Under the banner, ‘Leveraging the next wave of growth’, this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba once again shed positive light on an industry all too often caught up in the negative in recent years. As a strong advocate of the event in recent years, Africa Outlook has gone to great lengths in sharing this message of positivity since the two’s partnership began in 2015, and 2017 is no different, as we spoke with Director of Marketing and Media Relations of Mining Indaba, Phil LoFaso about the industry, its challenges, its optimistic future, and the structure of the event itself.
Africa Outlook (AfO): As Africa’s leading mining event, please talk me through the demographics and attendance figures this year, and how 2017’s Mining Indaba differed from previous years.
Phil LoFaso (PL): With several hundred people registering at the conference we find it necessary to take time to evaluate the data – to remove duplicates, exclude cancelations, update on-site registrations, etc -but having said that, we do anticipate seeing modest growth in total attendance. I can, however, say unequivocally that we will see a change in the type of attendees. At last count, just before the start of the 2017 Mining Indaba, we had 71 percent more investors and 32 percent more miners registered than last year. This is a direct result of our increased focus on improving the quality of the attendance mix.
We made several changes this year. First, to ensure that more mining companies of all size participated, we reduced their prices (by up to 50 percent for junior miners). In addition we launched the Investment Battlefield Competition and the Junior Miners Pavilion. Other changes included the structure of the invitation; more mining companies and fewer downstream service providers on the exhibition hall floor; and expanded networking programmes including the networking roundtables and the commodity-specific speed networking sessions.
AfO: What specific industry trends dictated the key talking points in this year’s event and in what ways did the event address these?
PL: The theme for this year’s Mining Indaba was: ‘Leveraging the next wave of growth: How can you invest in African mining to make long term profits?’ This theme was chosen due to the recovery and cautious optimism in the sector. We offered numerous sessions that included experts sharing their knowledge, experience and expectations. We also helped support growth through new initiatives like the junior miners pavilion (10 free stands for juniors) and the Investment Battlefield competition where 14 junior miners presented projects to a panel of investors.
AfO: Could you also talk me through some of the speakers at Mining Indaba 2017 and what you feel they brought to the table in terms of industry knowledge and international expertise?
PL: We brought a wide range of knowledge and experience to the podium, but offered more panel sessions where these individuals engaged in debate and in-depth discussion about key topics.
These included a selection of dynamic investor panels both on the main stage and within the Investment Discovery Forum, analysing different financing options, financing of exploration, drivers behind M&A activity and the future of infrastructure as credible investment opportunities.
Also, a series of market-specific special information sessions and networking roundtables covering value-creating business practices, the mining industry’s contribution beyond economic inputs, aligning Africa’s mining industry with sustainable development goals, transparency within the industry, sustainable finance models, ongoing developments in the relationships between Africa and Asia, and a broader focus on what will drive traditional investors back into mining.
Finally, we had the Young Leaders Career Development Programme, now in its second year, and it proved so popular in 2016 that it now serves an important place in our programme. It’s a platform for industry leaders to help advance future generations of mining professionals. The programme includes an opening keynote session with the Minister of Mineral Resources, South Africa, Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, a career skills workshop and a Q&A session.
Top speakers at Mining Indaba 2017 included:
· Charl Malan, Portfolio Manager and Senior Analyst, Van Eck
· Shi Jiyang, CEO and President, China-Africa Development Fund
· Joanne Warner, Head of Global Resources, Colonial First State Global Asset Management
· Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary General, UNCTAD and Former Minister of Trade and Industry, Republic of Kenya
· Neil Gregson, Portfolio Manager, JP Morgan Global Natural Resources Fund
· Neal Froneman, CEO, Sibanye
· Nick Holland, CEO, Goldfields Limited
· Rick Rule, President and CEO, Sprott US Holdings
· Bold Bataar, Chief Executive, Energy and Minerals, Rio Tinto
· Dambisa Moyo, Global Economist and Author
· Robert Friedland, Executive Chairman and Founder, Ivanhoe Mines
· Randy Smallwood, President and CEO, Silver Wheaton
AfO: From a more general industry perspective, what do you feel are the biggest challenges and trends influencing the mining industry in Africa at present, and how do you see these issues unfolding over the coming months and years?
PL: One of the biggest challenges is gaining more investment and Mining Indaba supports this by providing improved opportunities for mining companies to meet with investors, which occur in many ways such as the private Investment Discovery Forum, and one-on-one meetings in the investor lounge.
In addition one of the other challenges is ensuring that mining companies and governments work together. Through its private event, the Ministerial Symposium, Mining Indaba provides an opportunity for frank discussion around issues by CEOs of mining companies and government ministers from across the continent.
AfO: Finally, What are your aspirations and expectations for Mining Indaba as an event moving forward and how would you like to see it grow from 2017 onwards?
PL: Our mission remains unchanged from the very first Mining Indaba 23 years ago: to unite investors, mining companies and governments to discuss ways to advance the mining industry on the African continent.
We will look for new ways to bring in more of the junior miners so they have the opportunity to attract funding. I am certain we will gain further support for the junior miners pavilion and Investment Battlefield, with the hopes of significantly increasing participation. We will continue to fold in more of the sustainability discussion throughout the week.
We are also committed to growing the Young Leaders Career Development Programme to bring in students, recent graduates and the newly employed from all over Africa. This programme is dedicated to the future leaders of the industry and with more support can have an even greater impact.
And finally, the newly formed advisory board will review our social initiatives (Mining Indaba bursary, REAP contribution, recycling, the Els for Autism charity golf tournament) and help us identify new ways to give back to the African continent.