Mine Magazine published an excellent feature article concerning gold mining in
Ethiopia - along with input from our CEO Jørgen Evjen.
Mine Magazine has published an excellent feature article concerning gold mining
in Ethiopia - along with input from our CEO Jørgen Evjen.
Follow this link to read the full article in Mine
Magazine (https://mine.nridigital.com/mine_feb22/ethiopia_mining_golden_age). We
have also included a text version of the article below.
For more news about the comany, please visit our website
Driven by gold and supported by Canada, Ethiopian mining is a sector full of
potential for prospective investors. JP Casey asks how governments and companies
can help realise this potential, to deliver a beneficial mining sector for all.
With considerable gold reserves, and a rapidly-developing governance structure
in place, Ethiopia could be one of the most attractive investment destinations
for the global mining industry, especially for foreign firms looking for a stake
in the gold sector. According to the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative (EITI), Ethiopia boasts around 200 tons of gold, and with a further
366 million tonnes of coal and 70 million tonnes of iron, there is every reason
to be optimistic about the country's mineral future.
This is not to say, of course, that Ethiopian mining is not already a productive
enterprise. According to the latest EITI report on Ethiopian mining, between
2018 and 2019 gold production hit 3.23 tonnes, generating a value of around
ETB6.3bn ($126.3m), and operating as the driving force behind a mining industry
whose products were valued at close to $150m by the end of the period.
Yet that same EITI report noted that gold mining accounted for 93% of the value
generated by Ethiopian mining, highlighting a dramatically imbalanced sector
heavily reliant on a single commodity. Alongside challenges often seen around
the world, including the role of artisanal mining and the awkward balance
between foreign investment and local empowerment, there is no shortage of
challenges ahead of Ethiopia realising its lofty mining potential.
The majority of Ethiopian mining potential is tied to its gold industry, with an
established history of production providing a stable base for new investments in
the commodity. The continued expansion and exploration of Akobo Minerals, a
mining company headquartered in Sweden, is a testament to this potential, as it
looks to develop mining operations at the Segele and Joru gold deposits.
"Exploration drilling activity at Segele, which hit some bonanza grades in 2020,
has so far shown outstanding high-grade gold results, achieving an inferred
mineral resource of 78 kilotons at 20.9g/t gold, equal to 52.410 oz of gold,"
explains Akobo CEO Jørgen Evjen. "Further drilling has intersected excellent
mineralisation below this area, while we also expect more to be found when we
explore deeper still."
Evjen also notes that the two projects offer different types of benefits, with
the Segele deposit boasting a much higher grade of gold, while the total ore
reserves of the Joru deposit are believed to be larger, high-potential deposits
that can be approached in different manners.
"Following positive initial findings based on trenching and RC drilling results,
we have been concentrating our Joru efforts on the central - and, so far known,
highest - grade part of the mineralisation, with a program of core drilling,"
Evjen continues. "We hope to be able to establish a resource base of more than
one million ounces of gold in Joru."
We hope to be able to establish a resource base of more than one million ounces
of gold in Joru.
Deposits such as these are made even more attractive by the relatively
supportive nature of Ethiopian mining law. The royalty rate for various
commodities sits between 2% and 7%, with precious minerals such as gold at the
higher end of the spectrum, a balanced range that aims to both encourage new
mining investment, and provide a source of income for governments on both the
local and national scale.
Evjen notes that Akobo's success has come down to a combination of "hard work,
happenstance, and timing", but that a supportive regulatory framework has been
essential in realising this potential.
"In addition to seeing encouraging gold deposits in the area, the right
management and local personnel were available; a positive business environment
was being developed by the Ethiopian government; annually renewed licenses for
the area were forthcoming; and funding became available to quickly build on
initial work over the previous decade," he explains.
"Add in the desire by all parties to take a measured risk on building a
professional exploration operation and all the elements were in place to begin
extensive exploration work in 2010."
Delivering local benefits
Of course, this power dynamic, where a company based in a wealthy foreign
country invests in local mineral deposits, occurs frequently in the mining
industry, especially in regions such as Africa. Such a dynamic brings a range of
challenges for both company and community, and Evjen is keenly aware of the need
to deliver benefits for local workers, not just for his own company.
"As a Western company with operations in a developing country, we recognise the
responsibility we have as a good corporate citizen," he says. "That is why we
put corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social, and
governance (ESG) - incorporating our good business manners and actions - at the
heart of our business.
"For companies wishing to operate in Ethiopia, CSR and ESG should be guiding
principles and measures that both enhance the business and provide tangible
advantages to the societies in which we operate. The business benefits and the
substantial social differences we can make with such practices will be a
positive for both us and the local community."
These considerations are all the more important when taking into account
Ethiopia's already well-established artisanal mining sector. Mining is not a
concept that has been imported wholesale from overseas companies, with small
-scale operations existing beyond local and national regulation for some time.
Ensuring that artisanal miners can maintain a stake in their projects, while
being able to benefit from regulatory oversight and support, remains a priority
for stakeholders of all levels.
