Arrest of Former Director is Good News for Great Western Minerals

web-mine3Great Western Minerals Group Ltd. (“GWMG”; TSXV: GWG | OTCQX: GWMGF) announced that a former Project Director, Vincent Mora, was arrested as part of a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud and money laundering. GWMG cannot disclose more details due to the legal implications of the case; however, it should be stressed that the police investigation did not take the Company by surprise, given that the initial complaint against Mr. Mora, a South African citizen, came from GWMG itself. Months before the police were ever involved; Mr. Mora (first hired in April 2011) had been dismissed from GWMG over suspicions “about invoicing, purchasing and contracting activities”. Investors should be relieved that the investigation has in no way affected the activities at the Company’s Steenkampskraal project in South Africa or that the Company itself is under review. The criminal charges, it should be stressed, affect Mr. Mora alone and they were initiated in response to a formal complaint filed by GWMG itself. GWMG has been making some changes in its leadership ranks.

Last month, a new CEO and an independent Board member were appointed. On January 9, Marc LeVier was appointed to the position of President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. LeVier, who has accumulated forty years of mining experience, joined the Board of GWMG in late 2012 was closely involved in completing the Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA”) of the Company’s Steenkampskraal project in South Africa. Mr. LeVier’s appointment comes as Great Western shifts from exploration toward manufacturing stage of rare earth permanent magnet alloys of all types and chemistries and rare earth metals and his experience will be critical as GWMG re-tools operations from exploration to production. Mr. LeVier, a metallurgical engineer, has years of experience in developing technologies for hydrometallurgical, chemical and engineering design processes. Great Western also appointed Lenard Boggio and Ron Hochstein (CEO of Denison Mines) to its board of directors as part of its shift to a new phase.

The Steenkampskraal project fits within Great Western’s reputation as one of the most vertically integrated companies in the rare earths sector. The Company has ventures in politically stable environments covering exploration (six projects in North America and one in South Africa), mining and processing. Great Western has also cultivated important relationships in China such that in 2010, the Company established a joint venture agreement with Ganzhou Qiandong Rare Earth Group. The exploration side is complemented by two specialty alloy manufacturers supplying the aerospace, battery and magnet sectors. The Steenkampskraal resource will also provide raw material to the development of the Company’s processing units. Great Western is one of the few truly integrated companies in the REE field outside of China and its new South African project enhances this aspect.

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The Mora case, (‘Moragate’?) has come during a delicate phase for the South African mining industry. The episode, however, serves as a reminder that while some sectors of the South African extractive sector (in no way affecting GWMG directly) have been experiencing increased risks of labor action; the government and the ruling ANC party remain highly committed to mining. Some analysts have even suggested that labor tensions and clashes in the mining industry have an ethnic basis. Such suggestions can be dismissed by the fact that the police officers trying to maintain control share their ethnicity with the striking miners. Many of the workers, moreover, are immigrants from neighboring countries including Zimbabwe, Malawi or Mozambique; this feature would preclude ethnic or tribal rivalry as the root of the violence. In fact the problem should be sought within the enmity between various unions representing the workers.

The new and very aggressive Association of Mineworkers and Construction (AMCU) has developed a fundamental disagreement with the old guard and ANC tied a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). NUM is rooted in the ANC and, much as the ANC itself, it has adopted a rather ‘establishment’ outlook, willing to accept moderate salary increases and even participating in the management of some mines while the uncompromising AMCU has refused cooperation and resorted to violence – using rocks against members at a NUM rally last years. The demands of the AMCU would be considered excessive even in the heydays of union activity in the 1930’s with demands trumping those of workers in the OECD countries. In the longer term it is unlikely that the AMCU will manage to earn support.

