INTERVIEW: Kazakh gold miner AltynGold on a roll
Assaubayev was born in
bne: Your family has now controlled AltynGold for almost a decade. What first attracted you to the business and convinced you that it was a great investment?
AA: We acquired AltynGold, or Hambleden mining as it was then called, in 2012 through a public offering to the company’s shareholders. At the time, the outlook for the company was rather bleak. In addition to being involved in a dispute with the government of
Yet despite these challenges, we saw tremendous potential in the business and were confident that our experience would give us the knowledge and ideas to turn it around. After gaining control, we were able to quickly resolve the legal dispute by working with authorities to repair the environmental damage and investing heavily in company facilities to ensure that a similar incident does not happen again. Operationally, our exploration focus has shifted underground, where the long-term potential of the company resides. We were able to significantly increase reserves and successfully transition operations from surface mining to underground mining, resulting in a significant increase in annual production. I am delighted to say that the initial potential we saw in the business was not misplaced and that we are now on track to produce 1 million tonnes of ore and 60,000 ounces of gold per year of by 2025.
good: You mention that your family already had experience in the mining industry before acquiring AltynGold. Could you expand on and explain how the Assaubayevs entered the industry?
AA: The mining industry has always been a natural fit – my dad
good: What role does the family play in the day-to-day management of the business?
AA: Our family has always played an important role in the day-to-day operations of AltynGold. As CEO, I have been responsible for overseeing the company’s strategy and managing its day-to-day business operations since 2013, while my father and younger brother, Sanzhar Assaubayev, are chairman and executive director respectively. We have always viewed our family’s involvement in the management team as beneficial to our success, as it not only ensures a high level of trust among key decision makers, but also maintains business continuity by ensuring that my father’s passion and industry knowledge will stay with the company for years to come.
good: What obstacles have you encountered as a Kazakh company in attracting investment abroad?
AA: As with any successful business operating within the CIS and emerging markets in general, we are subject to scrutiny from international investors. We strive to adhere to the highest levels of ethical behavior and transparency in our transactions. Nonetheless, like many of our peers, from time to time we face baseless and frivolous allegations.
One of the most egregious accusations we received in this regard was that our family had embezzled money from Kazakhstan
In our view, the best way to dispel these stereotypes and allay the associated concerns is to ensure that we are as transparent as possible in our business procedures. This has always been a priority for us and remains a priority for us in the future.
bne: Speaking of controversies, one of the biggest and most public disputes you have faced involved Russian mining company Polyus over a decade ago. What do you think sparked this dispute and how is your relationship going today?
We sold KazakhGold to Polyus in 2009, after extensive discussions with the majority shareholders of Polyus at the time on our shared vision for the global market and our collective growth plan. At the time of the sale, we were convinced that Polyus was the right buyer and we even went so far as to refuse other more lucrative offers to ensure the success of the transaction. Shortly after the transaction was finalized, however, changes were made to Polyus’ management team which impacted the company’s strategy and moved it away from the growth trajectory on which we had agreed to. We naturally felt blinded by this, and after challenging it, we were faced with a lawsuit from Polyus who tried to force us to back down. Once a legal dispute begins, it tends to come to life and aggressive legal action has subsequently been taken on both sides.
It is important to note, however, that at no time is the
good: What are your long-term business goals for AltynGold in the coming years?
AA: Our goal is to effectively use our expertise in mining and natural resources, pursuing a diverse portfolio of projects in the mining, oil and gas industries. Beyond that, we are also actively working to attract foreign investment in
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