGM), and 2-3 mt of Iridium.
Going forward for recycle, more aggregate capacity will be needed globally for auto catalyst and fuel cells. Auto catalyst outturns are around 2.6 Moz of palladium annual, but this will grow to 6 Moz by 2023, and then higher beyond.
Inspecting 99.999% Pure Gold Bars
9. Platinum Group of Metals seem to have cemented themselves firmly in medical, energy, clean energy tech and finance but as we all know the total global volume available is limited, what metals are you seeing coming into play for future development that you think people can look at for early investment?
Clean Energy Long Term Constraints
I help a group of investors manage some of their funds. We netted over 44% gains in the last 2 quarters of 2020 after setting this fund up. My recommendation to them, to you, and the strategy I follow on my own personal investments is invest in mining, ETF’s, and precious metals processors surrounding these metals that are being strained by clean energy initiatives. Specifically, my list of constrained metals includes all PGM’s (Pt, Pd, Rh, Ru, Ir, Os), Silver, Gold, Copper, Nickel, Lithium, Scandium, Vanadium, and some of the RRE’s.
10. For anyone that wants to connect with you where can they find you online?
Fuji Electric Dinner When They Fall Asleep In Your Lap
The Silver Institute
With Silvers meteoric rise in 2020 we decided to kick off 2021 with a blog Q&A all about Silver with Michael DiRienzo, Executive Director at The Silver Institute.
1. Michael, can you tell us about yourself and we will get into The Silver Institute next?
Sure, I was raised in Southern California and moved to Washington, DC to work for my local U.S. Congressman after I graduated from college. I fell in love with DC within weeks. I then became a lobbyist for a member company of the Toyota Group and several years later came to the Silver Institute. I am an avid movie buff and active tennis player and fan.
2. Can you give us some background on the beginnings of The Silver Institute?
Next year is the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Silver Institute. The Institute was established with eleven member companies on February 11, 1971, at an organizational meeting in New York City. Originally formed as a technical and educational resource for members and the general public, the Institute has blossomed into an essential clearinghouse for all things silver, a market development association to create greater demand for silver, and a reliable reference for accurate information on the global silver market.
3. What is The Silver Institute doing today to help promote silver to a younger audience consumed by all things digital?
We market all aspects of the silver marketplace to all age groups. Some of our programs include investment, and others are focused on growing demand globally. Our jewelry promotion arm, the Silver Promotion Service (SPS) www.savorsilver.com, based in New York City, focuses on stimulating demand and enhancing the image of sterling silver jewelry in major international markets. It surveys and targets retailers to encourage jewelry consumption to millennials, among other groups. In 2021 we will launch a series of podcasts, which are popular among all age groups, but especially a younger audience.
4. The members of The Silver Institute are mostly mining and refining companies, are there plans to expand that to other areas of interest in Silver?
You need to be in the silver space to be a member company or support our work. We also count bullion suppliers, manufacturers of silver products and wholesalers of silver investment products as part of our membership and supporters. We welcome all interested parties in the silver market to explore membership. I don’t envision us expanding into individual memberships.
5. Silver production is down this year but investment in Silver is up 10% in the first half of this year, what are the miners doing to pull back production to healthier levels to meet future demand?
Silver mine production is expected to fall by 6.3 percent in 2020. This reflects COVID-19 lockdowns implemented by several major silver producers during the first half of the year, which required mines to temporarily halt production. This led to lower output from Mexico, Peru and China. The last countrywide restrictions on mining were lifted at the end of May and most mines have now returned to full production rates. However, there is a continued risk of localized outbreaks of the virus, which may impact output from individual operations in the future.
6. Silver always plays second fiddle to Gold but when Silver takes off it flies right past Gold in terms of percentage gains, why do you think Silver plays the laggard to Gold?
I think silver holds its own, as evidenced this year. It outperformed in the precious metals complex. Silver is a safe-haven asset like gold, but also an industrial metal used in products including automobiles, solar panels, and almost all electronics. It is vital to the Internet of Things, 5G development and many analysts say its dual role and its greater volatility mean it could fare better than gold as economic growth picks up, and as U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s push into clean energy prompts more usage.
