There have been visible signs of hope in some commodity prices, as well as an increase in exploration drilling, which has resulted in a more upbeat tone to this years Investing in African Mining Indaba, but South Africa has issued some sobering lessons for African countries present at the event, who have yet to fully launch their mining sectors.
Andrew van Zyl, partner and principal consultant, SRK Consulting has highlighted the importance of constructive dialogue and engagement between mining companies and key stakeholders like government and communities – warning that South Africa is yet to improve its own performance on this score.
“Many African countries are at this event to leverage their mineral resources as a catalyst for broader economic development,” said Van Zyl. “To do that effectively needs a strong relationship between the public and private sector – to build trust that will endure through the demanding but inevitable commodity cycles.”
He said the discussions at the Indaba about South Africa were often quite different to those about the mining future of most other African states.
“While SA is concerned mainly with sustaining an ageing industry – with its attendant challenges of productivity, viability and competitiveness – most of the continent must address issues like infrastructure, logistics and developing mining codes,” he said. “In either context, though, good leadership among stakeholders is vital to a successful outcome.”
A clear and shared vision, he said, gives stakeholders the comfort of knowing what their sacrifices and compromises are going to achieve; the prize must be worth what each stakeholder is prepared to give up.
“Mining today is more of a co-operative venture than ever before, requiring commitment from mines to engage broadly about their impacts and requirements,” said Van Zyl. “While, in the past, it was usually simpler for new operations to build their own infrastructure in remote areas, this process now demands a more inclusive approach that is sensitive to the wider social and natural environment.”
Innovative financing solutions for energy generation in the African mining sector has been a common theme at this years Indaba, highlighting the importance of renewables as part of the conversation about how to finance in-house power generation without the traditional long-term power purchase agreements.
“It is heartening to see signs of revived interest in prospects for mining in various parts of Africa,” he said. “These prospects will be well served by acknowledgements in both the private and public sectors that mines are complex undertakings that rely on real collaboration and partnerships.”