Mugabe's Fall Has Veteran Miners Jockeying for Zimbabwe Comeback

(Bloomberg) -- Robert Mugabe’s fall as Zimbabwe president is setting the scene for the return of a London mining listing for Andrew Groves and his long-term business partner -- and former England cricketer -- Phil Edmonds.

Groves is preparing to relist the pair’s Zimbabwe coal, chrome and gold assets in London through the reverse takeover of a cash shell, or dormant company. He sees the ascent to the presidency of Emmerson Mnangagwa, a man who served more than half a century at the side of Mugabe, as beneficial.

“I’d like to build it into a mid-tier mining company,” Groves said, adding that he has a lot of local contacts. “I’ve known Emmerson -- the new president Emmerson Mnangagwa -- for 15 years. He’s made a huge change already.”

Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s former spy chief, became president in November with military backing and has offered to hold elections by July. His administration abolished rules that mining operations must be at least 51 percent owned by black Zimbabweans for all minerals other than platinum and diamonds.

The southern African nation is geologically rich, with deposits of gold, chrome, lithium, coal, diamonds, platinum and iron ore. Mine development stalled under Mugabe, whose policies led to a collapse in the economy and hyperinflation.

All Change

“Everything has changed in the country,” said Groves, who won’t hold an executive position in the new company. “There’s a huge amount of euphoria.”

Groves and Edmonds delisted their Sable Mining Ltd. venture, which was trying to build a iron-ore mine in Guinea, less than two years ago. That followed a slump in prices of the commodity and bribery allegations that were denied by the company. The company’s market value reached 300 million pounds ($414 million) in 2010 before collapsing to just 2.2 million pounds and being delisted.

Now renamed Consolidated Growth Holdings Ltd., the private company that holds Zimbabwe and Guinea assets is in talks with London-listed Contango Holdings Plc for a reverse takeover.

Past deals by Groves and Edmonds include the sale of Central African Mining & Exploration Co. for about 584 million pounds in 2009 after securing copper and cobalt mines in the Congo with the help of Dan Gertler.

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This month, CGH said that charges brought in Liberia against Sable Mining and Groves had been dropped after a review that concluded they hadn’t had "improper or illegal" interactions with officials in the government.

Groves said CGH’s first priority will be coal and its Lubu asset could begin producing before the end of the year. “Zimbabwe has been hugely neglected,” he said. “As a destination for mining it’s one of the best.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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