Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Brief encounters at Mining Indaba 2020

Investing in African Mining Indaba is dedicated to the successful capitalisation and development of mining interests in Africa and to supporting education, career development, sustainable development and other important causes in Africa. As I soon found out, however, many of the topics for discussion were relevant not only to Africa but had truly global significance. In this respect it was a shame that there was little, if any, representation from the major mining publications outside Africa.
Mining Indaba is held every year at the Cape Town Convention Centre, and I have attended every few years, the last time being 4 years ago (posting of 13th February 2016).
MEI was a media partner and although investment conferences are not high on our agenda the event often springs a few surprises due to the sheer weight of numbers, around 7000 this year, and my aim was to forge new contacts and hopefully catch up with a few friends from around the world, some of them occasionally from the distant past.
So rather than sitting in the conference rooms over the four days, I spent my time wandering around the exhibition seeing what transpired. I also caught snippets of the many speeches, panel discussions and discussions which took place, by spending some time in the excellent press lounge, where events on the main stages were live streamed.
This is my personal diary which I hope will be supplemented by the experiences of others. 
Monday 3rd February
The exhibition at Indaba is large, and  entering the  hall this morning I was pleased to see a familiar face, Pauline Choshane of Comminution '20 sponsor Metso, who, with her colleague Charles Ntsele (2nd left)  was talking to delegates from Bilboes Gold, Zimbabwe.
Mark Cutifani
On the press lounge screens I caught part of the presentation by Mark Cutifani, CEO of Anglo American, talking of connecting mining with next-generation values. His message was that we must dispel the myth that mining takes more than it gives. It contributes around 45% to the global economy. He said "the mining industry enables life as we know it, and it’s the cornerstone of energy transition with PGMs and the development of the hydrogen economy."
His words were echoed by Samson Gwede Mantashe, South Africa's Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, in his opening address. He said that the mining and energy portfolio is critical to economic growth and development.  "South Africa and the African continent are important to global mining and its development and should be the destination of choice for the investment community."
Mr. Mantashe (left) visiting the exhibition
Back in the exhibition hall I was pleased to see two delegates from Cornwall, John Eyre and Kim-Marie Clothier, of North Coast Consulting, UK.
John and I had a few drinks together last night at a waterfront sundowner,  where we also met Chris Bryan, one of our Biomining '20 consultants. Formerly with Camborne School of Mines, Cornwall, Chris is now with BRGM, France and it was good to meet some of his colleagues in the BRGM booth.
With Chris Bryan (centre)
At the large Germany booth I talked to Kai Bartram of Steinert, a leading manufacturer of electronic sorting machines, and a regular sponsor of MEI's Physical Separation conferences. Kai was with John Knouwds, an expert on control and instrumentation. Based in Namibia, this was John's first day with Steinert so we wish him well and hope to see more of him in the future.
John and Kai
Tuesday 4th February
It is very noticeable that there are many more women in attendance at Indaba this year than on my previous visit in 2016.  Although mining is still one of the most male dominated industries, positive steps have been made in recent years to integrate women into the industry, and the number of female speakers at Indaba has been increasing over the past few years, this year 30.4% of the speakers being women. Today saw Indaba's first all female panel discussion, focussing on climate change and other issues.
The mining industry is one of the major weapons in the fight against climate change. The UN Paris Agreement requires humanity to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century but there are doubts as to whether this is attainable, as to attain these goals will put enormous demands on what are very finite resources of raw materials (Is zero carbon by 2050 attainable?).
In supplying the raw materials to build electric vehicles and renewable energy sources, as well as providing suitable alternatives to oil and gas for heating home and offices, the importance of mining cannot be over-emphasised  (posting of 5th January). Ironically, however, the mining industry is one of the most energy intensive industries, and, according to a recent report, the world’s biggest mining companies are failing to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord and need to consider more aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Consultant McKinsey said the mining industry was taking insufficient action and putting underwhelming plans in place to tackle global warming, risking a backlash from investors and society. Mining groups have only just begun to set targets that range between a zero and 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, falling well short of the level required under the Paris accord, the report said.
The majority of the mining industry’s on-site emissions, which are as much as 5.1 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, largely come from methane released during coal mining, while power consumption is the second-biggest contributor. As other sectors reduce their carbon emissions and introduce low-carbon technologies, such as wind turbines and electric vehicles, mining companies should diversify their portfolios to meet the demand for metals underpinning those technologies, despite being unable to replace revenue from coal and iron ore, the report added.
The past two days at Indaba have seen many discussions around the role of mining in addressing climate change and the fact that it must do much more to address these issues.
Today's panel discussion included contributions from representatives from Anglo American, Bushveld Minerals, Rio Tinto and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Anglo CEO Mark Cutifani said that he had no plans for Anglo to exit its coking coal business completely, but he is keen to reduce the organisation's carbon footprint with the help of suppliers, peers and customers. He said that he believed that mines can, and will, be carbon neutral and will use less water as well as delivering positive biodiversity outcomes. It will be interesting to see if his ambitions of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency by 30% this year will be attained, as will Canada's Teck Resources pledge to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Wednesday 5th February
Faces familiar to me are very thin on the ground, so it was really nice to talk to Elizma Ford and Aphelele Sithole of Mintek, South Africa this morning. Aphelele is a pyrometallurgist, and Elizma heads Mintek's comminution section. She looks forward to being back in Cape Town in April for Comminution '20.
Elizma and Aphelele of Mintek
Also good to catch up with Jules Aupiais, of Senmin, South Africa. I first met Jules at Reagents '91 in Cornwall, and Senmin has been a regular sponsor of all MEI's Flotation conferences. Senmin, a business of AECI Mining Solutions, is a manufacturer and supplier of mining chemicals used in the beneficiation of a wide range of ores such as platinum, copper, zinc, coal etc as well as polyacrylamides used for tailings treatment. Jules is photographed below with two of his AECI colleagues. 
Jules Aupiais (right) and colleagues

