There aren’t many better places in the world to visit than Cape Town in early February, and there is no mining investment conference in the world larger than the Investing in African Mining Indaba. These are the two key reasons why the Indaba is so revered by the global mining community, from investors through to junior, mid-cap and major companies, governmental ministers and even African heads of state. The 26th annual Indaba took place from February 3-6 2020 and once again delivered a packed agenda over four content-bursting days and a unique platform for a record 7,000 delegates to learn, network and do business in the warm clime of South Africa’s summer.
The 2020 agenda
While the Indaba’s core focus continues to be on driving investment into African mining, the designated theme for the 2020 iteration was ‘optimising growth and investment in the digitised mining economy’.
In its first full year under owners Hyve Group, the event organisers sought to provide a comprehensive insight into the forces shaping the ever-evolving technological landscape of the global mining sector, and this was reflected in the expansion of the popular Mining 2050 theme.
After receiving great feedback from the 2019 Indaba, Mining 2050 was extended to cover two full days of content which tackled important topics such as artificial intelligence, big data, industry 4.0 and mine digitalisation and automation.
Sustainable development and battery metals also returned to the agenda in 2020 with plenty of engaging presentations and thought-provoking panels taking place for both themes on day two, while new content landed on day four in the form of the General Counsel Forum – a partnership with Africa Legal that considered regional and global trends facing mining lawyers in Africa.
Over the years, the Indaba has provided a strong bridge for mining companies investing in African projects to connect with governmental representatives and this continued in 2020 with 40 African countries represented at the event.
This high profile governmental participation included 38 ministers, 10 ambassadors, three state secretaries, two premiers and two heads of state – Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Wonie Bio and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba.
President Bio was first to give an address to a packed audience at the Main Stage on the morning of day one. Popularly referred to as the ‘Father of Democracy’ in Sierra Leone, Bio highlighted the West African nation’s increasing attractiveness as a mining investment destination following fiscal reforms intended to accelerate economic growth.
Shortly after Bio’s address, DRC Prime Minister Ilunga delivered his own speech calling on all stakeholders to respect the changes made to the country’s mining code back in 2018, as resource nationalism continues to be a dominant talking point across the African mining industry.
The Intergovernmental Summit on day three provided an open platform for African mining ministers to connect with industry leaders, share best practices and strengthen public-private relations in the African resources sector.
Though the Indaba was unable to coax South African President Cyril Ramaphosa back to the event after his rare appearance at the 25th anniversary Indaba last year, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe returned to act as the government’s mouthpiece to the assembled African mining industry.
In his South Africa Welcome Address on day one, Minister Mantashe cut straight to the heart of the country’s ongoing travails in the mining sector and announced the government’s ambition to start a power generating company outside of crumbling state utility Eskom.
“That is a security measure, as Eskom is grappling with all the crises and problems, we must have a fail-safe option of delivering energy,” said Mantashe.
The minister admitted that mining production in South Africa has suffered as a result of planned power cuts or ‘load-shedding’ as Eskom have come to call it. Mantashe subsequently announced that the government would allow mining companies to generate energy for self-use without a licence.
The Investment Battlefield
One of the Indaba’s most popular offerings – the Investment Battlefield – returned with an extended format in 2020 and a custom built boxing ring, complete with gloves and inspirational quotes adorning the walls of the arena.
Now in its third year, the Investment Battlefield affords junior miners with a market cap under $50 million the chance to go head-to-head in a series of presentations throughout the week, in front of an audience of potential investors and a panel of expert judges.
The qualifying round of the 2020 Investment Battlefield placed entrants intro three categories – battery metals, precious metals and bulk and base metals – and within each commodity the companies were split into early stage exploration and advanced exploration/development.
After winners were selected from each category, the competition progressed to the semi-finals stage on day three, from which four finalists were announced by the judges panel. These companies were EcoGraf, Arc Minerals, RosCan Gold and Tietto Minerals.
The four juniors would do battle for one final time in the Investment Battlefield ring, and after much deliberation the panel of judges deemed ASX-listed gold explorer Tietto Minerals the winner of the 2020 Indaba Investment Battlefield.
After successfully presenting Tietto’s high grade Abujar Gold Project in Côte d’Ivoire, Tietto’s executive director Mark Strizek was handed the 2020 Investment Battlefield trophy, ensuring that the company will return to next year’s event with a complementary exhibition stand.
Following the win, Strizek acknowledged the strength of the competition and said it would give Tietto a chance to raise their profile and gain new investors and shareholders. Tietto was pushed all the way by runner-up Arc Minerals.
London-listed Arc will receive two free passes to the 2021 Indaba for finishing second in the fiercely fought competition. Arc’s Finance director Rémy Welschinger delivered a series of convincing presentations on the company’s large prospective copper package in Zambia.
Young Leaders Programme
The final day of the 2020 Indaba was all about engaging and developing the next generation of mining professionals with the return of the Young Leaders Programme in partnership with global advisory Brunswick.
Speaking ahead of the event, Indaba’s head of content Tom Quinn said: “This is a great opportunity for students to participate in the big debates about the future of mining. Mining as an industry has a great future in Africa. But it needs to attract top talent just as much as it needs to attract investment and community support if it is going to thrive.”
Over 100 students attended the programme on day four to discuss what the mining industry can do to bridge the yawning generational gap between the current and next generations of mining leaders. Other topics covered by the programme included gender diversity and shared value in the mining sector.
The Young Leaders Programme provided a symbolic book end to the 2020 Indaba, which focused on optimising growth and investment in the digitised mining economy. After a content-packed week and plenty of deal-making behind the scenes, the curtain closed on the Indaba for another year.
Speaking to RGN after the event, Indaba’s head of content Tom Quinn said: “Over the past couple of editions of Indaba, the goal has been to raise the bar for content.
“This year’s premium content, ranging from big picture Main Stage presentations to Sustainable Development Day, Battery Metals Day, the Intergovernmental Summit, Young Leaders programme and our new General Counsel Forum, truly reflects the world-class audience that join us at Indaba each year.
“We want to remain bold and apply fresh thinking to all that we do – so this year we’ve had such topics as ESG investing, climate change, artisanal mining, women in mining and sustainable development of battery metals at the forefront of the agenda.”
Everyone at RGN would like to say thank you and congratulations to the Indaba for another fantastic show and we look forward to the 2021 event, which promises to continue improving the overall experience for every attendee while offering new and engaging content.