Compiled by Sharyn Macnamara

The tide is turning for African Mining – global, regional and local currents collided in Cape Town from 5–8 February 2024 at the annual Investing in African Mining Indaba presenting a groundswell of governments, mining companies, investors and service providers driving positive change through disruptive discussion and debate to better enable navigation of the stormy global waters ahead.



H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republicof South Africa.

H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa. Supplied by Investing in African Mining Indaba 2024

H.E. Hakainde Hichilema, President of theRepublic of Zambia.

H.E. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia. Supplied by Investing in African Mining Indaba 2024

H.E. Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, Prime MinisterDemocratic Republic of Congo.

H.E. Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, Prime Minister Democratic Republic of Congo. Supplied by Investing in African Mining Indaba 2024

On its 30th anniversary celebration, Mining Indaba 2024’s theme – ‘Embracing the power of positive disruption: A bold new future for African mining’ – encouraged and supported discussion to drive transformation in the African mining industry with a goal to enable the continent to surmount its challenges when it comes to: governance and regulation; attracting investment and driving exploration; development of infrastructure, energy and logistics solutions; and implementing ESG (Economic, Social and Governance) essentials while answering the global call for critical minerals, the endowment of which is the region’s greatest blessing in modern times.


Thirty years of change-inducing, constructive conversation

Tony Carroll, executive advisor: International Mining Indaba, Advisory Board pointed out that 30 years ago he was there when “a woman started this event with 250 delegates in a crowded ballroom with men displaying rocks and weathered topographical maps on card tables.” Mining Indaba has evolved into the “largest mining investment event in the world and Cape Town’s leading business event of the year” with 40% of the panellists in industry-shaping discussion being women, said Carroll. He noted that, in the choice of theme this year, it was considered that the mining industry and indeed the world is constantly driven by disruption which comes in many forms. “Market disruptions have been a part the industry since the Bronze Age as evidenced by gold rush in California’s Mother Lode in the mid-19th century and the former Transvaal at the turn of the last century.” Similarly, disruption can be health-related like the global COVID-19 epidemic; climate-related like Global Warming and the El Niño phenomenon; politically related like the recent 2023 Israel-Hamas war; industrially and technologically related like the AI and digitalisation revolution; and civil-society related – if ESG is not considered, who knows what kind of disruption the world would face?

On the first day of the event, Frans Baleni, Executive Advisory Board chair of Mining Indaba noted that over the 30 years of its existence, the Mining Indaba’s evolution included a move from an event focused on the mining industry in South Africa to that of the continent and beyond. The significance of the event is showcased in the 9 900 delegates attending in 2024 from 115 countries; including 1 200 investors and dealmakers, more than 1 500 mining company executives and 690 junior mining executives as well as 320 exhibitors. Added to this, 111 senior government ministers and officials from 74 countries attended, with three Heads of State: Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa; H.E Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia and H.E. Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, Prime Minister Democratic Republic of Congo delivering three keynote addresses.


The Ministerial Symposium

The symposium set the scene to unfold in the coming days with over 60 ministers meeting with government officials and mining sector CEOs. It sparked the beginning of the disruptive debate and collaborative conversation hoping to propel development, investment, safety and sustainability in the African mining sector for the future. Laura Cornish, head of Content at Mining Indaba noted three themes discussed, identified as “some of Africa’s greatest inhibitors to growth.” These were: limited exploration spend and investment; reducing minerals right issuing backlogs and unpacking how to exploit Africa’s critical minerals abundance.

“The solutions presented around critical minerals included Africa’s need to understand its geology and identify its mineral endowment – which will encourage exploration as a natural consequence. Critical centres of excellence were suggested as an additional solution.” Attendees acknowledged the challenges surrounding mineral rights and key solutions like the removal of corruption, bureaucracy and red tape. “Administration processes need to be improved and disparity around agencies involved in issuing rights should be streamlined. Increasing exploration lies at the heart of all challenges and in fact requires the most urgent attention, considering a mine can take a decade or more to build from the moment a potential project is identified.” There was consensus that: the region must think long term, cadastral systems would provide accurate data, and added to clear policy, would start to resolve the lack of exploration across the continent.


The Presidents and Disruptive Discussions stages

The rhetoric of government, mining houses, suppliers and consultants – though in some cases the ‘same old, same old’ – was directed by the theme and was in fact in many instances buoyed by the power of solution seeking public-private partnership and the friction of some difficult conversations.