Speaking for ourselves, we have worked hard to establish strong relationships
with national and regional governments and use local workforce to leverage their
The importance of artisanal mining is reflected in the latest EIRI report, which
found that the volume of gold produced by small-scale operations jumped from
0.82 million grams between 2017 and 2018 to 3.18 million grams between 2018 and
This has increased the value of the artisanal mining sector by almost 10 times
over this period, and the National Bank of Ethiopia offers a 5% premium to small
-scale miners when selling gold to the bank, helping to further incentivise
"Speaking for ourselves, we have worked hard to establish strong relationships
with national and regional governments and use local workforce to leverage their
historic competence," Evjen explains, noting that small-scale miners do not pose
a direct challenge to companies such as his, but can benefit from a shared
investment in mining practice and process. "This has been fundamental to our
success since 2010 and the accelerated growth over the last two-to-three years.
"As well as building local knowledge and relationships, as long as foreign
companies recognise their responsibility to the country's nascent mining
industry, to improve and develop activities such as health and safety and
environmentalism, we believe the opportunities in the coming decade and beyond
are limitless. And we look forward to welcoming other operators to the country."
Challenges national and international
Yet obstacles remain for Ethiopian mining, on both small and large scales.
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the sector is its over-reliance on the
gold industry, which has led to problems for the entire mining supply chain as
the value of gold exports has fallen in recent years.
The EITI reports that the percentage of Ethiopia's total export value accounted
for by gold has fallen dramatically from 7% between 2016 and 2017 to just 1%
between 2018 and 2019, and with no sign of interest waning in gold, actors
across the sector will need to find a way to ensure the profitability of mining.
This also creates an issue for employment, too, with 30.1% of the country's
miners employed in mining, by far the largest workforce by commodity, and second
only to cement manufacturing. Indeed, 34.9% of the country's miners work in all
non-gold commodities, creating a significantly imbalanced sector where there are
almost as many gold miners as any other kind of miner.
The EITI also encountered administrative sluggishness in their collection of
data, describing "considerable delays" and an absence of reported figures from
some of the miners active in the country.
While these concerns will not single-handedly make or break the country's mining
industry, improving the quality and speed of reporting and record-keeping will
be essential as Ethiopia looks to transition its mining industry away from a
myriad of small-scale gold-mining operations and towards a more robust sector
that can attract international investment.
The greatest challenge we face is to get the speed of development right.
Yet, as Evjen points out, making sweeping changes to Ethiopian mining, either on
the scale of individual projects or the sector as a whole, could ultimately do
more harm than good.
"The greatest challenge we face is to get the speed of development right," he
explains. "To begin with, we want to keep things small-scale, using our mining
revenues to develop resources, rather than overburden the business with large
amounts of debt to finance operations.
"Our latest move from exploration to mining has not been a great leap as we have
taken on the right personnel and equipment as it has been needed; plus the
excellent results from our exploration prove that mining will not be as great a
risk as might have been thought."
There is also a geopolitical tension in Ethiopian mining. The sector has
benefitted from Canada's Supporting Ministry of Mines in Ethiopia (SUMM)
project, a multi-year, $15m Canadian Government scheme to reform Ethiopian
mining to make it a more attractive investment destination.
Ethiopian mining - alongside a positive business environment, in general - are
making the country a great opportunity for overseas investment.
While the SUMM project has delivered tangible benefits, such as the discovery of
new mineral deposits and assisting in the creation of government policies,
Canada's investment in Ethiopia has caused it to look the other way as civil war
engulfs Ethiopia's Tigray region.
While this is not an indictment of Ethiopian mining in particular, the inaction
of the Canadian Government highlights the complexities that can arise when
multiple national governments converge to make laws covering a particular
mineral resource. As Ethiopia looks to develop its mining industry further, and
the sector grows to encompass more international firms, tensions such as these
will need to be resolved to avoid conflicts in the future, and realise the
potential that Evjen still considers significant.
"Ethiopian mining - alongside a positive business environment, in general - are
making the country a great opportunity for overseas investment," he says. "Large
-scale mining is a sector where the government has a stated desire to transform
the Ethiopian mining sector into a competitive, proactive, and attractive sector
for international investments."
/ Main image: Danakil, Ethiopia - March 15 2019: Early morning view of a camel
caravan in Hamed Ela, Afar tribe settlement in the Danakil depression,
Ethiopia. Credit: Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com
For more information, please contact,
CEO Akobo Minerals AB and Etno Mining P.l.c
Mob NO: +47 92 80 40 14
Mob ET: +251 944 76 2428
Akobo Minerals, is a Norway-based gold exploration company, currently with
ongoing exploration and small-scale mine development in the Gambela region and
Dima Woreda, southwest Ethiopia. The operations were established in 2009 by
people with long experience from the public mining sector in Ethiopia and from
the Norwegian oil service industry. Akobo Minerals holds a mining licence and an
exploration license over key targets in the area. Economic mineralisation was
discovered and the company is engaged in mining studies to advance the project
to production, alongside exploration core drilling. Akobo Minerals is
transforming its organisation to support an increased pace of core drilling. At
both the key targets Segele and Joru the company has so far released
exceptionally high-grade gold results including the Segele deposit with an
Inferred Mineral Resource of 78ktons at 20.9g/t.?A scoping study for Segele
includes an up-front capital expenditure of USD $8m and all-in sustaining cost
of USD $243 per ounce of gold produced. Core-drilling and trenching at Joru have
intersected both high-grade gold zones and large wide zones near surface. The
company has an excellent partnership with national authorities and places ESG at
the heart of its activities - a ground-breaking community program is being
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