In the current climate, participants at this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba are carefully balancing the investment they make in participating in the event with the value they derive from attending, says independent, international consulting engineers and scientists SRK Consulting.
SRK (SA) partner and corporate consultant Andrew van Zyl explains that the Mining Indaba, held in February at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, brings many senior people together in one place, which is in itself very valuable.
“Traditionally, the value was in learning about new projects in progress or on the horizon. Currently, however, the Indaba attracts an increasingly wide range of participants, not all of whom are involved in the traditional focus of the event – investing in African mining, which appears to be somewhat eroding the value that many visitors are seeking to derive from the Indaba.”
SRK recounts that most delegates were interested in discussing the prospects for the mining sector in the short to medium term and were looking for insights into how long the commodity downturn was likely to last. At the “hard, business edge of the event”, many delegates were also looking for opportunities to help them survive this difficult period.
“It was interesting to hear from mining company CEOs how they plan to respond to the difficult industry conditions. Key to an effective response will be ensuring that adequate technical skills are retained and empowered, says Van Zyl.
In buoyant economic times, it is conceivable that companies could continue to perform without those skills at high levels of decision-making, but under the stressful conditions of today such expertise is pivotal in steering business strategies, he emphasises.
SRK will continue to offer independent technical solutions and stands ready to provide ad hoc operational and project support to companies where these technical skills are no longer available internally.
Meanwhile, quite a few of the presentations made at the Indaba echoed the need to start planning now for the future.
The company’s message to the delegates of this year’s Indaba was to retain their medium- and long-term focus on what will generate value for their mining businesses in future and to plan methodically and timeously with this in mind. These value-adding aspects include exploration, technical studies, social and environmental assessments and financial analysis of new projects and expansions. “Despite the mining industry’s difficult operating conditions, we are confident that the vision for most of our clients aligns well with this message,” Van Zyl adds.
Participating in this years Investing in African Mining Indaba, a number of SRK professionals from Africa, Australia, North America and the UK attended to meet clients and prospective customers, and stay abreast of the current thinking in the sector. SRK also met with advisers from funds and banks that provide finance for mining projects, as they need technical studies and assessments to guide their decisions.
“SRK’s exhibition stand attracted several visitors – some known to us and some new – with this year’s event attracting a larger number of product suppliers, government delegations and government-led industry missions actively promoting companies from countries such as the Netherlands, the UK and Norway.
The company also used the event to officially launch its corporate biography entitled SRK: 40 Years in the Deep End, which was published last year. This was an event highlight for the company as it brought close to 200 clients, colleagues and media representatives from around the world to the event, providing SRK the opportunity to link up with old networks and meet new people in the industry.
Going forward, the company intends to continue to deliver its range of mining-related and other services, and will “enthusiastically” pursue the application of its technical expertise in collaborative approaches in terms of mining, infrastructure, finance and legal issues.
The consultancy believes that there will also be opportunities for its technical skills related to water and renewable energy, as competition grows for these scarce resources and mines are forced to treat them as key risk factors.
Investors were looking for investment-friendly announcements, such as commitments from South African Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane with regard to clarifying regulatory certainty. Zwane addressed the Indaba on February 8, stating that through lengthy discussions with mining stakeholders, he believes he has gained an understanding of the pertinent issues facing the industry, adding that stakeholders emphasised the importance of regulatory and policy certainty.
“I assure you that the democratic government as led by the African National Congress has prioritised the processing and finalisation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill as a matter of urgency in order to entrench the necessary certainty,” said Zwane.
“Panel discussions about industry-specific issues, such as the state of the platinum mining sector, the impact of China’s low growth scenario on Africa’s mining industry and the future significance of India’s economy, also held the interest of delegates,” states Van Zyl.
About SRK Consulting www.srk.co.za
SRK Consulting is a leader in natural resource and development solutions, providing independent technical advice and services through over 45 offices in 20 countries, on six continents. With an African presence in Angola and Cameroon, and practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and South Africa, the global group employs more than 1,400 professionals internationally in a range of engineering, scientific, environmental and social disciplines.