Australian mining CEO visits Smith River mine

On Friday, Karl Simich, CEO of Australia-based Sandfire Resources, visited the site of one of his new proposed mines: the Black Butte copper mine near White Sulphur Springs and the Smith River.

Sandfire Resources now owns a majority of the project being developed by Tintina Resources but questions why Montanans should have a problem with that.

“I think it’s a fairly outrageous type of statement to think that just because I don’t live in White Sulphur or Helena that I don’t care. Of course I care. I’ve got a wife and three kids and I live somewhere, and I live close to in another community where I mine,” Simich told ABC-FOX Montana. “I think everything that we do has some sort of risk or another, so it’s sort of just singling out and maybe inappropriately singling out one industry.”

Montanans have reason to be wary of the mining industry and foreign developers. But they also should be wary of Simich, now that his company owns 57 percent of the Black Butte Mine. If Sandfire pursues the remainder of a November agreement, it will own more than 68 percent of Tintina.

According to his resume, Simich spent many years running diamond-mine companies before he moved into mining copper and gold with Sandfire in 2009. He was the managing director of Kimberley Diamond Company between 1993 and 2007 at the same time he was the chairman of Namakwa Diamond Company.

Recently, the Kimberley Diamond Company has been involved in questionable dealings in Australia.

First, as the company pulled out of the Ellensdale diamond mine last July, it was revealed that they still owed the government of West Australia about $750,000 in unpaid royalties. The story went on to reveal how the company planned to leave the mine without paying for clean-up:

“In late 2013, Kimberley failed to pay royalties after they received a refund of $12 million from the Mining Rehabilitation Fund (MRF).
Now it is expected Kimberley will shift the $30 million cost of rehabilitating the Ellendale site back to the MRF.”

Then in September, the former Kimberley Diamonds boss was arrested after allegedly making false and misleading statements to the Australian Stock Exchange about the value the company’s transactions.

While Simich might argue that both of these incidents occurred after he left Kimberley Diamonds, they speak to a corporate mentality of dishonesty that has probably existed for decades. Even before he left, a few incidents did not play out well.

In 2000, Simich played a questionable role in the hostile takeover of Namakwa Diamond Company, according to this story. Simich sat on the boards of both Kimberley and Namakwa when Kimberley owned half of Namakwa’s capital.