7. There is a severe shortage of silver coins being produced by Mints globally, premiums were at their highest during Covid but have remained high due to demand, what changes can be made from the industry perspective to ensure production meets demand going forward?
This is a supply issue from the beginning of the production process, Taking the US Mint, for example, they contract with other providers to produce the planchets, or blanks, that are used for the American Eagle Bullion Coin. Even with these providers working around the clock, when demand spikes, it’s difficult to meet the demand. We’ve met with the mint and urged them to expand their providers, but it becomes difficult due to their exact standards, which cannot be adjusted. Ideally, we want Mints to have a better plan for anticipating growing demand as this is not the first time this has occurred.
8. Do you see institutional money such as pension funds coming into the physical sector as part of a portfolio balancing play?
It already is. Retail and institutional inflows into silver ETPs were impressive this year. Traditionally ETP investors were primarily retail investors, but this year institutional investors came in leading to silver-backed ETPs posting record highs in 2020.
9. What advise would you give someone looking to start investing in Silver?
Figure out which option is best for you. Do you want to buy coins or bars? What about storage? Exchange-traded products? Go to this page on our website for more information on investing in silver – https://www.silverinstitute.org/silver-price-investment.
10. For anyone that wants to connect with The Silver Institute and of course your good-self where can they find you online?
Feel free to visit www.silverinstitute.org and please sign up for our free publications, such as Silver News and our press releases. You can also download our entire library of World Silver Survey’s, the most authoritative and reliable source on the silver market. We are on Twitter @silverinstitute and please follow us. I also have a LinkedIn profile and soon we will build at a page for the Silver Institute on that platform.
Silver Billion – This weeks Blog Q&A is with Vergel Villasoto who is a Director at Silver Bullion Pte Ltd based here in Singapore, Vergel has for several years been working in the precious metals & bullion industry, as well as that he has hands on experience in the financial services line working both in private equity and commodities trading.
1. So to kick this off why not tell us a little bit about yourself? What first brought you to Singapore?
Originally from the Philippines, I have been living in Singapore since 2003, when I followed my father who was working here at that time as I wanted to take up university studies here. I studied information systems management with a second major in finance. Practically having spent half my life here, you can say I am pretty much rooted here with my wife and two young children.
2. When did you first get involved in the precious metals business?
I was fresh out of university, and my first day at work as a writer for trade magazines was on 15th of September, 2008, that fateful day when global financial markets were on the verge of collapse. A couple of months after leaving my first job, Gregor Gregersen, a good friend of mine, was hatching the idea of Silver Bullion and was sharing his plans on how to start operations. He passed me a copy of Mike Maloney’s “Guide To Investing in Gold and Silver”, and I learned much more from the book about real finance than from university. After working in private equity for a couple of years, I joined Silver Bullion in earnest in early 2011 and I have been here since.
3. Silver Bullion is not all about Silver as the name suggests, can you tell us more about Silver Bullion?
Silver Bullion started off selling solely silver back in 2009 (we now sell all the major precious metals as well as nickel), but we have grown to be much more than a bullion dealer. We are in the business of Systemic Wealth Protection, and clients come to us to protect their hard-earned assets from bad governments, counterparty risks in and among financial institutions and potential crises such as unrest or conflicts in their home countries. When customers buy from us, we understand their goal in mind, which is to ensure their assets are safe in Singapore yet still within reach should they need it.
4. The cross over to digital seems obvious but not to everyone, what sets Silver Bullion apart from its nearest competition?
You can say what sets us apart from the competition is that we do not see competition as much as we see possible points of cooperation. We like to collaborate with different parties, associates and even customers, evaluating everyone as potentially stakeholders in projects we embark on.
As an example, our P2P lending program was conceptualized for two years, from mid 2013 up until its launch in July 2015. During the development phase, we sought feedback from our marketing affiliates and from our customers as well on how to mold the system. What resulted from these various points of feedback was the world’s first peer to peer lending program backed by precious metals. We are soon approaching SGD 190 million worth of loans facilitated, since inception.
Gregor, even these days, is heavily involved in developing systems for Silver Bullion and our subsidiaries. By focusing on IT and for the past couple of years, the fintech aspect of the business, we like to ‘compete with ourselves’ and roll out new programs which benefit our customers.