The mining strikes were manipulated by the former President of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema, who has been accused of fanning sectarian tensions and proposing mining and agricultural nationalization policies that many have feared would lead South Africa along the same disastrous course as Zimbabwe, where youth unemployment stands at 90%. It happens that Malema’s political influence has been all but wiped out and while, new leaders are rising to take his place, some more radical, they lack Malema’s organization, influence and popular appeal. Certainly, Malema will not have a chance to run for the leadership of the ANC. The elections in 2014, in fact, will feature a battle between the less radical members of the ANC and the more business friendly Democratic Alliance (DA) party, which can rely on a growing number of supporters among Whites and Blacks.

Malema’s exit means there is little credible risk that South Africa will soon resort to nationalizing mines or farms. The ANC leadership has no appetite for nationalization, having rejected its viability outright, expelling its biggest proponent, the aforementioned Malema. Despite some of the headlines, interest and investment in South Africa’s mining is strong and judging by the success of the Investing in African Mining Indaba Conference (Feb 2-Feb 7, 2013), mining will play an ever bigger role in South Africa’s economy. The organizers noted that participation – from China, India, North America and Europe – had grown from 3,500 delegates in 2009 to 7,800 this year, reflecting the growing rather than diminishing number of mining projects in the RSA.

  1. Seems like Mr. Palazzo – is that Enrico Palazzo, the famous opera singer from the first Naked Gun movie? – has overstated his perceptory abilities. The point of the article was to dispel any risks about South African mining that may have been raised by the announcement of Vincent Mora’s arrest. There have been many reports about the mining strikes in South Africa and related risks; the article was intended to address those while easing GWMG investors’ concerns over the Mora news, especially given the attention it has attracted and the fact that GWMG is legally bound to disclose as little as possible on the issue given the ongoing investigation.

    • What puts my mind at ease about investing in South Africa is that someone with a history of success (Robert Friedland) has recently invested serious money in South Africa.

  2. Mr. Bruno, Enrico is a distant cousin (bravo!). My very humble opinion is that the risks relating specifically to South African politics are secondary to the company specific risks in this instance. Mr. Moura is a sideshow, and I found your efforts to link his arrest and labor unrest confusing.. Great Western has not, to my knowledge, proven that that their enterprise is viable, and I am vested in the outcome of this tortured venture. My point was that your article took a very abrupt turn from Great Western to South African politics. I meant no offense and acknowledge that my “perceptory abilities” are fairly limited.

    my sincere apologies, and kindest regards….Tutto

  3. Mr. Bruno, why ease anyone’s concerns about the fraud at Great Western? I think there is reason for concern. The article is mixed messages and an attempt to make a case we do not have the information to support yet. GWG is a long way from mining anything at Steen. The current mine is hardly modernized. There is no separator or concentrator and the Chinese partner is nowhere to be found.
    I think the story should focus on the information we have and should be less distracted by mining politics and less committed to carrying GWG’s water as a sponsor of the blog.

    • So Paul “Chihawk” Hampel, the moral of your story is that all rare earth companies are terrible, except for your beloved Lynas, nevermind that its CEO tried to steal Crown Forge from the Lynas shareholders, and only gave it back when he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar – so why would you trust anything he says?

      • Bob,
        I agree Nick Curtis did tryt to steal Crown and I was very vocal about it during the process. I do like Lynas as an investment but I agree with much of the critique of Curtis. So no, that is not the moral of my story.
        I am not really trying to tell a story. If I were telling a story I would express concern that this blog is compromising objectivity. Prior GWG management were the darlings of this blog. Now, there are questions without answers. I think the article is rushing to a defense that is not established yet. It may well turn out that Mora is the only bad guy and all is well. But drawing that conclusion without the facts and not mentioning in the article that GWG is a sponsor of this blog is sloppy journalism IMO. Most readers here are investors and they deserve the disclosure and IMO they deserve greater objectivity. Protection for the concerns of sponsors should NOT be the priority of the journalists on this blog.

