Eric Kondo, Managing Partner, Mining Services and Consulting

Mining Service and Consulting, based in Abidjan, is growing apace with the influx of investments into mining in Cote d’Ivoire and expanding its services across the francophone region.

Could you provide a brief introduction to Mining Services and Consulting (MS&C) and your current clients?

Mining Services and Consulting provides legal and tax services for mining, exploration and service companies across West Africa. We are the sole one-stop-shop in these services for Cote d’Ivoire and, as far as I am aware, there is not another consulting firm regionally that offers such a breadth of assistance for mining companies. We also provide customs, accounting, financial and business management services, with a growing team of experts based in our main office in Abidjan. As managing partner, I am a lawyer specializing in mining and tax law, and have negotiated four mining conventions. As president of the legal, tax and custom commission of the Chamber of Mines, I worked with the Ministry of Industry and Mines to write the mining code to develop Cote d’Ivoire into a top mining investment destination.

What are your opinions on the government’s support to develop the mining sector in 2017, and what should the Ministry of Mines in Cote d’Ivoire’s strategy be for 2018?

Investors have said that the process for obtaining titles is still slow and in 2018 we would like to see titles being granted as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 days of application. Cote d’Ivoire used to be one of the only countries that offered a five-year tax exemption following commencement of commercial operations, however recently, the Minister has decided to reduce this exemption from five years to one year and an amendment of the Mining Code is in progress. At the Chamber of Mines we think this is a big mistake and could deter investment. It is important that both the public and private sector nurture their relationships to build a bright long-term future for the mining industry.

What do you think is the attraction for mining companies operating regionally across West Africa and how do you support those companies?

West Africa has the Birimian greenstone belt with high untapped exploration potential in gold and other commodities; many francophone countries share the strong XOF currency and countries such as Mali and Ghana have long-term mining histories, so this combination of factors attracts top mining companies to the region.

At MS&C we can help facilitate business in the region, and I am regularly travelling to Mali, Burkina and Guinea to look for projects for clients and strengthen our relations with public administration contacts, including ministers, Director of Mines, Director of the Cadaster and private companies. We also provide legal, tax, customs and accounting assistance to clients via our local partners.

Going forward, how do you see the diversification of the mineral landscape in Cote d’Ivoire?

Although Cote d’Ivoire hosts a third of the Birimian Greenstone belt, much remains unexplored. I think the markets and private investors are driving diversification in exploration in Cote d’Ivoire. We saw a rush of gold investors enter when the price passed $1200 in early 2016. More recently, as the lithium price has improved, international players have made local joint ventures, nickel exploration has picked up and new manganese-focused companies have entered the local market.

Given the intensely competitive environment for investment dollars, why should mining houses choose to focus their resources on Cote d’Ivoire?

Cote d’Ivoire continues to be a top mining destination and has the strongest economic growth in the region. Mining activity across the country is facilitated by our quality road system, with easy access to our principal ports in Abidjan and San Pedro, which are currently being developed. We also have good water and our power generation is the best in the region. Abidjan is the favored destination for regional headquarters for mining companies and exploration players; it is a great city with access to 4G internet and good flight connections in the region.

Exploration companies like Cote d’Ivoire as they are exempted from tax (although they pay duties and superficiaries taxes on the permit) and we are seeing local permit holders are open to form joint ventures with international players. If Cote d’Ivoire wants to remain a top mining investment destination, however, we must reinstate the tax structure as proposed by the current mining code, which includes the five-tax-year holiday for mining companies and granting of permits must be sped up.

What would you like to achieve with Mining Consulting Services in 2018?

Over the coming year we will be working to promote the business regionally and globally as we want to expand the company into all of Francophone West Africa, increase our client portfolio and be more widely-recognized.

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