Centamin's Business Plan
Getting investors interested in what you want to do is probably the hardest part of any project - and the higher the risk, the harder it is to entice pound notes out of potential investors whose wallets have probably been home to generations of moths. However, it can be done: all you have to do is draw up a serious Business Plan, produce a five year Cash Flow projection, calculate your Profit and Loss account, devise a Marketing Plan and then lay the lot in front of your quarry.
Oh, and if your project involves any sort of mineral extraction process, provide a reliable geological survey of the area in which you are interested. It helps, of course, if the survey is a recent one.
Which may explain why Australian company Centamin is having some slight difficulty in persuading investors to part with their cash. As an experienced exploration company, Centamin's Business Plan is perfect, its Cash Flow is convincing, the Profit and Loss account is flawless and the Marketing Plan persuasive (which isn't difficult when what you are trying to market is gold, but that's a by-the-by). It's the geological survey that is causing them problems.
The first thing that potential investors notice is that the survey looks rather tattered around the edges. The second thing is that it has been drawn up on a strange kind of paper - thick, yellow and blotchy. The third thing they notice is that the legend explaining the diagrams is written in beautifully drawn hieroglyphs.
The papyrus document was found in Luxor - probably in one of the tombs on the west bank of the Nile - in the late nineteenth century and is believed to show a cutaway section of mine tunnels that were being worked in the time of Seti I, the father of Rameses II. "It is the oldest known geological plan in the world," says Sami Raghy, an Egyptian geologist who worked in Australia for more than thirty years. "It is quite helpful for us because what it shows is that the ancient Egyptians were mining gold in the eastern desert when other communities were still in the Stone Age."
When it was first found, the papyrus was sufficiently unusual for some to doubt its authenticity, doubts which still linger in the minds of a few. Although the possibility of a forgery has been dismissed - the age of the papyrus and the style of the hieroglyphs place it firmly back in the Nineteenth Dynasty - the likelihood of ancient wishful thinking cannot be so easily disproven. We know that Egypt was rich with gold, so rich that an envious king of Babylon could write to Akhenaton and beg for some of the stuff "because there is much gold in Egypt", however the nearest sources of gold were the Sinai deserts and further east and the primitive land of Cush to the south. Apart from this papyrus there was no indication that gold was mined within the borders of Egypt.
Spurred on by the map, and by Mr Raghy's persistence, Centamin has started to fossick along the dry river beds that flow into the Nile Valley and to the surprise of some they have struck - er - gold! So far they have identified ten promising sites, one of which may contain as much as 2,000,000 ounces of the yellow metal, and serious development has actually started at a place called Sukkari, which is some 500 miles south-east of Cairo. By using open-cast mining instead of Seti's tunnels, Centamin believes that it can keep extraction costs down to about $120 per ounce, a figure comparable to costs in America.
In an effort to attract investors, Centamin tried to think of a snappy name for its Egyptian subsidiary. You will not be surprised to learn that they came up with "Pharaoh Gold Mines". It could have been worse: it could have had the name "Tutankhamun" in it somewhere.