  4. Paul,
    A couple of inches to our right is a scrolling banner of advertisers which includes GW and pretty much every other RE company of any significance, with the notable exception of Molymess.
    Don’t think there is any attempt to conceal or misconstrue anything here (rather a dollop of positive spin) and that’s exactly the point of difference between NC’s Crown and GW’s alleged corruption, and of course Molymess’s ongoing SEC investigation.
    Nick Curtis’s Crown grab was undoubtedly greedy & arrogant but it was done formally, with the support of the Board of the time, and in the full view of SH’s, and consequently grass root action put a stop to it. The basic decision, to unlock some value in Crown was possibly the right one at the time but Lynas SH’s should have been offered fair equity in the deal. Mind you, the ongoing cost in terms of 3 months distraction at the very beginning of the Malaysian protest post Fukishima will never be quantified.
    GW’s alleged corruption & Molymess’s SEC investigation raise a whole different set of questions in my mind.

    • Tim,
      “GW’s alleged corruption” Where do you get that? Mora got arrested for fraud. Great Western management discovered it and alerted the Police. Hardly corruption at the whole company. Curtis tried to pull a fast one on his own company and Moly has run afoul of the SEC. GW discovered that an employee was scamming; fired the employee and is pursuing legal action. Out of the three, I would still pick GW as the honest one of the bunch.

      From their PR: “Because irregularities were found during the Company’s review, GWMG filed a complaint and cooperated with the South African police to investigate the possibility of criminal activity. As a result of this investigation, police have arrested Vincent Mora on suspicion of fraud and money laundering.”

      • Jake,
        I stated “alleged” simply because an arrest is not a conviction. If proved, fraud is very much corruption within an organisation and generally more than one individual is required to pull it off, for any period of time. Mgt. appear to have taken some responsibility but why has this information been withheld from the market for a considerable period? At best Mgt. were negligent in allowing the situation to develop under their noses. Gives little confidence that there is not more going on behind the scenes, even if there is not.
        I can definitely see Paul’s point in that the article spent 1 para reporting events and the next 6 effectively on promo. She’ll be right mate.

    • Tim,
      The point is good journalism suggests the issue should be disclosed in the article. No one reads a banner and journalism should not rely on one. Curtis is not the issue. I agree with the critique. Stipulated. My issue is the GWG info is nothing more than a cut and paste from prior GWG announcements (no original work there) followed by a political comment on South African mining that seems mostly off topic at this stage IMO. But why aid the continued GWG denial out there when we do not have facts to support the view?

      • Chihawk- What facts don’t suppor the case? They fired the guy. They worked with the police and got the guy arrested. I would assume now that lawyers are involved, that is all they are going to say. I think you are just looking through your angry I-hate-everything-about Great -Western glasses trying to find the negative as usual. I swear they could simultaneously find the cure for cancer and world peace and you would find fault with that. Your bias is well-documented.

  5. Jake,
    There are a lot of questions and this release ignores most. I realize it is an on going investigation so there are limits to what can be said. But to suggest this release covers all and closes the story is foolish. Look at the release itself:
    -The Company has paid ERES approximately C$10.62 million to date out of an invoiced amount totaling approximately C$13.32 million (exclusive of VAT).
    What was the contract dollar value on the original agreement with ERES?
    So how much does the company think they lost approximately?
    Financial Statements as at September 30, 2012
    Total Assets $152,222,370 CA
    Non‐current assets $78,782,914 ( $64 million of thast is non-producing Mineral properties and Goodwill)
    Cash and cash equivalents was $54,603,419.
    Total liabilities minus shareholders’ equity $87,898,178
    Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity $152,222,370
    In other words, this amount is very significant to a company of this size.

    When was the fraud noticed?
    Never mind our differences let’s look at what GWMG has said in previous announcements…..
    June 9, 2011
    Great Western Minerals Group Ltd. (“GWMG” or the “Company”, TSX:V — GWG) announces it has selected East Rand Engineering Services (“ERESSA”) to carry out the shaft refurbishment project at the Company’s Steenkampskraal Rare Earth project in South Africa. The project is scheduled to begin within two weeks and be completed by mid-November, 2011.

