Hunting High-Grade Gold Deposits in West Africa

In this interview, Peter Ledwidge, Managing Director, Mako Gold, shares with us the secret of his company's success and who his role model is and how he abides by "respect" and building a good relationship with local communities.

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By Andrew Thake.

Mako Gold (ASX: MKG) is led by a highly experienced team of mining industry professionals with a proven track record of gold discovery in Burkina Faso and gold production in Australia.

The company is focused on the discovery of large high-grade gold deposits in highly prospective and under-explored terrains in Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and other favourable countries in West Africa.

Peter, a founder of Mako Gold, is a qualified geologist with over 30 years’ experience in the exploration and mining industry. His career has focussed primarily on gold exploration along with some base metals’ exploration. Peter has worked extensively in Canada, Africa and Australia, in a variety of roles in exploration, development and mining projects.

Mines and Money (MM): Tell us a little about your mining company?

Peter Ledwidge (PL): I started Mako Gold with my wife Ann, a geologist with over 25 years’ experience, and Ibrahim Bondo, all of whom  had worked together  at our previous company Orbis Gold.

After Orbis Gold was taken over by SEMAFO we started planning the launch of Mako Gold. We waited for an upturn in the markets and then did a couple of seed raises before listing on the ASX in April 2018.

We were oversubscribed for our AUS$6 million raise, with Resolute Mining taking an AUS $2 million stake.

MM: What sets your mining company apart from others in the space?

PL: We are a proven team, many of who delivered success at Orbis Gold. In addition, we have hired well, bringing on board an experienced Chairman (Mark Elliott), a solid, very experienced CFO / Company Secretary (Paul Marshall), as well as persuading Michele Muscillo to join our board.  Michele was previously on the board of Orbis Gold and currently also sits on the board of Cardinal Resources, so he has extensive West African experience.

My wife Ann and I have been working in West Africa since the 1990s. We’ve been here before with Orbis Gold where we made the discovery of three gold deposits in 2 years hosting 2.6 million ounces, advancing them to the resource and scoping stages.

Our team has extensive geology experience. We are also very selective about which projects we proceed with. To get our three projects for Mako gold we sifted through 150 projects before choosing three.

However, whilst we are diligent in waiting for the right opportunity, once we have identified one we move fast, like a Mako shark, hence the name.

MM:  You’ve mentioned that your wife is a key member of the Mako Gold team. Is the mining industry doing enough to promote diversity?

PL: The mining industry isn’t doing enough, but it is doing more than it has in the past. Ann often attends Women in Mining meetings. In Burkino Faso there is a WIM group she is involved with that she is helping out in various ways such as by helping them build their website.

At Mako Gold, we always ensure that when we are recruiting candidates, we are recruiting regardless of sex or ethnicity. I’m proud to say that we only have one expat on the ground in West Africa (our Chief Geologist Jamie Light), everyone else is local.

MM: What recent news would you like to highlight to investors attending?

PL:   We move fast. Within one month of listing on the ASX we were drilling in the Cote D’Ivoire. We already have announced good maiden drilling results (8 metres at 8.5g.t Au and 26 meters at 3.85g/t Au) from that drilling program.

MM: What is West Africa like as a region to do business?

PL:  We have a lot of experience in West Africa. We have very good contacts. Permitting is straightforward. When I was at Orbis Gold permitting took 6 months. If we were in Queensland it would take 18 months.

Whilst there is sovereign risk in countries such as the DRC, where we operate, in Burkino Faso and Cote d’Ivorie, they introduced their mining licenses back in 2014/2015 so any increases in charges / taxes have already been factored in.

Burkina Faso is an attractive investment destination with strong government support for mining, a modern mining code and gold resources of over 50 million ounces with 10 new gold mines constructed and operating in the last 12 years. Mining has now overtaken cotton as their number one export. The government recognise that they need foreign investors, markets and expertise.

Cote d'Ivoire contains more Birimian greenstone belts than other West African countries yet only 20Moz of gold resources have been found to date, making it an ideal location for future gold discoveries.

Both countries have lower corporate taxes than Australia.

MM: Which role model has inspired you the most in your career?

PL: Richard Branson. I’ve read all his books and like his philosophy towards business, which matches mine. You don’t have to walk over everyone to be successful. Respect goes both ways. When you set up a business you need to do so because you will enjoy it, not because you want to make money. If you enjoy the business you’ve set up and are passionate about it, then the money will come later.

We’ve built  good relationships with the local communities  in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. In Burkina we have personally  been  sponsoring a local family, doing the small things that matter such as ensuring that they have running water, buying them 40kg bags of rice, feed for chickens etc.. Helping the local community  is incorporated in our  business model. I am a great believer in the concept of micro-cap loans which is a system that would allow us to help people by lending them small amounts to start a business.  This kind of help empowers them since it gives them ownership rather than it being a handout.  I hope that we can begin this or something similar in the near future  As a company grows, the positive impact on the local community should increase in proportion to the growth of the company.

Andrew Thake

Head of Content, Mines and Money