Determination is high at the State Mineral & Mining Company (SMMC) that its new direction will produce mining projects that create quality jobs and introduce new skills and training for local communities with total respect for the environment. “It is very important to maximise the benefit of our natural resources and put it into our human capital and other renewable resources,” says CEO of SMMC Sergio Akiemboto. “We have to gain some income out of our natural resources, but in a responsible way.”
Founded in 1971 and formerly known as Grassalco
(Grasshopper Aluminium Company
), the Paramaribo-based company was initially created to develop the newly discovered bauxite deposits in western Suriname, but it never had the opportunity to fully flourish.
“Grassalco faced some difficult periods caused by mismanagement and political influences of decision makers, which kept it as an administration and exploration company,” says Mr. Akiemboto.
“The idea of the new government is to transform SMMC into a production company, so that we can have a bigger share of the benefits of our natural resources. That idea is shared by our new and young management team, to enable the company to maximise the profits from production.”
Mr. Akiemboto adds, “We are now investing in our own organisation, getting our personnel trained, and attracting international consultants, like KPMG. We also want to make sure that we are a transparent organisation with a well-organised financial structure.”
As a holding company, SMMC will have three subsidiaries: Grasshopper Gold, Grasshopper Bauxite, and Grasshopper Natural Stone & Aggregate.
According to SMMC’s Chief Financial Officer Dimitri Lemmer, management are determined to forge new relationships with potential investors and ensure they are aware that the company offers a reliable partner in the industry.
“We will act like a private company based on equal partnerships,” he says. “The first thing we are promoting is Grasshopper Gold. We are preparing a bid round, which will run until approximately March 2012, where one of the exploration areas will be offered to potential partners to see how we can come to a production sharing agreement.”
In the bauxite sector, SMMC will continue in its advisory role to the government. Meanwhile in the natural stone and aggregate division, major opportunities are opening up with the government’s grand plans to construct numerous large-scale housing, energy and civil engineering projects. “Our focus right now is the local market,” says Mr. Akiemboto. “In the near future we would like to conquer the CARICOM market.”
The CEO has also been working in the community relations department of the Rosebel gold mine, where SMMC has a 5% interest, as part of its involvement with the social, environmental, ethical and economic aspects of mining.
As part of its community focus, SMMC is looking into setting up a university-level mineral and mining school to increase homegrown industry expertise. Mr. Akiemboto says, “We are looking for partners to invest in training for our Surinamese engineers, geologists, etc. We have the natural resources and access to finance, but we need the know-how that will help transform these natural resources into direct cash flow with well-trained and qualified personnel. Our idea is to support the government in setting up an institute where we can bring in the knowledge for our Surinamese youth to develop the industry themselves.”