    August 30, 2011
    GWMG President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Engdahl said, “We are very pleased with the progress being made on the refurbishment project and with the work of East Rand Engineering Services. Under the direction of Steenkampskraal Project Director Vincent Mora, we remain right on track to complete this component of the Steenkampskraal project prior to the end of 2011, as scheduled.”

    February 22, 2012 Presentation, Slide 13
    -Site preparation work continues in advanced stages.

    November 26, 2012
    Rareco has terminated its contract with East Rand Engineering Services for these services due to a commercial disagreement.

    November 21, 2012
    Great Western Minerals Group Ltd. (“GWMG” or the “Company”, TSX:V – GWG) today announced the resignations of three long-standing Company directors, Gary Billingsley, Jim Engdahl and Bill McKnight.
    That’s the timeline and exerpts from GWG’s announcements. And you feel it is clear?

    -a few persons should not reflect upon the rest of our team.
    What? A few? How many and who?
    How does the issue effect shareholder value? Is the TSX involved?
    How in the world can you read this and feel you know the story?

    Even the release itself admits they have little to say. I think if we had the facts to answer these questions we could make a case. But right now we don’t have those facts. If that uncertanty does not give you concern you don’t do much research.
    It is and should be well documented that I do not like GWMG as an investment. So what?

  6. Riddle me this then: why does Great Western keep out performing Lynas if it so bad? Hmm? 2 years running… and I bet there is a 3rd coming.

    • I am not saying that there are not questions to be answered because there are. 2012 was not a great year for Great Western. But you always (and I mean always) paint the worst possible picture for GW. Always. A few? Where did you get few? One. Vincent Mora. You try to lump Gary and Jim’s departure (even though Jim’s was announced 6 months prior) to fraud. You have accused them of fraud on another board prior. With no proof. Just your conjecture. Perhaps they left to make way for independent directors so they can list on another exchange. Personally, I am glad that they left so Great Western can get to the next level.
      Either way, your comments on the company are skewed to the negative. (and conversely Lynas to the positive) that it is pretty much of a joke.
      Nonetheless, the fact remains that Great Western outperforms Lynas. And I guess that fact makes you pretty bitter.

  7. Jake,
    I get a few from GWMG President and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Marc LeVier. He states in the fifth paragraph of the press release “… the actions of a few persons should not reflect upon the rest of our team.”

    Yes, I do admit I am consistently negative on GWG. I have followed miners for years and I believe GWG will fail. I do not trust them and have not since I sold in 2011. When you invest in Juniors and research, it is natural to develop strong opinions about them. GWG is all sale and no substance IMO. They have a cult like following of poorly researched lemmings that I pity (on Stockhouse and Yahoo). What you see as hate, I call a desire to expose the truth. Time will tell like always.

    As for Lynas I admit my losses and being wrong so far. I am still in and believe in the company overall. All junior miners turn money into dirt unless they become producers when they finally turn dirt into money. I remain hopeful that Lynas is close to making that turn. I have been early and thus wrong, but remain confident in the investment.

    But the issue for me is content. I am giving content from the financials, presentations and the quotes from press releases. In other words, I am giving you content regardless of my opinion. You are contouring with emotion inconsistent with your own CEO’s statement.

    BTW, GWG was at $0.38 for the Financial Statements at September 30, 2012 stated above. It is now in a much worse situation. Previously, Total assets equaled Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity. The current Canadian price is $0.23 off $0.15. So when we adjust Shareholder equity for the current share price and recognize over half of the assets are Non-current assets and mostly in Mineral properties (Greenfield mines (one-third) and Steen that is a ways away) the mess grows. Bond holder liability has already surpassed the current assets. Those are bad metrics Jake. Add in the junk status terms GWG got for the $80 million in Convertibles and there is reason to worry. Stockhouse never talks about GWG’s financials, but after 35 years of not having a profitable year and Engdahl saying it won’t happen till Steen supplies feedstock you have to be watching this carefully. It is a big part of the investment.

