by Feb 8, 2024Energy, Health and Safety, Mining, News

Looking at the faces of attendees, it is clear that Mining Indaba fatigue has well and truly set in. This is normally a reflection of extremely long hours, good discussion, and lively debates.

Mining Indaba 2024 again provided a perfect opportunity for stakeholders from across the spectrum in the Mining and Natural Resources Sector, to engage one another meaningfully on the state of the Mining and Natural Resources sector across Africa, to explore what can be done to address the challenges facing the Mining and Natural Resources sector, and to identify opportunities for growth and development.

There appeared to be a stronger rest of African focus this year with a substantial number of representatives from various African jurisdictions. I also noticed that the exhibitors in the venue included many service providers to the Mining and Natural Resources Sector and, in my view, this is a clear and positive indication that stakeholders that provide vital technology, information and other services to the Mining and Natural Resources Sector, are fully committed to the industry which remains, in most African countries, the largest employer and contributor to the economy.

I am extremely grateful to Hyve, and in particular, Laura Cornish, for giving me an opportunity to participate in what turned out to be an extremely well attended, and lively debate with my fellow panelists Claude Baissac, Hulme Scholes, Jeff Quartermaine, and Benedito Manuel, which was facilitated by Silas Olang on “Rethinking resource nationalism – a cash grab or a fair share?” (arranged by Ahmed Ouguenoune of Hyve). As expected, with the diverse range of thinking on the panel, the discussion was both interesting, and in certain instances, fairly controversial, but that was aligned with the key theme of Mining Indaba 2024 of positive disruption.    

It was also an absolute pleasure to be interviewed by Leon Louw of WhyAfrica and Gerard Peter of Mining Review Africa.

It is almost impossible to summarise key takeaways, but let me try.

On health and safety, there were some key messages regarding proximity detection systems on trackless mobile machines, namely that proximity detection system technology is only part of a far bigger collision avoidance ecosystem which must include proper traffic management systems, training and competency, and employee behaviour. It was interesting to note that noise-induced hearing loss has become a primary concern and risk in the industry. Having thought about this, and with most of us having smart watches which indicate when we are in noisy environments, it makes complete sense, because 85 decibels (which is normally the prescribed occupational threshold), is not very loud, we are often exposed to sounds at far higher levels (a whisper is usually about 30 decibels).

To increase exploration and investment in mining, in addition to addressing the usual challenges surrounding policy and regulatory uncertainty, infrastructure constraints, red tape, increased employment costs, etc. most governments can address a key challenge relatively easily, namely to be transparent and extremely clear in the messaging to investors so that there is no misunderstanding going into the investment. Mixed messages detract from investment certainty and facilitate inconsistent application of the mining laws by the regulators.

Resource nationalism is a spectrum, and again, there must be clear and strong messaging around the benefits from mining, aligned with resource nationalism, such as taxes, joint development of technology, local beneficiation, education, infrastructure development, and immediate benefits to communities. Unless stakeholders understand that many countries have already implemented extensive initiatives that fall within the scope of resource nationalism, calls for nationalism and even nationalization will increase and may result in unrealistic and unfulfilled expectations, with all the consequences that go with this.

Various governments have been clear and consistent around the messaging of opportunities in their countries, and these countries are likely to attract more investment going forward.

In conclusion, one theme was deafening – collaboration needs to take place within countries, regionally, and across the continent. Unless there is active collaboration, the Mining and Natural Resources Sector may not have the resilience that is required to get through what is likely to be another challenging year in 2024.