Vietnam mining group explores AIM

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The Independent Online

A gold exploration company working in Vietnam is today joining the exotic and growing band of specialist mining stocks listed in London.

Wars and communism have kept Vietnam off the international mining agenda for the last 50 years but that is about to change, according to Triple Plate Junction, whose shares will start to trade on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Geoff Walsh, the chief executive, formerly of Lonrho, said: "Geologically, Vietnam is one of the most exciting areas in the world. The problem has been its history and for the last 50 years it has not had access to Western mining techniques."

Triple Plate is the brainchild of Ian Gowrie-Smith, the pharmaceuticals and mining entrepreneur who chairs the company. Mr Gowrie-Smith is the founder of SkyePharma, Medeva and the mining company Griffith Bros. He is the executive chairman of SkyePharma, the FTSE 250 drug delivery company he listed in 1996.

During the 1990s, Vietnam started to open up economically to the outside world, as socialism replaced its previously strict communist regime. It is among the fastest growing economies now, having expanded 7 per cent last year.

Mr Walsh said: "Interest in Vietnam is starting to grow. More and more mining groups are pitching up but I'd like to think we're the best placed."

Triple Plate has interests in four areas of Vietnam, including the promising Pu Sam Cap prospect, where it is in a joint venture with Newmont, the world's leading gold miner.

The company raised £4.2m through a placing with institutional investors, handled by the broker Evolution Beeson Gregory. The listing will give it a market value of £10.8m. Mr Walsh said that, as exploration progressed, Triple Plate would return to the market to raise more money. He said the London stock market - which already plays host to explorers working in Russia, central Asia, Africa and Latin America - was rapidly catching up with Canada as a place for small miners to raise capital. The high price of gold in recent times has made capital markets particularly positive about gold exploration companies.

Mr Gowrie-Smith said: "The successful placing and move to AIM are significant steps forward for Triple Plate Junction. The geological prospects and our early testing indicate the possibility of significant gold reserves."