While our tilt toward utilizing technology is obvious, the underlying principle never wavers: owning assets as much as possible in your name is what we strive for, for ourselves and for our customers. Our growth trajectory may not be too obvious to many but our company initially owned 10,000 silver ounces when it was founded. We now own approaching 600,000 silver ounces and 4,000 gold ounces, which largely serves as inventory we sell.
5. The Silver Bullion TV channel has taken off and is getting some good names featured such as Rick Rule, who came up with the idea of taking Silver Bullion in this direction?
It was actually the brainchild of Vincent and Patrick, guys from our customer service team. We look at it as an additional platform to encourage further discussion about precious metals, EV (electric vehicle) metals, cryptocurrencies, geopolitics and the world economy in general. The overriding idea is that we want to reach more people who would like to learn more about hard assets. It is not a channel focused on making money directly ie: from advertising nor for paid or sponsored material. We also do not push out our products and services too much on the channel.
6. How has the business been through the Covid situation, did you managed to keep a continuous supply of metal coming in?
It has been a phenomenal 18 month period for us. Even prior to Covid, with the price escalating upward for precious metals, we had a record year in 2019 in terms of profits. In 2020, we are on pace to more than quadruple our net profits from what was already a phenomenal year last year. To illustrate, we are on pace to store an additional 105 – 110 tons of silver this year.
Transporting coins and bars from North America and to some extent from Europe, have been difficult, if not expensive, to reach Singapore. We instead focused on sourcing within Asia-Pacific to ensure supply levels remain sufficient for our customers. While there have been extended delivery timelines because of less planes and less ships arriving at Singapore, premiums are slowly going back to normal – this happened earlier in the case of gold, whereas on occasion, delivery of silver is constrained due to its ‘bulkier’ nature; it gets pushed out of the limited spaces in planes or containers on ships.
7. What changes do you foresee in the precious metals industry in the next 5 years that will be a gamechanger?
Predicting the future is always tough. However, there is definitely a move toward digital gold, with gold being a much less volatile store of value compared to cryptocurrencies. More people will be tokenizing their gold or silver as a means of own and transferring assets without having to physically carry them.
Governments everywhere keep getting bigger and bigger, and in order to feed the state (and largely to satiate the welfare of the people), tax rates will have to keep going up. Because the global economy is largely debt based and populations everywhere (save perhaps for most of Africa) keep getting older, governments will tend to spend and overspend, some to the point of bankruptcy. When this happens, some societies would be willing to transact in gold and silver. At the same time that gold is going digital, because technology in vehicles, especially EVs, and the transportation infrastructure in general keep on improving – hence faster means of moving gold or silver – we might also see the trend of gold becoming more ‘physical’ in that gold might be used as a means of storing wealth and as a means to transact, closer to home.
8. The local precious metals competition is hot, Silver Bullion have been seen to take on some with legal case and of late we have even seen one website (bulliondealercomparator) where the actual website owner gives himself the highest ranking (talk about having no business ethics), do you see the local market getting smaller over time or is there room for everyone here?
The pie is really growing, because in an irrational world, Singapore and its leaders have maintained level headed policies, pragmatism and openness. We really are fast becoming the Switzerland of Asia. Hong Kong’s lead as a precious metals hub is still undisputed in this part of the world (largely because of its tax free status and its favoured status among Chinese nationals) but its status is steadily becoming eroded. We have received many requests from customers to transfer their holdings to us instead. Competition brings about benefits for the average consumer, and healthy competition pushes companies to improve ourselves and not just compete on pricing. We always strive to be ahead of the competition, and our customer base always takes notice. As of this time (November 2020), we are storing SGD 750 million worth of metals on behalf of thousands of customers.
9. Any updates or big plans underway at Silver Bullion you can share?
We, the Silver Bullion Group and our spin off entities, are working on a lot of projects all the time. The ones I can share are the following:
Goldheart Savings Account – our subsidiary, Goldheart Bullion, will be launching a savings program which will allow customers to own gold in fractional amounts. It will allow customers to enjoy tighter spreads than buying and selling physical bullion that is taken delivery of. This will be ready in the coming months.
