Friday, July 30, 2010

Why is East Asia Minerals (EAS.v) hiding key facts from its shareholders?

The rise of East Asia Minerals (EAS.v) on the back of what can only be described as spectacular drilling results at its Miwah project has been so well documented that even your myopic LatAm anal yeast has heard of the story on numerous occasions (just look at that 12 month chart above for further details). But maybe there's trouble brewing in paradise, as this Northern Miner report dated yesterday below points out. What strikes me as strange here is that the company itself, busy exploring and drilling away over there, claims to have no idea about the laws that will stop the project from developing and the enormously trappy permitting processes it would have to go through even for a sub-optimal underground works.

Northern Miner is a subscription service and they get pretty anal about people pasting their stuff, so here's just the first portion of the report (about as far as I'll push this window, folks). You'll have to click through and sign on to get the rest.

Why would it take several years for a Canadian company with a history of strong drill results in Indonesia to disclose to its shareholders that a large portion of its tenements in the Southeast Asian nation are on land designated as protected forest where open-pit mining is banned?

It's a question The Northern Miner has asked junior explorer East Asia Minerals(EAS-V) repeatedly since June and has yet to receive a fathomable explanation.

Hong Kong-based chief executive Michael Hawkins -- who is "in the bush" in Indonesia -- according to the company's head of corporate communications Nick Kohlmann, has not responded to a stream of queries. And as for the Toronto-based Kohlmann, he says he "has no details" and isn't "privy to the various ongoing intricacies of the operations, legal agreements, permits, etc," which he explains in an email after six weeks of badgering, "is the responsibility of the senior technical and Indonesia-based staff and Michael Hawkins."

So what gives?

In February Indonesia issued a new regulation (No. 24) that allows mining, power plants and other projects deemed strategically important (such as toll roads, telecommunication network and broadcasting facilities) to take place within protected forest areas, according to Joel Hogarth, a lawyer with O'Melveny & Myers in Singapore. But the regulation, now law, only permits underground mining activities in protected forest, not open-pit mining, which is more commonly used in Indonesia.

Even then it's not guaranteed that an underground mine will ever wind up in production. "While the regulation opens up the possibility of mining in protected forest areas it remains to be seen how easy this will be in practice," Hogarth says. "To my knowledge no such approvals have been granted yet for mining, although there is at least one geothermal project applying for approval under the new regulation."

Hogarth explains that while ‘in principle' licenses (ijin prinsip) can be granted by the Ministry of Forestry for an initial period of up to two years, the full forestry ‘lend-use' licence (ijin pinjam pakai) requires the approval of the House of Representatives (DPR). And such approvals from the DPR "have been difficult to obtain and subject to political considerations."

"It strikes me as a pretty tough procedure," he says in a telephone interview from his home in Singapore. "That's like going to Parliament to get something approved." CONTINUES HERE

Disclosure: no position in EAS.v