Akobo Minerals feature in Business Enquirer magazine

Enjoy reading the Akobo story in the latest issue of Business Enquirer. People around the world are noticing our activity and, with Business Enquirers reach, we believe this will get the word out even further.

The new license gives us future-proofed flexibility and options and fuels our capability to be a leading player in the Ethiopian mining sector for many years to come.

Jørgen Evjen, CEO at Akobo Minerals, speaking to Business Enquirer

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Business Enquirer Desember/January 2022. Project Directed by Gary Smith, Written by Jay Benmehidi

Akobo Minerals – a golden decade of success

The lands of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa are a proud and storied place, steeped in history, glory, and heroism. Great Ethiopian empires like the kingdom of Axum – a hub of classical philosophy and literature that is held to be one of the four greatest civilisations of the ancient world – have risen and fallen since the days of the Egyptian Pharaohs 5,000 years ago, leaving a legacy that can still be felt today.

Other than ruins and monuments, and of course the stories, teachings, art and literature that have been passed down over generations, little remains from this age of empires. There are some links to Ethiopia’s glorious past that cannot so be extinguished by the passing of time, however: the pride that these revered achievements has instilled in the Ethiopian national psyche, and the abundance of high-grade gold deposits that underpinned the emergence of ancient empires and cities alike in the first place.

The western-most land in Ethiopia is an extensive placer gold region, characterised by a Precambrian belt of metamorphic rock – a southern extension of the Arabian-Nubian Shield – which has yielded many gold deposits, ancient and modern. Ethiopia’s gold mining activity has largely and historically occurred in the northwest Asosa region, as well as the country’s northlands, but curiously the fertile lands of the Baro-Akobo in the country’s southwest have seen little interest from explorers or major miners. Until now, that is, as Jorgen Evjen, CEO of Akobo Minerals notes. “What we’re doing right now, we’re opening a new mining region in Ethiopia. There hasn’t been any large-scale mining activity in this region before. Usually what happens these days is that exploration and new mining setups, they tend to occur close to existing mines and then other entrants piggyback off this and setup their own operations nearby. What we’re doing is the opposite.

“We’re developing the first mine in the Akobo basin and hopefully that will attract more people and more investors, more international companies to the region. We would welcome competition here in the Akobo gold mining space, and we’d like to see new companies coming in. This would be good for us and good for Ethiopia. We have a heartfelt love for the country where for 10 years we’ve built our business.”

Over the decade-plus since it entered Ethiopia in 2009, Norway-based Akobo Minerals has worked diligently to become one of Ethiopia’s most capable and respected gold exploration companies. And what’s more, as Jorgen indicates, the company has done so the hard way. Owing to the near-legendary gold mining heritage of the country’s western territories, it was long believed that the southwestern Gambela region, where the Akobo basin is situated, had considerable gold mining potential, but despite the best efforts of many over the years a breakthrough discovery proved elusive. With this in mind, it would be safe to say Akobo’s decision to focus its exploration efforts in this area was something of a calculated gamble.

During the country’s occupation by Italy between 1936-1941, exploration for metals and minerals was undertaken in the Akobo district with little success, but, as it turns out, artisanal miners succeeded where the Italian occupying forces failed. Gold extraction from such rudimentary small-scale mining activities, along with the later discovery of anomalous gold concentrations in rock, soil and stream sediments pointed to potentially sizeable untapped gold resources in the region. Following extensive exploration work over the past decade, which saw the company work closely alongside local artisanal mining villages, Akobo’s geologists discovered two breakthrough deposits – Segele and Joru. The rest, as they say, is history.

From the off, it was clear that both resources were exciting gold prospects with great promise, albeit for different reasons. The flagship Segele deposit, whilst quite small, possesses an uncommonly high concentration of gold, whilst the more expansive Joru resource covers a wider area, but to-date is believed to possess a lower gold content.

Whilst Segele has achieved exceptionally highgrade gold results, with an Inferred Mineral Resource of 78ktons at 20.9g/t after only 4.500 meters of drilling, at Joru, core-drilling and trenching has intersected both high-grade gold zones and large wide zones near surface.