  8. Then I take it you think Lynas will out perform GW this year after not doing so 2 years in a row? That your investment is rock-solid in Lynas? Give me a break. How’s that production hill going for you?
    Neither have been stellar investments for 2012 (REE in general) but if you are going to be in the space, GW still is the outperformer. You can argue the inuendo but you cannot argue that fact.
    We’ll see how GW does wiht SKK and we’ll see how Lynas does in Malaysia. The market – the ultimate performance indicator– seems to think GW is the better choice for two years running.

  9. - Clearly;… battle-lines being drawn here; with some good points being made by both the “believers” and “non-believers”.
    - In the bigger picture however; and in light of the apparent global urgencies facing this planet that we all must learn to share; …and that we all own a share in;…I find it incumbent upon the politicians, and the financiers of the world alike; to get past the rhetoric, and get on board the future!
    - Case in point; …according to forecasters and pundits; there is ample room for both the “Lynas” and “Great Western” ventures of this world to both survive and indeed thrive! …for our need of their products will indeed in the near future, be Great! I remain bewildered therefore; by the “Western-Worlds” apparent impotency, when it comes time to delivering the necessary political and financial capital required to get these companies; so vital to our future; over the HUMP !

    • kman,
      I agree LCM creating commercial product with the new furnace a year after their first pour is a milestone and an accomplishment (overdue and late on the promise or not). In the larger picture, I do not see this as proving anyone right or wrong. GWG had a good day and seems to deserve it’s day. My view of caution and doubt remains. Anyone in this stock should realize there is still a long road ahead.

  10. I am waiting to see what is at the end of this rocky road.
    As far as GW I am still concerned about Nationalism in SA.
    Diversifying REE investments and looking for an
    aggregate ROI has been a disaster so far.
    Holding till 2015… Ucore,Molycorp,Lynas,Great Western.
    We will see what happens in a couple of years.

  11. Mr. Bruno, I am sorry to say that this is the first time I see your article otherwise I would have responded long time ago.

    I am Vincent Mora and I am sorry to tell you that you have all the facts wrong in your article. But I guess those are the dangers when a journalist and/or a blogger writes a piece based on a one sided press release.

    What is funny is that your magazine is called “investor Intel”, but my question is what intel can you give investors if the article is giving them the wrong intel?

    If you want my side of the story and the truth about what transpired you know where to find me.

        • Vincent – I am the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of InvestorIntel (formerly RareMetalBlog), creator of and Partner of REE-Stocks…I am receiving numerous inquiries as we try and vet whether you are indeed Vincent Mora.

          To all of our readers — we are presently attempting to confirm that this is indeed Vincent and if we are unable to, we will delete these comments. Give us 24hrs (1-7-2014).

    • > Have a look at “Vincent Mora” LinkedIn account ! …
      - Regarding “Rareco/GWMG”, I had No idea that you were; as you so succinctly put it (the project director in charge of design, construction, commissioning, & startup of the Vredendal Solvent Extraction Plant ? …let alone the Monazite Cracking Plant at Steenkampskraal Mine ?? …
      - That’s a Bit-of-a-Stretch isn’t it Vince ? …makes me wonder what else we don’t know about you ?? …may be time for you to put away the “CRACK Pipe”, and join TO Mayor Ford in “Rehab” !

    • My legal team is preparing a press release which will be placed all over the Internet relatively soon stating my side of the story. What the press release stated is not even close to what really happened.

      Once the press release has been finalised by my team the story will take a dramatic turn as certain issues which have been kept away from the investors will come to light.

      So stay tuned to this channel.

  12. I didn’t ask to have my name outted Tracy. That’s inappropriate posting behavior. Around here, I’m hackenzac and if I want anyone to know my real name, it’s up to me to decide, not some cyberstalking punk who is here to harass and call people names. As you know, I’ve been posting here for some time, hopefully in a way that adds to the quality of the discussion but this clown is not, about that at all.