Thursday 6th February
Despite this being the final half day of the meeting, the exhibition hall was still buzzing this morning. 
I was pleased to see that students interested in careers in mining were invited to attend Mining Indaba’s Young Leaders Programme today
Now in its 5th year, the Young Leaders in Mining, a collaboration between Mining Indaba and Brunswick, a critical issues advisory firm, creates a forum for the next generation of miners – students at university and young professionals already working in the industry - to meet and engage with senior leaders in mining, government and civil society. 
Pupils from Simon's Town School talk to Mintek's head of Biotechnology Mariekie Gericke
Tom Quin, Head of Content for Mining Indaba said: “...mining needs to attract top talent just as much as it needs to attract investment and community support if it is going to thrive."
This is very true, but young people are only going to be attracted to the industry if it is perceived to be sustainable and responsibly managed. The message that mining is crucial, and that if we cannot grow it, it must be mined, must come across strongly.
Thankfully this has been the pervasive message at Indaba 2020 and congratulations must be given to all involved with this great event. Ministers, mining CEOs and relevant stakeholders have been joined for some progressive conversations about working collaboratively to move the industry forward. It was particularly good to see the mining majors really promoting Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) protocol, but as cautioned by Bady Blade, Director of EITI International Secretariat  "we cannot just rely on the most responsible companies. Governments have a critical role to play in reducing mining’s carbon footprint and bringing all the actors to the same standard."
ESG has often not been too important an issue for the global mining industry, mainly because there were no hard and fast rules on how to develop and implement ESG policies, nor any penalties for failing to do so. Many companies felt they could legitimately ignore calls to ensure operations were carried out ethically and sustainably.
But in an industry with a checkered history of accidents, environmental disasters and corruption scandals, it seems that the balance is finally starting to tip in favour of "good" ESG, and this was strongly felt at Indaba.  As John Welborn, CEO of Resolute Mining said "ESG investing is not just a moral case, it’s a good investment case and an absolute necessity for our business".
Let's continue to hammer home this message.


  1. Barry,
    Excellent narrative and many takeaways to many countries.
    The Theme itself is the need of the hour--break the silos and have a fresh and holistic look at the total industry. Nice to note the number of delegates and so many women in the Conference.
    You have again brought to the notice of earlier generation like mine to see new faces and the direction of the Future of Mineral Industry.

  2. Thank you Barry for your very informative report on this conference. Good to see mining companies started to realise the importance of ESG. Let's hope that this will be pushed up even further in the agenda. Perhaps this can be one of the topics in the conference in Cornwall?
    Brenda Chan, Senior Carbon Data Analyst, London, UK

    1. Thanks Brenda. You can check out the programmes for Cornwall in June. Hope to see you there?


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