WHO’S WHO » GOLD GROUPS
Output is at an all-time high, exploration spending is at its highest level since records began and the gold price in Aussie dollars has never looked better
Up 50 per cent in a decade, gold output in Australia rose to 317 tonnes in 2018, double the output of Canada, worth $16bn (A$23bn) at prices today
Michael Nossal bought the Las Bambas copper mine for China for $7bn and now he is looking for further deals, eyeing low-grade assets with scale
Beament has taken Northern Star from 1 cent to A$11.74. “I just love mining. I just loved it from day one. Things change on a daily basis”
Business schools in the future will use Bill Beament as a case study. He is unique in the gold industry for only buying assets at market lows, and then buying aggressively. Beament built an underground contracting business and became managing director of a A$10m shell company, ASX-listed Northern Star, buying the Paulsens gold mine in Australia. Paying workers per tonne produced, he squeezed costs, upped output, drilled-out the mine life and was soon paying dividends. “We don't get tied down in long pre-shift meetings,” he says. “There's no rocket-science behind it.” When gold tanked in 2013, cash flow at Barrick and Newmont started moving »
Above: Newcrest’s Cadia mine in New South Wales has overtaken Boddington and the Super Pit as Australia’s biggest gold mine (Flickr/neelaka, Kingsway, Newcrest, Barbara Samuel)
Banks putting deals to Melbourne-based Newcrest walk past the CEO’s office. They also bypass the chairman (who is waiting to retire) and go straight to Mike Nossal. From Rothschilds to Macquarie, Russia to Mozambique, Nossal is well-connected, acting as an in-house banker for acquisitive metal groups: for $7bn he bought Glencore's Las Bambas mine for China's MMG. To shift Newcrest's emphasis away from Papua New Guinea he has pumped over $1bn into deals in Canada, Ecuador and the US. Its Cadia gold mine is currently the biggest in Australia; it might soon be the smallest in Newcrest's portfolio.
Coffee in Sydney, lunch in Rome, then a week in Hawaii. Jet-setter Jake Klein leads Evolution Mining. Having started as an auditor at Macquarie he became CEO of Sino Gold, building a pipeline of projects in China, bulking-up its market cap to $2.2bn. Behind his languid demeanour, Klein is fiercely competitive: anything Northern Star's Bill Beament bids for, Klein bids for first. At Evolution, he has bought the Cowal mine off Barrick Gold and Ernest Henry off Glencore. There is a “vacuum of capital” in the mining industry, he tells The Sydney Morning Herald; consolidating assets is the best way to be “globally relevant.”
Sitting in the deepest chair in the darkest backroom of the gold industry of Australia in a loud blazer jacket, few have more clout than James Askew. Raising capital, finding deals, fixing-up troubled assets, Askew has put his heft behind two of Australia's most outward-looking companies, Evolution Mining and OceanaGold, which Askew joined as chairman 12 years ago, pushing the company into the Philippines and New Zealand. Now 70, “Jim” continues to take on unpalatable boardroom roles. Out in the bush, even the thorniest of problems can be buried by deals negotiated in Melbourne and Sydney.