It was a chance opportunity that led Evolution Mining Executive Chairman Jake Klein into the goldmining industry. Born and raised in South Africa, he travelled to Australia on a backpacking trip after completing his accounting degree. Then came a break in Australia where he landed his first role in the commodities division of Macquarie Group. It was the early 90s, and the bank was hosting a guest from the Chinese government in Sydney for two weeks to learn more about the Australian financial system.

Jake offered to take the visitor under his wing, and the friendship led to an offer to visit China in return.

“I was invited to China to visit several mines and smelters,” Jake explains. “After that, three of us from Macquarie were crazy enough to think that we knew something about mining.” The trio knew a little about mining—and not much about China—but that didn’t shake their ambition to develop new goldmines in remote parts of China. “That decision started a 15-year journey of building the largest foreign investor and developer of goldmines in China. We formed the company called Sino Mining in 1995, listed it in 2002 as Sino Gold, and sold it in 2009. It listed for AU$100 million, and we sold the company for more than AU$2 billion.”

Following the sale of Sino Gold, Jake joined Conquest Mining, a small Australian company which had an interesting asset but needed to secure offtake for its concentrate, for it to be developed into a commercialised mine. Jake, knowing that the buyers of this concentrate were in China, saw the potential to turn Conquest into a great Australian goldminer, with the industry on the verge of a major structural change. In 2011, Conquest changed its name to Evolution Mining as part of a deal to acquire three Australian goldmines. Earlier this year, Evolution further transformed its business by purchasing the Cowal and Mungari goldmines, giving it seven operating goldmines and taking the value of its business close to AU$2 billion.