The Latin proverb “Acta non verba” - or “Deeds, not words” - is one motto mining industry veteran Chris Lim lives by. This underpins his philosophy of leading by example when it comes to managing the operations of SGX-listed CNMC Goldmine Holdings Ltd.
“Taking the lead and setting an example is something we instil across the entire corporate hierarchy at CNMC,” said 48-year-old Lim, the Group’s Chief Executive Officer.
“Whether you’re a C-suite executive or the leader of a small team, we expect you to guide those under your care through your actions and the way you carry yourself,” he added.
“As actions always speak louder than words, this approach is particularly relevant for a business like ours, where we have to get our hands dirty - literally.”
Making it a point to listen to different perspectives before making major decisions, taking responsibility rather than finding fault, and giving credit where credit is due, are also key elements that define Lim’s leadership style.
“The senior management at CNMC is always open to feedback from all stakeholders, not only from our shareholders, but also our staff, suppliers, external consultants, and just about anyone involved directly or indirectly in our business,” he pointed out.
“As a publicly listed company, we’re mindful of our obligations to our stakeholders. Their feedback, whether positive or negative, is always worth listening to, as their support and understanding can go a long way in helping us get to where we want to go as a business.”
Indeed, over CNMC’s 16-year-long journey - it began operations in 2006 - there have been many highlights, challenges and lessons learned, Lim said.
“Producing our very first bar of gold - in 2010 - was without doubt a major milestone for us. It took us about four years to achieve this,” he recalled.
“Our listing on SGX in 2011 was another highlight in our history, as it gave us the much-needed capital to further develop our gold mining business and take it to the next level,” he added.
“This has enabled us to generate profits year after year since 2012, except for 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted our operations.”
Beating the Odds
Over the years, the Group has faced - and overcome - multiple challenges. “Mining is capital-intensive, comes with lots of risks, and there’s no guarantee of success no matter how much one plans,” he noted.
“There’re many things beyond one’s control, such as the weather, geological compositions, and the price of the commodity being mined. The biggest challenge we’ve encountered so far is probably the pandemic,” he added, pointing to wide-ranging lockdown measures and travel restrictions that forced CNMC to stop operations for weeks or months on end in each of the last two years.
But then again, as German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so aptly put it: “What does not kill me, makes me stronger”.
“For all the challenges that we’ve encountered in the history of CNMC, the main takeaway for us has always been how we could do better the next time,” Lim said. “There’s no point playing the blame game. If something is not right, let’s all work on getting it fixed, and try not to repeat the error.”
CNMC, established by Professor Lin Xiang Xiong, was the first gold mining company to list on SGX Catalist in October 2011. Headquartered in Singapore, the Group is engaged in the exploration and mining of gold, and the processing of mined ore into gold doré bars.
It is focused on developing the Sokor Gold Field Project, located in the state of Kelantan, Malaysia. Spanning an area of 10 square kilometres, the project has identified five gold deposit regions, namely Manson’s Lode, New Discovery, New Found, Sg Ketubong and Rixen.
With an initial focus on open-pit - or surface - mining, CNMC has since expanded into underground mining, which enables the Group to extract higher-grade gold ore.
As at 31 December 2020, the Sokor Gold Field Project had JORC-compliant gold resources (inclusive of ore reserves) of 18.16 million tonnes at a grade of 1.5 g/t in the Measured, Indicated and Inferred categories, for a total of 890,000 ounces. The project achieved its first gold pour on 21 July 2010. In 2017, the Group acquired two mining properties in Kelantan - the CNMC Pulai Mining brownfield site and Kelgold Mining greenfield site.
For the year ended 31 December 2021, the gold producer chalked up US$1.72 million in profit attributable to shareholders, reversing a loss of US$3.54 million in FY2020. The turnaround came as FY2021 revenue rose 38% to US$32.88 million.
Diversified Mining Assets
|Comfortable profit margin
|“We still have a comfortable profit margin as current gold prices remain elevated, and are not far from their all-time highs.