P2P Lending in Euro – We will allow customers to be able to lend or borrow Euro, providing better returns than the sub-zero rates that had trickled down to the retail level in certain segments of the society in Europe and in Japan.
Deeper liquidity for Cache Gold Tokens – a spin off of Silver Bullion, Cache Private Limited tokenizes gold which are stored in approved vaults in Singapore and the US. We are listed on Bithumb Global, Bittrex Global and the decentralized exchange Uniswap.
Lastly, we will be making a big announcement in December. Stay tuned!
10. Tell us where people can find you personally and Silver Bullion online for more updates?
You may reach out to me via LinkedIn, or e-mail email@example.com, or visit our website at www.silverbullion.com.sg to find out more information about us. Last but not least, check out our ‘Silver Bullion TV’ channel on YouTube where we put out fresh content a few times each week.
On this weeks Blog Post Sustainable Artisanal Gold Mining we have Erik Lindamood Investor Relations at Barksanem™, Erik has over 15 years of Sales and Marketing experience, Erik has worked in sales consulting in France, Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic and United Arab Emirates. Shifting his entire focus to Western Africa in 2008, Erik extensively developed and marketed gold trade investment opportunities for private investors. He joined Barksanem™ in January of 2014. Today he is responsible for Investor Relations and Optimizing Gold Monetization.
We met recently through Corey Keller and I have enjoyed our chats over Whatsapp and was intrigued to hear more about the projects so am glad you accepted to do a blog post for our Q&A, so lets kick it off!
1. Can you tell us about yourself to start this week’s blog off?
Thank you, Spencer, for the opportunity. You’ve been producing some great content on your blog and I look forward to each new post!
To start, I could say that I have been in the gold sector since 2008. I initially was involved in helping private investors purchase physical gold in Ghana. However, that was clearly not how I saw my involvement in the gold industry long term. I wanted to be involved on the extraction side, if I wanted to help remediate the systemic challenges within artisanal and small-scale mining. That is why I joined Barksanem™ in 2014.
2. Tell us about how Barksanem™ came about and what’s your role there?
Barksanem™ was born out of an initial artisanal mining experience in the 2000s in Burkina Faso. After having suspended operations, two of the founding members of Barksanem™ took advantage of this phase to work on recreating a mining company that would not only be a viable and profitable business in the artisanal and semi-industrial mining sector, but would also be a concrete and practical response to the many problems they faced during their initial operations. It is important to note that in Burkina Faso nearly 5 million people are involved and impacted by artisanal gold mining in one way or another. The exploitation of children, the extremely dangerous work for pregnant women, the environmental and sanitary pollution through the use of chemical products, etc. have compelled Barksanem™’s founding team to seek effective, tangible and practical solutions in order to meet the challenges of the ASM sector in Burkina Faso and in all the producing countries. Since I joined the company, I have been focusing on Investor Relations.
3. Why did Barksanem™ choose Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Africa for the first location?
There are several reasons for this. First of all, one of the founding members of Barksanem™ is from Burkina Faso and many of the team members live in this country. Additionally, Barksanem™’s founders’ initial operations took place in Burkina Faso, they have developed a very strong network of relationships in the sector. Burkina Faso is also a strategic choice because of its location in West Africa and because of the mineral reserves that have been discovered in recent years. We can also add that government policy in the country is very favorable to the development of mining and in particular in its intention to support the artisanal sector.
4. Where are you in development of that site?
Three concessions were allocated to Barksanem™ by the ASM regulatory agency in Burkina Faso. Numerous field meetings were organized with chiefdoms, administrations and artisanal gold miners’ representatives in order to prepare the arrival of Barksanem™ and its plans for the sustainable development of the territories as well as the mining operations. Everything is now ready to implement Barksanem™’s mining operations which includes the artisanal gold miners already working on these 3 sites. Barksanem™’s role will be to provide, amongst many other things, support to these artisanal gold miners under the supervision of the Ministry of Mines and its agency for ASM.
