Executive Chairman Socrates Vasiliades of Avima Iron Ore Limited explores some of the political, economic, and infrastructural challenges that the Avima project faces and how the project has used these to its advantage to attract investment to this region of Africa.
The company operates the Avima iron ore project in the north-west of the Republic of Congo, bordering Gabon and Cameroon. Avima is a large world class, high grade iron ore deposit.
In terms of political, economic and infrastructural challenges within the region of West Africa, Mr. Vasiliades considers the environments of the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Gabon to be very stable. The governments and the people are committed to the development of their countries and the mineral resource industry will play a large role in that. The residents are very supportive of incoming companies investing to prove the resources are there and in viable quantities such that the countries will eventually become producers and ensure the mineral wealth will benefit their populations. The company is finding the people are very supportive and in turn, being supported by the company. Both parties are pleased with the progress of the project, although low iron ore prices have created delays to move the Avima project into production. The company is well advanced in commencing a 3mtpa export operation.
Africa has an international perception of being a high-risk destination for investment. However, Socrates Vasiliades believes this is an issue being raised less and less. What is being seen is that as more and more foreign companies are coming to lesser explored countries, the confidence level is improving. There are still some countries that are further ahead than others, but his personal view is that there are two sides to the story and in some instances, much of what has transpired is due to a fault of the incoming party.
Mr. Vasiliades also views sustainable mining as being key to the success of the project. Upon being asked about the importance of being in local contact with the communities that are right next door to the Avima project, Mr. Vasiliades stated their primary objective is to employ the local people wherever possible and, in the first instance, if they cannot employ local people due to a lack of technical qualifications, then they employ technically competent people who will look after local people’s interests and ultimately train the local population so they can subsequently participate directly in the development of the projects. Avima Iron Ore Limited is very focused on giving back to the community.
Socrates Vasiliades has commented the company adopts practices that are up to international standards, and strives to respect the environment. That is a fundamental part of what the company does – because of the size of the project itself, which is situated in a beautiful and natural environment that host communities, exotic animals and vegetation, they need to ensure the impact on the environment of the mining project is reduced to a minimum. The other aspect of sustainability is earning the trust, authorisation and willing participation of the governments and populations in whose countries they operate to ensure that Avima’s strategic priorities are aligned with the population.