“But as spot prices - which determine our selling prices - are not within our control, we have to focus on boosting output so that with higher revenues, production cost per ounce can fall.”
-- CNMC CEO Chris Lim
To spur its longer term growth, CNMC is building another two underground mining facilities at its flagship Sokor gold project. These underground mines will allow the Group to extract more higher-grade gold ore for processing at its carbon-in-leach (CIL) plant.
“Our CIL plant has been in operation for more than four years now, and can be expanded to handle up to 1,000 tonnes of ore a day from 500 tonnes currently,” Lim noted. “We’ve the option to increase the plant’s processing capacity once the underground facilities can sustain production output at around 1,000 tonnes of ore a day.”
The Group is also about to kick off trial production of lead and zinc. “We’ve been planning for this for several years now, and are close to finally being able to diversify our portfolio of mining assets beyond gold to include these metals,” Lim added.
“We’re putting the finishing touches to a flotation plant at Sokor that can process about 550 tonnes of ore containing lead and zinc. We expect to start trial production of these metals in the second quarter of this year, barring unforeseen circumstances.”
While the pandemic continues to be a concern, Lim remains optimistic. “Malaysia is in a better position to deal with COVID-19 now compared to a year or two ago,” he said.
“Above all, I think the pandemic has reinforced the need for companies to have contingency plans in place at all times. This requires business owners - us included - to be actively and regularly involved in planning for multiple scenarios, so they can be as prepared as possible for any exigencies,” he added.
“In other words, COVID-19 has elevated the importance of this mindset, and the need to always be nimble, so we can respond quickly in whatever situation we’re in.”
At the same time, the Group continues to grapple with the challenge of rising production costs. “Our mine sites are powered by diesel generators, and with the surge in energy prices worldwide, diesel has become more expensive. While we’re still able to cope with the higher costs, we intend to install a national grid power line at Sokor, which should yield cost savings in the long term.”
Additionally, it remains focused on boosting output to reduce the cost of production for every ounce of gold coming from its processing plants.
“We still have a comfortable profit margin as current gold prices remain elevated, and are not far from their all-time highs,” Lim noted. “But as spot prices - which determine our selling prices - are not within our control, we have to focus on boosting output so that with higher revenues, production cost per ounce can fall.”
Apart from maximising value for shareholders, CNMC is also actively pursuing its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets.
"We comply with local environmental laws, and engage a licensed independent consultant to carry out regular on-site inspections at Sokor, to ensure our operations are as environmentally friendly as possible,” Lim noted.
“We track, for example, our carbon dioxide emissions very closely. Our total carbon dioxide emissions in FY2020 declined nearly 13% from the previous year to 20,121 tonnes. In terms of water management, we make it a point to recycle water and even treat wastewater before discharging it, so there’s no risk to the local communities and ecosystem at Sokor,” he added.
“All in all, we’re proud to say we’ve not fallen short in any significant way in terms of the impact we leave on the environment.”
CNMC Goldmine Holdings Ltd
CNMC is the first Catalist-listed gold mining company on SGX. Headquartered in Singapore, the Group started operations in 2006 and is engaged in the exploration and mining of gold and the processing of mined ore into gold doré bars. The Group is focused on developing the Sokor Gold Field Project, located in the State of Kelantan, Malaysia. Spanning an area of 10 sq km, the project has identified five gold deposit regions, namely Manson’s Lode, New Discovery, New Found, Sg. Ketubong and Rixen. As at 31 December 2020, the Sokor Gold Field Project had JORC-compliant gold resources (inclusive of ore reserves) of 18.16 million tonnes at a grade of 1.5 g/t in the Measured, Indicated and Inferred categories for a total of 890,000 ounces. The project achieved its first gold pour on 21 July 2010. The Company also owns CNMC Pulai Mining Sdn Bhd and Kelgold Mining Sdn Bhd, both of which are in Kelantan.
The company website is: www.cnmc.com.hk
Click here for the company's StockFacts page.
For the year ended 31 December 2021 financial results, click here.
About kopi-C: the Company brew
Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file
Article was first published in kopi-C , a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.
For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.