Although the global North has been driving the demand within the race for critical minerals defined largely by self-interest, holding a substantial portion of the solution – the global South wanted to know, “What’s in it for us?” South Africa, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, amongst many other African countries endowed with the critical minerals and renewable resources in demand, were at pains to showcase their intent to facilitate much needed international investment in mining for urgent economic growth (with business-friendly policy, amongst other initiatives), but not without the prerequisite ESG, downstream beneficiation and community buy-in. Robert Friedland founder, executive co-chair and non-independent director Ivanhoe Mines, always a speaker at the event noted, “The biggest challenge for mining in Africa is governance.” Only time will tell, however – as it has over the past year in Zambia’s case with a spate of new investment interest where regulatory action has prompted development – if these countries put action to their promises.

Insights and the voices of disruption from CEOs of Africa’s foremost mining companies were shared on the Disruptive Discussions stage where they spoke of their strategies for introducing positive transformation and disruptions to the industry. The focus was not only on harnessing Africa’s vast mineral wealth, but on the challenges mining companies faced such as poor infrastructure and energy supply and governments’ willingness to make mining viable. Discussions also focused on how to ensure that the benefits from mining are shared across the value chain and the transformative power of mining companies in fostering innovation and sustainability.

Duncan Wanblad, CEO, Anglo American adding his voice of disruption to address “Building Resilience – reflecting on mining’s challenges and opportunities in a time of global disruption.”

Some key themes

Collaboration and solving challenges collectively were core themes. Duncan Wanblad, CEO, Anglo American told MITV, “Very soon disruption in the mining industry will become the norm, therefore we’ll need to learn to get comfortable with it. More importantly, to successfully manage this upheaval and strengthen our collective resilience as countries and companies, we must act swiftly and together.”

Panel discussions did not shy away from hard truths and realities and focused on critical issues affecting mining and the positive disruptive change needed to drive innovation to unlock Africa’s mining sector potential for the benefit of all stakeholders and role players. In a press lounge panel discussion on “combatting crime and corruption in mining” affecting both companies and investors, all three speakers agreed that it can only be dealt with through collaboration and spoke about their company initiatives with other role players. Dr Mashego, executive director: Stakeholder Relations and Corporate Affairs at Harmony and Stephan Bullock, head of Sustainability at Anglo American Platinum, detailed the work being done with the Minerals Council, SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority to address crime and corruption. Mashego addressed the issue of illegal mining and the effect it has on mining companies, employees and communities; while Werner Duvenhage, MD at Richards Bay Minerals addressed procurement issues and the need for transparency in community Trusts and with Trust participants.

In the wake of COP28, Climate Change was of course in stark focus – the global mining industry is at the heart of the transition to green energy both in terms of addressing the reduction in carbon emissions caused by the heavy energy consumption of mining companies, and in terms of addressing the huge demand for green minerals and metals in other industries. In a Mining Indaba press lounge panel discussion “What COP28 means for mining”, Anglo American head of Sustainability Katie Ferguson highlighted the company’s ambitious targets in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Adam Matthews, chief responsible investment officer of the Church of England Pensions, focused on the expectations of investors adding that they had to take a long-term view and encourage mining companies to take a responsible, credible path to a net zero future. Beyers Nel, COO Harmony Gold outlined the company’s response to climate change and said Harmony Gold had already installed 30MW of renewable energy that provided 6% of Harmony’s peak power needs and they were looking at adding another 137MW that would cater for an additional 24% of its needs. Dr Busia from Green Africa Minerals said a key outcome of the COP28 meeting was the establishment of a loss and damage fund that would help compensate developing nations for the impact of climate change and the need for Africa to capitalise on and do better in terms of green metals. John Mulligan, from the World Gold Council, spoke about the need for sectors to collaborate and produce innovative approaches. Michelle Manook, World Coal Association, emphasised the need to reframe the debate about coal’s role in the energy transition.

Additional highlights making waves

There were a number of high-profile deals cemented at the event too – Rio Tinto’s Simandou Project in Guinea, one of the world’s great iron ore projects was a case in point. After decades in development stage, it will now progress thanks to collaboration between key private and government stakeholders. Highlighting the importance of the Simandou project to Guinea, Gerards Rheinberger, MD of Rio Tinto Simandou, shared a panel with Moosa Cisse, the Guinean Minister of Economy and Finance and the governor of the Guinean central bank, Karamo Kaba. 

