A LOT has been said about Siberia Mining Corporation since it formed almost a year ago. After all, from new float to a miner in less than a year is a considerable feat.
Along the way Siberia has attracted the attentions of some well-known local mining promoters and its share price has outperformed expectations.
Accordingly the company grabbed its fair share of the spotlight with some commentators describing the outfit as a new breed of explorer-producer.
However, not a lot has been said about the three, relatively young, founders of the company who now work actively managing Siberia and consulting to its sister company, Hibernia Gold – albeit in the shadow of high profile promoter Andrew Forrest.
The three men, Adrian Byass, 32, Jonathon Downes, 34, and Richard Hill, 36, were all former geologists at Anaconda Nickel during that controversial company’s more heady days until they were made redundant along with many of the company’s staff in 2001.
“Most geologists go through something like it at some point in their career,” Mr Byass said.
“We were lucky, I suppose,” Mr Downes said, describing leaving Anaconda as the catalyst for what is now Siberia Mining Corporation.
The three now control almost 15 per cent of the company’s shares worth about $7.2 million.
Leaving luck aside, the three were certainly qualified to make something happen.
Mr Byass completed a double-degree in geology and economics and is now studying his PhD in economic geology. Mr Downes holds a geology/geophysics degree from the Australian National University in Canberra and Mr Hill is a qualified lawyer as well as a geologist with experience in both fields.
Risking $40,000 of their own money they set up public unlisted company Braeside at a time when exploration was certainly not the investing public’s preferred option.
After building an initial portfolio of projects through deals and pegging they were eventually able to raise a further $750,000 in seed capital.
One of their biggest backers at the time was Mineral Securities, a resource investment bank controlled by mining investor Keith Lidell and Tony Barton’s recently de-listed Australian Heritage Group. It tipped in about $350,000 in mid 2002.
In early 2003, after building what was described at the time as a landholding equivalent to a major company, the three secured a deal that has since defined the company.
That deal came in the form of a handshake from one of WA’s more colourful mining entrepreneurs on Christmas Eve at a farm in New South Wales. It was the grasp of none other than their old boss from Anaconda Nickel – now Minara Resources – Mr Forrest, who helped with a company restructure and name change.
He also took up the executive chairman, managing director and CEO roles and brought in two of his old Anaconda boardroom colleagues Chris Linegar and Malcolm James.
All took stakes in the company and helped engineer the unique tight capital structure that was a key factor in the $2.2 million float’s success.
Since then the company has pulled off several successful deals and financing arrangements that have set up its current buoyant position.
Siberia’s cash at bank is about $3.5 million plus $500,000 in bonds.
It is preparing to bring on stream a mine that will produce 100,000 ounces this year and then a second mine. They hope it too will produce at a rate of 100,000 ounces per year.
The share price has also overjoyed investors. Given the four for one share split conducted in late 2003, Siberia shareholders from April last year have had their initial 20 cent shares reach an equivalent of more than $2.40 each.
However, the three founders happily admit their dream run has not all been smooth sailing.
There were allegations – denied by all three founders – that they might have been involved in a series of plaints – applying for leased ground that is not being maintained – on Goldfields tenements in 2001.
At the time, Anaconda admitted to a link between some of its own personnel and an unlisted private company, Ajax Nominees, which had lodged more than 100 plaints on Goldfields tenements.
Plainting can be a touchy subject in the mining industry and a number of ‘unspoken’ rules govern it.
“No involvement and no links were found because there was none,” Mr Downes said.
These days, following the listing success of Siberia, the rumours are far more market related and generally confined to the investment community seeking more good news on the company.
They may get that good news soon because Siberia is set to start production and expects to pour its first gold bar in April.
“Most geologists go through something like it at some point in their career.”
- Adrian Byass
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