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Research at UCL Australia

UCL School of Energy and Resources

Research in the School of Energy and Resources focuses on both the upstream and downstream development of energy and resources, covering a wide range of disciplines - from engineering and economics to environmental science and law. 

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Mullard Space Science Laboratory

The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) is a world-leading research organisation delivering a broad science programme that is underpinned by a strong capability in space science instrumentation, space-domain engineering, space medicine, systems engineering and project management.

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International Energy Policy Institute

The International Energy Policy Institute (IEPI) was created to address key policy issues in the mineral, energy and resources industries through intensive and innovative research.

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2014 Annual Report

2014 Annual Report cover

Read about all departmental research in the 2014 Annual Report.

An analysis of base and precious metal project finance risks in sub-Saharan Africa: Perspectives on political, commercial, technical and legal risks from an international bank

Conrad Mulherin

J. W. Conrad Mulherin B.Sc.H (Geology)

Project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MSc (Energy and Resources), UCL School of Energy and Resources, Australia.

Grote Prize winner 2012.


The CBA has identified six countries in sub-Saharan Africa – Botswana, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia – as jurisdictions of opportunistic interest for mining project finance.  These countries are considered the most prospective in terms of resource potential, governance, legal framework and economic stability in a region of the world positioned for substantial growth.

However, while country risk analysis is inherently subjective and qualitative, my research sought to efficiently quantify a portion of the process to enable sensible conclusions. Ultimately, I found Botswana to be the most promising jurisdiction to enter the sub-Saharan mining project finance sector based on a combination of mineral potential, legal clarity, reasonable commercial strength and political stability. 

In order to address country risks affecting project finance, I developed a research model to evaluate four basic categories of risk: political, commercial, technical and legal. The model considered the six countries of interest and identified key sources of information that addressed risk categories. 

Categories were weighted according to their influence on the overall decision-making process. The Country Risk Index was designed to quantify the level of risk and rank the sub-Saharan countries based on their attractiveness to mining project finance. The index comprised surveys and rankings that are most relevant to the four risk categories and to African mining investment. Establishing a foundation on which to build a country risk framework has significance in contributing to ongoing sub-Saharan due diligence for CBA.

The Country Risk Index identifies risk areas of particular strength and weakness in the countries examined and prognosticates on risk trajectories based on historical results.