sharing in governance of extractive industries
The financial model of a project is one of the most important documents a mining company will submit as part of a package of documents to get a mining license in most mineral-rich countries. However, this valuable tool seems to be underused by developing country administrations in their interaction with mining companies throughout the life cycle of mines.
Every industrial mining project has its financial model. It is generally submitted with the feasibility study to the mining administration of the host State during the permitting process.
The financial model is an Excel document transcribing the main economic data of the project, such as the prices of minerals, Opex, Capex, cost of capital and income data, just to name a few. The model also highlights, through mathematical formulas, the key indicators for investment decisions: Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC). Obviously, these data points are based on projections and are not definitive.
For a mining company, this document is essential to analyze the profitability of its project and decision to invest. Thus, it is unlikely an investor will embark on a project when its financial model has a negative NPV or an IRR below the financing cost (WACC), regardless of the likely scenarios considered.
For the host State, the financial model is a fundamental tool for assessing economic viability of a mining project before the operating permit is granted, though the impact of this tool and the benefits a government can draw from it is much greater.
The potential benefits of financial models reach far beyond analyzing the profitability of mining projects to assist with the decision of whether or not to grant a mining license.
First, a financial model is a precious tool for contract negotiations with mining companies, helping to simulate the financial impact of any proposal of a Party on the economic viability of the mining project. For example, both parties will be able to assess whether the project remains profitable without a tax holiday or to what extent granting such a tax holiday affects the sharing of mineral resource rent between them.
Secondly, a financial model can serve as dynamic dashboards in monitoring mining companies’ activities. It allows the administration to compare initial projections with current project data to better manage operations or make appropriate adjustments in consultation with mining companies. It can also be a valuable tool in the fight against tax avoidance.
Finally, it can also be useful during the revision process of the national mining regulations, providing valuable information on the financial impacts of various legal changes envisioned by a country on operating mines or planned ones in the territory.
All these elements are critical for optimizing financial benefits from mining sector for mineral-rich countries.
An important issue is developing countries’ ability to easily consume the information within the financial models.
Generally, the financial model is submitted to a host state as a PDF rather than an Excel table. Under this format, officials cannot (1) test the reliability of the financial model, (2) verify its underlying hypothesis, such as commodity prices or production costs, and (3) perform sensitivity analyzes by varying the hypothesis and interpreting the results on key indicators of the project, in particular NPV and IRR.
For example, what would be the impact on the profitability of the project in year n + 4 in case of a 30 per cent drop in commodity prices, a 20 per cent increase in production costs, or a two per cent increase of royalties’ rate? What about if you grant a tax holiday the first five years of production or conclude a signature bonus of $10 million USD?
As a result, in PDF format, a financial model is of little use for the administration of the host State. It remains possible to rebuild the model as an Excel table, but this requires specific expertise, and is costly for most developing countries.
A solution could be to require mining companies to file their financial model under an Excel table format. However, this option should be carefully designed in order to address legal and confidentiality implications for the sensitive commercial data contained within the document.
Another issue related to financial models is the low technical capacity in many member States of the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) to analyze these tools, to test their reliability and use them in monitoring mining company’s activities. While there is no expectation for every official to become experts in financial modeling, it’s important that those in charge of mining to have sufficient knowledge in order to be able to use a financial model and interpret the results.
Adequate use of these tools could help reduce asymmetries between the government and mining companies, and could ultimately help to ensure a fair sharing of mineral resource rent throughout the life cycle of a mine.
As part of its capacity building program, the IGF, on request from members states, can provides capacity building workshops on mining project financial modeling.
For example, UEMOA member state ministries in charge of mining, and economy and finance had the opportunity to discuss the importance of financial models and their potential uses by national administrations during a workshop help July 3-7, 2017, in Bamako, Mali. Participants explored challenges in accessing, analyzing and using financial models for mining projects, and how these models can benefit their region. This workshop was jointly organized by UEMOA Commission and the IGF.
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