Jim Cochrane, the new chairman of Sable Mining Africa Ltd., said he was attracted to the job by the quality of the company’s Nimba iron-ore asset in Guinea.
He expects Sable to be able to raise the funds it needs to develop Nimba, even after a global cutback in investment in new production, Cochrane said in an interview in London. “For the right project there is still money available,” he said. “I wouldn’t be involved unless I believed it was a realistic project that had a realistic chance of success.”
Sable announced Cochrane’s appointment today, saying he would replace former England cricketer Philippe Edmonds as chairman. Edmonds will continue as a non-executive director. Bloomberg News reported last week that Cochrane, former chief commercial officer at Eurasian Natural Resources Corp., was set to take up the role.
Sable’s Nimba mine in southeast Guinea contains about 178 million metric tons of the steelmaking ingredient. It may cost about $250 million to build, according to an October estimate by GMP Securities LP.
Global exploration spending plunged by 30 percent or $10 billion last year, squeezing budgets to search for minerals and sustain supplies, according to MinEx Consulting Pty, whose clients include BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest miner. The austerity has been triggered after a decade-long mining boom peaked in 2012.
Sable was given a mining license for the project in September and granted permission to export the ore through neighboring Liberia in October. It targets first production in 2015 and plans to transport ore to the port of Buchanan in Liberia. ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, operates a mine in Liberia and a rail line to the harbor.
“You want to be involved with something that has a great chance of success,” said Cochrane, 49. “There are not many projects that have have relatively low capital intensity and have potential infrastructure access already in place.”
Cochrane, who worked at ENRC for more than a decade as head of marketing and sales, resigned from his CCO position and board seat at the company in April.
Sable was founded by Chief Executive Officer Andrew Groves and Edmonds. The pair previously operated Central African Mining & Exploration Co., which they sold to ENRC for about 584 million pounds ($960 million) in 2009.
“The Board believes that significant benefits will come from Jim’s extensive experience of managing and developing mining projects,” Groves said in the statement. “His appointment demonstrates our focus on ensuring that we have the requisite skills and expertise to develop the Nimba project.”