Mining Indaba Virtual: day one round-up

The 27th Investing in African Mining Indaba commenced today in circumstances nobody in the industry expected just 12 months ago. The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the organisers were compelled to postpone the physical event in Cape Town, for the first time in the iconic conference’s history.

But, the show must go on, and go on it has. Thanks to the application of modern technology, the 2021 Indaba is taking place on a fully virtual basis, with the same high level content and thought-provoking discussions taking place between the industry’s leading lights, just from the safety of each delegate’s home.

Presidential presence

Indaba’s first inaugural online event focuses on resilience and regrowth across the African mining sector, with three African presidents booked to deliver keynote addresses on these broad topics. The first to grace the virtual stage was His Excellency (H.E), Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa.

Ramaphosa hailed this year’s Indaba as one that will help to position mining as a catalytic, transformative, innovative and developmental industry in the midst of the pandemic. He also praised South Africa’s mining sector for its resilience over the last 12 months.

“Like all industries, mining and associated economic activities have been disrupted by the pandemic. In the midst of the disruption caused by the pandemic, South African mining has once again shown tremendous resilience and ability to come back.

Closely following Ramaphosa’s speech was another presidential keynote address, this time from Sierra Leone’s H.E Juluis Maada Bio. The president took time to thank the mining industry for helping Sierra Leone’s fight against COVID-19, after miners chipped in with PPE and other medical support in communities local to them.

After noting that the country would invest heavily in infrastructure to support mining developments, Bio asked for a certain type of investor in Sierra Leone’s mining sector: “We want trusted, worthy, credible and patient investors. Investors who value fair and ethical business principles and practices. Investors who are interested in a long-term sustainable relationship with our country,” he said.

Perfectly poised panels

The first of two in-depth panel discussions – featuring some of the biggest names in the African mining sector – focused on reigniting mining capital through ESG investing in the post-COVID-19 world.

Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani was vocal throughout the discussion and was keen to highlight the importance of communicating the importance of mining to wider society. Discussing the ‘S’ in ESG, he said: “We have to engage people with a different conversation about our role in the world. To support 9 billion people, you need mining. For example without mining we could only feed half of the planet.”

While Lord Charles Vivian of Tavistock talked about the the influx of younger, generalist investors driving ESG in the mining space. “Doing the right thing will not only help your share price, but also help the moral reputation of the business,” he said.

Six of the industry’s best were gathered to discuss the ‘4th industrial revolution’ during the second deep-dive panel of Mining Indaba Virtual. The panel were tasked with answering the question: “How can African mining harness technology and automation in a pandemic to help grow economies?

On the topic of automation, Goldfield’s Alfred Baku said: “We believe zero harm is a possibility through automation. There is also an opportunity to reduce mining costs using automation. But the potential to implement automation will vary from operation to operation,” he stressed.

Finally, on a broader note, CGC Consulting CEO Clive Govender said: “COVID-19 has slowed the world but accelerated change. Mining houses are now looking at more innovative technology solutions from health & safety to productivity improvement. It is re-imagining every facet of our business.”

Check back to RGN tomorrow for a round-up of day two at the Mining Indaba.