“Our first maiden resource estimates from Segele earlier this year revealed bonanza grades. For reference, reference, the first resources they gave us in grade of 20.9g/t when compared to the standard mining grade of roughly 2g/t is astonishing. It shows we really, really have something to work on. We also released our scoping study recently, which gives you an indication of what the economics of your mining will be. It estimated an all-in cost US$243 per ounce, whilst the industry average is closer to around US$1,000 per ounce.”

Suffice to say the potential of both sites has left Jorgen and his team both pleased and pleasantly surprised, and work to develop the project, which despite its remote location approximately 700km from the capital Addis Ababa, is progressing well. This is perhaps unsurprising: under Jorgen’s leadership, Akobo Minerals has worked in close partnership with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, as well as the local communities and artisan villages from the Akobo basin area, to ensure that the company is going about its business the right way from a business and sustainability standpoint. In a country so proud as Ethiopia, nurturing positive relationships built upon foundations of mutual understanding and respect is not only the correct thing to do from an ethical standpoint – it is the only way to do business successfully in a country which won’t be taken lightly by outsiders.

As well as the desire to build close local relationships, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is a cornerstone of the company’s business strategy. For example, At the beginning of 2021, Akobo Minerals embarked on a partnership with Sazani Associates (Sazani), a UK-based not-for-profit organisation specialising in natural resource governance, to undertake a rapid appraisal of natural resources use in the project area, and a local community analysis of needs, and is presently preparing a sustainable natural resource management plan (SNRMP). This will be in addition to the environmental and social management plans resulting from an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) that the company is undertaking.

Jorgen explains what the company is looking to do. “As part of the SNRMP initiative, we will be capacity-building in environmental and social safeguarding and technical capacities of artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) activities, as well as improved regulation. We will also be driving alternative sustainable livelihood opportunities that support food security and technical vocations. Finally, we are hoping to develop a ‘payment for ecosystem services’ scheme to generate income from carbon credits for our host communities, through rehabilitation and conservation of degraded areas.

“Helping to build community initiatives is certainly not an ESG tickbox for our annual report – it’s a life-affirming activity truly valued by our staff as we look to improve the lives of the locals where we operate.”

The ESG program was recently be recognised by Mines & Money London, the premier European forum for mining investment and capital raising, when it was short-listed as Explorer/Developer Mining Company of the Year. As Jorgen says: “To even be nominated for such a prestigious honour speaks volumes about the great strides we have taken in the past year.”

This licence gives us future-proofed flexibility and options and fuels our capability to be a leading player in the Ethiopian mining sector for many years to come.

Jørgen Evjen, CEO Akobo Minerals

So, what next for Akobo Minerals? Having quite literally struck gold, where does Ethiopia’s foremost gold exploration business go from here? For Jorgen, the answer is simple: Take Akobo Minerals to the next level, and set about transitioning from an exploration business into a true gold producing miner.

He concluded: “Everything is moving quickly. Following the work we’ve done for the last 10 years, such as the basic groundwork, trenching, sampling, soil sampling, chip sampling, we’ve done some RC drilling to compile sample rock cuttings. We started really to refocus back in 2019 and begin the big diamond drill or core drill programme, and we really hit the needle in a haystack with regards to ore grades. As we speak, we’re on the way with all the different, necessary studies to be made. We’ve completed our scoping study, we will move on to Pre-Feasibility Study, we’re doing our EIS, so from an environmental standpoint everything is as it should be, we’re getting the plants designed. Everything is now moving along in parallel, very quickly. We’re way ahead of schedule.

“What’s more, we recently received our large-scale gold mining licence, so we’ll be transitioning from a pure exploration company into a mining company, which is a huge milestone for us. This licence gives us future-proofed flexibility and options and fuels our capability to be a leading player in the Ethiopian mining sector for many years to come.

“So that’s where we are right now – Ethiopia, from exploration to mining. And we expect to start mining by the end of 2022. We’re really moving into new terrain that we’re not familiar with, but we have a knowledgeable and dedicated team, so we’ll find the solutions needed to make a great success of our operations.”