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Zinc or swim in Yemen

Exotix pushes beyond the wild frontier

Peter Bartlett and the birth of Exotix

Discounting a few small marble and limestone quarries, Yemen’s mining sector was non-existent until recently. At the beginning of August, though, the Yemeni parliament finally approved the exploitation licence for the country’s first large-scale mine on a site some 100km northeast of the capital, Sana’a.

The $120 million financing for this has been Exotix’s deepest foray in project finance. Its last project, a $60 million development of a salt mine in the small Horn of Africa country of Djibouti came to nothing after the main investor said it would provide the entire amount, effectively cutting out the need for an intermediary. Up to now, the mine in Yemen, which produces zinc oxide (used in the production of tyres, ceramics and a variety of pharmaceutical products including suncream) has been more successful, as well as twice as big.

The mountain of Jabal Salab was once the biggest silver mine in the Islamic world, but it fell into disuse around the 10th century. Mining companies and the Yemeni authorities have been talking about setting up a mine there for almost a quarter of a century, after zinc ore deposits were discovered at the site in 1982.

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