Ines Scotland enthused by Saudi minerals

Published: 03/05/2013

17-23 March 2008

By Emily Roberts, HighGrade

Ines Scotland … talking to Cynthia Carroll, now head of African mining giant Anglo American, proved inspiring.

A CHANCE meeting a couple of years ago with the mining industry’s now highest profile woman, Cynthia Carroll, helped convince Ines Scotland that she could lead the first Australian resources company with prospects in Saudi Arabia to list on the Australian Securities Exchange, taking it from a specialist services firm to one with major prospects of its own.

As head of Citadel Resource Group, which was formed last year from the amalgamation of media services company ADV Group and mining services group Vertex (of which Scotland was a founding director) and became a publicly listed company last December, Scotland presides over 10 wholly owned projects and exploration licences in Saudi Arabia. The company’s flagship copper/gold/silver project, Jabal Sayid, is a 50-50 joint venture with Saudi Arabia’s Central Mining Company Investments. The resource, thought to have potential to support a 100-150-million-tonne opencut development, is about 350km from Jeddah, the commercial centre of Saudi Arabia and where Scotland has lived for nearly four years. The current JORC resource estimate is 74.3Mt, including 52Mt at 1.6% copper, 4Mt at 1.9% copper and 18Mt at 0.4% copper), with plenty of scope for improvement as the company continues its scoping study work on four main prospects on the Arabian Shield.

Scotland, a former Lihir Gold, Comalco and Kennecott Utah Copper manager, believes Saudi Arabia and North Africa have significant untapped mineral exploration potential and she plans to aggressively develop the current portfolio and look for further opportunities in the region.

“It [the region] offers fantastic geology and has been very under explored,” Scotland told HighGrade from Citadel’s Jeddah exploration office. “In the 1970s the French mission, BRGM, did quite a lot of exploration in Saudi on a cost reimbursable contract with the Saudi government, but that is the only exploration that has been done in Saudi. I think the parallel that is made is that in one year the Canadian shields had the same expenditure as 30 years in the Arabian shield. And they are about the same size. The Saudi Arabian mining company, Ma’aden, say they have got about eight million ounces of gold in inventory and the head of their gold unit told me “we just can’t drill a hole without hitting gold”.”

The other main attraction of Saudi to Citadel was the 2005 changing of the country’s mining act, which is now “probably one of the best in the world”, and provided security of tenure, according to Scotland. “For Saudi it’s about creating economic diversification and employment opportunities,” she said. “The country has a population of about 24 million people and about 50% of them are under the age of 22, so the government realises they have a very young population and they need to start providing employment opportunities. So in Saudi there are no mineral royalties payable, you can be 100% foreign owned for there is no government free-carried equity or Saudi private company free-carried equity. You can extract all commodities including gold and copper, etc. There is a flat corporate tax rate which is 20%, and there is no income tax payable. So it’s a very good development regime. On top of that there is a lot of project financing available in Saudi so you can actually finance the project from within the country.”

Despite the cultural differences and the un-Western attitudes to women, being a business woman in Saudi had no additional barriers to those in Australia, Scotland said. “It’s surprisingly quite easy [living and working in Saudi],” she said. “I was a bit hesitant at first, but as a western woman you can do business quite effectively in Saudi. There is nothing that stops you doing business; in fact, a lot of the corporations are actually run by women. It’s something that isn’t spoken about a lot and I know you hear a lot of bad publicity about Saudi and the treatment of women but they do actually have a lot of high profile business women in Saudi. There are also a lot of uni graduates that are women too.”

Citadel has instigated a program in some of the regional high schools to encourage more women to take an interest in science, by awarding the top science students a laptop and giving them the opportunity to visit the company’s operations and talk to the mining people first-hand. The company is also considering sponsoring students through a science-based course at university. Helping the community is something Scotland believes the industry should get better at, and she cites one of her mentors, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus, as an inspiration for how more can be done to help local communities, especially those in disadvantaged countries.

Scotland said high-school girls in Saudi were “definitely not” aware of a career in the mining industry, however, even in Australia where the mining industry was much bigger, it was not until university, or if a student had a real interest in science, that the industry was considered a career option. Scotland said she had always been interested in mining and “I always liked the scale of the operations, I didn’t aspire to an office job and I liked the sense of adventure”.

Her advice to women looking at a mining career would be to consider the diverse number of roles available – not just as an engineer or geologist – the ability to be able to travel, and the ability to work for something that is sustainable in your community. This is particularly poignant to Saudis who are very interested in providing employment opportunities for people that are’¿t in the city centres. I think that interests a lot of women who come from the smaller rural areas as they can have a livelihood and their children can have a livelihood in the area that they come from.

Scotland, who has also worked in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the US, has successfully juggled raising a family with working full-time (she worked part-time for six months when her daughter was born). Her now 14-year-old daughter attends boarding school in Sydney, and while “she is still baffled with what I do”, Scotland says she is “very supportive of that [Scotland’s career] and she is very independent and strong minded”, although no intentions at this stage of a career in the mining industry.

Scotland says she has worked with a number of women managers in her time, but the number of women in the upper echelons of the industry and particularly small mining firms, were scarce. She said when she met Cynthia Carroll a couple of years ago before she became Anglo American chief executive, she was shocked to find another mining woman working in Saudi Arabia.

“She [Cynthia] was with Alcan at the time [and I was CEO of Vertex] and they were talking with Ma’aden about a joint venture on their alumina project and the CEO of Ma’aden invited me and a small group of people, including Cynthia, to dinner. I sat opposite her and had a good talk to her then about what it’s like to be a high-profile woman in the mining industry and that made me think about why do’¿t we go and list in Australia and why don’t we become more of a high-profile company and really move through the development cycle. She was very inspiring.”

Scotland believes the solution to overcoming the shortage of women in the industry will come from the women themselves. “When women say I am going to be the primary source of income and my career matters as much as or more than your career, that’s when you’ll see more women in the industry. While women maintain a secondary career position then often they don’t have the option to join the mining industry because it’s very difficult to do.”

Article reproduced from HighGrade