As the world’s second-largest iron ore producer, Rio Tinto commented in the new Mining Indaba Mining Pulse publication that “Simandou iron is set to enable the decarbonisation of the steel industry. According to the World Steel Association, total steel production amounted to 1.9Bt in 2022, which is higher than the combined output of all other metals during the same period. However, the production of steel is a highly energy-intensive process and is responsible for around 8% of total CO2 emissions worldwide. The status quo is no longer an option.” The company has committed to partner with the steel industry to help its customers develop solutions to decarbonise their activities. “In 2022, our Scope 3 emissions amounted to 584 million tonnes of CO2, 94% of which came from the transformation of our products by our customers. The processing of our iron ore accounted for around two thirds of this footprint. If we can reduce that footprint, we can greatly reduce the impact of sectors that are reliant on steel to create their products, from construction and aerospace to energy and the automotive sector. Our Simandou mine project, in the heart of Guinea’s Eastern forested region, offers us an opportunity to do just that. In fact, the Simandou deposit in Guinea contains one of the largest known untapped high-grade iron deposits in the world. With its high iron (Fe) content (65%), and minimal impurities, Simandou is an opportunity to decrease the carbon intensity of steel production. Part of the deposit contains ore that is well suited to less energy intensive and viable refining technologies, such as direct reduction (DRI) or electric arc furnaces (EAF). With these innovative technologies, less CO2 will be emitted during the transformation of iron into steel.”

Grace Akinyi, founder of Women in Mining Kenya was selected as the winner of the Mining Innovation & Research Battlefield.

Grace Akinyi, founder of Women in Mining Kenya was selected as the winner of the Mining Innovation & Research Battlefield. ©African Mining, incorporating Mining Mirror

Another highlight of Mining Indaba 2024 included the first Mining Automotive and Electronics Club which saw a variety of automotive and tech-oriented sessions that delivered a new audience to the Indaba. Sessions showcased the true importance of transparent supply chains for companies that will drive a just energy transition. This club brings together companies from the automotive and electronic sectors with a goal to establish valuable business relationships and deals within the global downstream market.

The Mining Innovation & Research Battlefield returned in 2024 and after impressive pitches, Grace Akinyi, Founder of Women in Mining Kenya was selected as the winner. Convened by the Development Partner Institute (DPI) and Investing in African Mining Indaba, the Battlefield is a high-profile platform to unearth innovative solutions to mining’s intractable challenges.

For the past two years, Mining Indaba has given junior miners the platform to compete for investor funding in the ‘Investment Battlefield’. Mark Strizek, MD of Tietto Minerals submitted “Fast-tracking the development of the Abujar Gold Project” and emerged as the ultimate Battlefield winner. The project is located approximately 30km from the major regional city of Daloa in central western Côte D’Ivoire. The current resource stands at 45.5Mt @ 1.5g/t Au for 2.15Moz of contained gold. The new Junior Miners Day and Investor Day programmes which were introduced in 2024 had over-subscribed roundtable sessions, showing the growth in this sector.

Considering that South Africa is the venue for this event where the winds of change have caused the global, regional and local currents to collide in the form of the annual Mining Indaba, it seems apt to conclude on a South African note. From a local perspective, in the past year, the mining sector has proved it is critical to economic growth in South Africa once again (as the mining industries in so many other countries do too). It was the only sector in South Africa, per Stats SA’s Quarterly Employment Statistics, outside of the community, social and personal services sector, where the level of employment of Q3 2023 was higher than the pre-COVID-19 period in Q4 2029. Mzila Mthenjane, CEO of the Minerals Council South Africa (with 73 members, representing 90% of South Africa’s mineral production, valued at R1.1-trillion in 2023), had this to say at the event – the issue of “inclusivity” and true win-win partnership is critical for the journey ahead for African Mining and its global partners. He added, “Never before has more been expected of an industry so little trusted” emphasising, “Mining must reposition and renew itself” as it rides the waves of change. 

Mzila Mthenjane, CEO of the Minerals Council South Africa said, “Never before has more been expected of an industry so little trusted” emphasising, “Mining must reposition and renew itself.”

Mzila Mthenjane, CEO of the Minerals Council South Africa said, “Never before has more been expected of an industry so little trusted” emphasising, “Mining must reposition and renew itself.” ©African Mining, incorporating Mining Mirror

Source: Investing in African Mining Indaba 2024