Robert Giustra Set for “Biggest Win” Since 1993

Issue 182, April 2017

There's no downtime for Robert Giustra, chief executive of Vancouver-based Columbus Gold. Negotiating with a tough Russian partner, permitting an open-pit gold mine in the Amazon rainforest, new gold discoveries in Nevada and a proxy battle in Quebec are just some of the issues he has handled in the last twelve months. “I've got an organic food business on the side. That takes up one per cent of my time.”

Giustra began in banking. “My background's banking,” he says. “I've been financing mining companies since 1993, even during the most difficult periods in the business. I don't know if you were around during the late 1990s; everyone became a high-tech, internet promoter overnight, and I was one of the few guys who stayed with mining.”

His biggest win? “I think our biggest win is about to happen,” Giustra says, talking in short bursts, as if he's got a minister waiting on line one. It's possible. In 2015, a fleet of helicopters landed at Columbus Gold's flagship Montagne d'Ore project in French Guiana, a former French colony still under French rule. Flanked by heavily armed soldiers and secret service personnel, out hopped Emmanuel Macron, a former M&A banker at Rothschilds who had just become France's Minister of the Economy.

France must encourage mining, Macron told reporters from Les Echos, before touring the project, shaking hands and hopping back in the chopper. Columbus “knows how to exploit to the best standards and has the capacity to invest massively,” Macron said.

Two years later and he is tipped to become the youngest President of France, after winning the first round of voting in presidential elections on Sunday. Macron has never previously fought an election, but has cruised through a fiercely competitive campaign, as other candidates have knocked each other out.

It is welcome news for Columbus, which has a French advisory board, boasting some of the best connected political advisors in Paris. As minister, Macron was business-friendly and made lowering unemployment his key tenet. Montagne d'Ore, which has a 3m ounce gold reserve, would generate around 700 jobs in French Guiana, where unemployment is running close to 20 per cent, double the French average. Another 3,000 local jobs would be generated indirectly, according to company estimates.

“Security is not an issue,” Giustra says. “If you're looking from the outside, the biggest risk is permitting. We're dealing at the very...

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“We’re dealing at the highest levels of French government.”

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