Towards the end of January, we had an interview with Mark Kenwright, Associate Director of Wardell Armstrong – International Mining Consultants.
It was an enlightening first conversation with a well-respected mining consultant, with the intention of opening up to retail shareholders the complexities of how institutions assess risk when making investments.
Most investors already involved in mining will know that due diligence is everything. Kenwright was honest and went straight to the ‘crux’ on a variety of topics that investors will likely find interesting. Kenwright himself is a chartered professional FAusIMM CP(Geo), with over 24 years’ experience as a geology/exploration manager: valuable experience indeed.
Matthew Gordon talks to Mark Kenwright, January 2020
Wardell Armstrong, founded in 1837, is an international consultancy firm providing engineering, environmental and mining services in the mining & minerals, infrastructure & utilities, and property & development sectors. Wardell Armstrong doesn’t build mines. Instead, it provides studies and reports at various stages to assist companies in garnering approval for the construction of mines.
Companies and groups generally hire Wardell Armstrong to obtain a competent person’s report, scoping studies, due diligence studies and more, before conducting an IPO listing on one side of the aisle, or investing into the company on the other. These reports can cost anywhere from GB£50,000 to GB£150,000. The price of these reports is indicative of their importance.
The “bread and butter” services that Wardell Armstrong provides are scoping studies, desktop studies and due diligence for mining companies at a development stage. Wardell Armstrong is providing a much more detailed version of what Family Offices, HNWIs, and, of course, retail investors should be doing themselves. Investors should get the message loud and clear: unless one has a comprehensive understanding of every facet of a company, one shouldn’t part with their hard-earned cash.
Transparency Of Mining Reports
We then moved onto a topic of particular interest for retail investors. We were interested in asking about the transparency and integrity of Wardell Armstrong and other similar companies: do clients influence their reports? Kenwright insists that while Wardell Armstrong can treat certain subjects delicately, everything must be disclosed as part of its publications. Nothing is withheld; Wardell Armstrong has a legal obligation to ensure this is the case.
If Wardell Armstrong doesn’t talk about something at the request of one of their clients, they have to disclose why. There is a table that very few investors seem to look at towards the end of these studies, that will inform them of things they need to know, yet often don’t. This is crucial. It is all too often we hear from investors who have lost their money after neglecting to read a report before investing that would have informed them of the likelihood of this eventuality.
West African Terrorism
A hot topic in recent weeks has been the security situation in West Africa, with numerous contributor articles covering the risks. We are very interested in how geopolitical risk factors are assessed by consultancy firms and investors alike.
The Sahel (West Africa) has been suffering from increasingly widespread instances of terrorist attacks, and mining companies, such as SEMAFO, have suffered heavily at the hands of ISGS, Ansar ul-Islam, Boko Haram and al Qaeda amongst others. How has this impacted other mining companies and what is the outlook? Wardell Armstrong is well aware of this issue, courtesy of its standard practice of performing a risk assessment. Kenwright described the deterioration of the situation in Burkina Faso as “shocking.” Kenwright has discussed the situation with senior security operatives in the region, coining the phrase “Kabulisation,” in relation to the similarities with Afghanistan, where security forces only have control of a very small area around the capital. Everything else is “bandit country.” Will this expand into other territories? Investors need to keep their eyes peeled.
Kenwright then explained there have been 650,000 Burkina Faso residents displaced; this has not received any mainstream exposure. He does, however, claim it is still possible to mine economically in the region. Kenwright takes a “life goes on” view. It is interesting a font of mining knowledge like Wardell Armstrong takes such a position, because we, and many investors, remain cautiously vigilant of the risks in the region.
Kenwright also touched on the outlook for the struggling lithium market, and provided some universal investment advice: considering avoiding a management team that changes frequently (check out their LinkedIn), and making use of online databases to monitor a company’s finances.
This was an eye-opening conversation and we look forward to catching up with Kenwright on a more frequent basis, to discuss evolving risks on an international scale.
Company Website: https://www.wardell-armstrong.com/
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