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  14. In reply to the comment made by the guy who calls himself “the ex director” on the 10/06/14 which reads: “Having worked with V M at SKK for a short while, it was clear that company governance was very poor. A forensic audit by independent firm should have been done. It was shocking to see what deals he did.”

    My answer is as follows: you are right, the governance was poor, better yet it was nonexistent. All you directors worried about was trying to make a quick buck, flying business class twice a month to RSA, staying in expensive hotels, having expensive dinners, etc. You had no positive input in the project whatsoever. You misguided all investors from the beginning as your big boss stated “that GWMG was fully funded”. The big difference between you and me is that I do not hide behind nicknames. I am who I am and that has always been the case. Why don’t you show your true identity so that we can talk man to man?
    What dealings had I made, which shocked you so much? Why don’t you state what I allegedly did?
    The company has a very imaginative mind and they believe their own stories?
    I never released a payment to anyone!!! What were the powers that be who released the payments doing? It is the CFO’s duty to make sure everything runs smoothly when it comes to finances (where is he now again?). The CEO (also moved on, what a shame!!!!!), chairman and CFO of the company were the only 3 people who could released payments. So my question is: If everything was as sketchy as the company says why did they pay ERES for so long?
    Where were the company’s financial controls? Where was my support structure? I was a one man band controlling more than 6 contractors at any given time. Mistakes happen in any project and specially if you do not have the proper support structure in place.

    So Mr ex director, please benefit us all and show who you really are and state what I did according to your knowledge which shocked you so much?. I am looking forward to have a man to man conversation for once with someone who has the guts not to hide behind a fictitious persona.

  15. Dopinator. Your comments are not appreciated. Our writers are industry leading journalist and analysts. This is your last warning, and unlike Stockhouse, we do take down comments from non-constructive, negative and uninformative participants. Behave. Tracy

  16. He got banned from Stockhouse for good reason and I’d advise you to do the same. As you can see, ad hominem attack is his style. This guy is a pure misanthrope. Get rid of him.

  17. > “Dopinator”, …hmmmmmmm; …now there’s a signature that many a “mom-n-pop” retail investor are not soon likely to forget !
    - Ah Yes; …I clearly remember now; how you and your bucketful of Blasphemous Alias Cousins, so polluted the “Stockhouse” forum with your incessant 24 hr bashing of GWMG; that most of us sought sanity and refuge in a newly created “Private-Members-Forum” !
    - Thankfully; “Stockhouse” finally “Grew-a-Pair” , and Turfed your sorry A $ $ out onto the street !
    - Sound familiar ?

  18. Since you like facts so much even though you don’t seem to be able to discern them, I called you a clown as well. The facts as they are got you permanently banned from Stockhouse. They must have really rattled you since you haven’t shown up there again with a new and asinine nic like you’ve done so many times, at least ten iterations since I first started grappling with your greasy persona well over 2 years ago. You have been kicked off of SH at least 5 times before they finally sic’d their legal department on you. You are simply and factually a bully. You don’t belong here and don’t deserve access. Tracy is wicked smart and she’ll be on to you fast enough, even on your best gentleman snake behavior. You can’t help yourself.

  19. You think that you’re some sort of Paul Revere. THE PUMPERS ARE COMING! THE PUMPERS ARE COMING! Good job Dopinator. Good choice of a name Dopinator. It’s fun to call you that. I bet if you google “Dopinator” you’ll hit the hundreds of creepy Dopinator posts you’ve posted on Yahoo. It’s your word. You own it. I own “dipwad” and that one suits you too.

  20. Thank you. We are indeed pretty certain that it is Vincent and he is presently asking his legal counsel about doing an interview with — myself or Jack Lifton.

  21. Tracy I have noticed that Great Western no longer is a sponsor of InvestorIntel , Could you please let us readers know if it had anything to do with you wanting an interview with Vincent Mora? Very strange and yes I would like to hear what he has to say. Keep up the great work and hope you hear from him soon.

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