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What to expect at Mining Indaba 2019

Feb 04 2019 07:55
Khulekani Magubane and Jan Cronje, Fin24

For a conference as prominent as the annual Investing in African Mining Indaba, promising an event unlike any other is tough.

But that is what the organisers of this year's indaba, which starts on Monday and ends Thursday at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, hope to achieve. 

This year is the first time that the Mining Indaba is expected to have 6 000 delegates in attendance. But the real change from previous years will be the effort to transform the indaba into a "deal-making and investment-focused event" according to its Managing Director Alex Grose.

Here is what to expect 

President Cyril Ramaphosa's address 

This will be the first Mining Indaba that President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend as president. Ramaphosa has been talking up the prospects of SA's mining industry in meetings and speeches with investors, as part of his initiative to secure $100bn in new investment over five years and kick-start SA's stagnating GDP growth. 

Ramaphosa is scheduled to present an hour-long address on the indaba's main stage on Tuesday afternoon. If the president's past stump speeches are anything to go by, he will argue that the finalisation of the Mining Charter and anti-corruption efforts have provided investors with certainty to begin reinvesting in SA industry.

Minister Gwede Mantashe

Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe, who took over from Mosebenzi Zwane in February 2018, will give the keynote address on Monday morning, which will set the state's tone for the indaba.

Mantashe has considerable experience in the mining industry, from his days as secretary general of the National Union of Mineworkers, and his appointment was welcomed by the mining industry

While the mining industry in South Africa is beset with challenges, Mantashe can take comfort in the fact that he is taking up the baton from former minister Zwane, whose address at last year’s indaba was widely panned.

From platitudes to deals?

Grose says a key focus of this year's indaba will be to secure deals, part of an attempt to move the indaba's centre of gravity from discussions to business. 

"The commitment was to turn it into a deal-making and investment-focused event," he told Fin24 in an interview. "Maybe in the past it may have lost that direction, so it is vital that we make the event about making deals and securing investment."

Mining Charter and legislation

After years of growing acrimony between the SA mining industry and the government over the reviewed Mining Charter, things calmed down when President Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in in early 2018 and Mantashe replaced Zwane as mining minister.

Talks were restarted and a major sticking point in Zwane's charter - that existing rights holders needed to "top up" black ownership from 26% to 30% - was removed. The 'Once Empowered, Always Empowered' rule remained in force, meaning mining groups wouldn’t need to sell new shares to black investors if previous black investors exited their holdings. 

The resulting Charter was approved by Cabinet in September 2018 and cautiously welcomed by employers body the Mining Council. 

Ideas to grow SA's stagnating industry

The 25th indaba is taking place in context of job losses, low expenditure on exploration, threats of automation, and consistent production decreases in certain metals - especially gold.

SA firms have for decades been moving their headquarters overseas, diversifying into foreign countries and reducing their exposure to South African mining, a situation which only worsened during the acrimony between Zwane and the industry.

Mining companies were integral in President Ramaphosa's Investment Conference in mid-October 2018. The largest single pledge came in from the mining sector, with AngloAmerican committing to invest R71.5bn over five years.

This will chiefly be used to sustain current operations by prolonging the lifespans of certain mines, rather than create new jobs. 

Diversity

Grose told Fin24 that one of the central themes of the 2019 Mining Indaba would be encouraging diversity within the sector. The Indaba will have two special competitions aimed at encouraging youth to consider careers in the mining sector, namely the Young Leaders Programme and the Investment Battlefield prize.

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