5. What hurdles have you faced so far from the industry
Barksanem™’s overall strategy and business model, which integrates the sustainable artisanal gold mining development of its territories, is relatively innovative in the mining industry. Consequently, since its inception, in many respects, Barksanem™ has not been considered by the mining community, as well as investors as a business but rather as an NGO. And in the NGO and institutional circles we are considered as a business and therefore not compatible with certain directives of NGOs and with the funds that are generally accessible… However, from our point of view and according to the philosophy of our team, the activity of any business is not incompatible with the development of territories, especially if this development is done sustainably. This misunderstanding, even if things have progressed, has been and still is a major obstacle to the successful funding of our company.
6. In our recent discussing you alluded to a Licensing model; can you tell us more about that here in respect to the sustainable artisanal gold mining business?
Indeed, in 2017 we formed Barksanem, Inc. in the USA, a corporation whose purpose is to commercialize the know-how of the Barksanem team in the area of ASM and sustainable development. This License can be acquired by mining project holders or stakeholders in the mining field: ASM, LSM and artisanal gold miners’ cooperatives. The License includes all our technical and organizational know-how, support for micro-collectivities in the target territories, complete tracking and securing of the production chain from the mine shaft to the end consumer. In addition, the Licensee receives specialized training, five years of support and access to the professional network that Barksanem and its partners have developed throughout the world. To date, Barksanem Inc. has Licenses sold or in the process of being sold in several countries in Africa and Latin America.
7. What NGO’s are you working with if any to increase awareness?
Essentially NGOs working directly with ASMs. For example, ARM or BetterChain. More broadly however, several of Barksanem™’s members are from the NGO world and have maintained close relationships with people with expertise in education, agriculture, health, etc.
8. Have you seen much by way of media coverage around the Small & Artisanal mining sector?
Things have progressed significantly in terms of the understanding the day-to-day realities of the ASM sector. In this respect, we can recognize the enormous lobbying and awareness-raising work of the OECD and many NGOs dealing with the harsh realities on the ground. However, from my point of view, communication on these realities remains relatively confidential and specialized. Much remains to be done to ensure that the general public has access to this information and is interested in it and I think that “success stories” will go a long way to ensure media coverage.
9. What can the industry do at the top levels (refineries, governing bodies LBMA/ WGC etc) to be more inclusive of the Small & Artisanal miners?
Overall, we have noticed that things have really shifted in recent years to take into account the local dynamics of ASM. Yet, at a government level and within some institutions, the transition to concrete actions, i.e., the implementation of actions consistent with the ongoing discussions is very slow. There is still political reluctance in some places, fears of not being able to really control artisanal gold miners and their practices. And this is most certainly justified! But this should in no way slow down the decisions that need to be taken, in the Mining Codes of these producing countries, for example. But it is also necessary to mobilize investors. Many do not even consider investing in the world of ASM or in real impacts on territories. And let’s be honest, even if here again things seem to be changing in the right direction, the African continent remains left out of investments while the ASM sector still remains to be developed and largely financed!
10. The Minamata Convention on Mercury has been successful in many countries to date but we often see mercury replaced with cyanide in leaching for example, what is Barksanem™ doing to eradicate these types of chemicals from its processing to better the environment and human life?
This is part of our commitment and our know-how. There are methods that can definitively eradicate the chemical treatment of ore. I could mention the field of “phytomining“, for example, and that is by far not the only one. In reality, the problem is not so much the technology but rather the training and support of those working in the field. This is again what we want to develop through our License. And even more with our mining operation in Burkina Faso which is our R&D and training center, in order to maintain continuous improvement in the face of the current and future challenges in the field.
11. How have you found raising capital for small mining projects and are you still open for new funding at this stage?
In the past few years, we have had numerous calls from intrigued investors but for the reasons mentioned earlier and the dichotomy that exists in our space, they have never followed through. So, the short answer is yes, we are open to funding. There are two main areas of focus: Barksanem™ in Burkina Faso, our semi-industrial mining company working inclusively with artisanal miners and Barksanem Inc where we are marketing the Barksanem™ License. If either of the two interests your readers, please do not hesitate to get back with me.
12. If anyone wants to reach out to you and connect where can they find you and Barksanem™ online?
Yes, thanks for asking!
Read more about Barksanem™ on our website here
Follow Barksanem™ on LinkedIn here
Contact me on LinkedIn here