When this writer personally was involved in helping advise the organisers on the first Mining Indaba event in Cape Town 20 years ago, he little realised how dominant the event would become in terms of African mining conferences over the next two decades. The then owner/CEO of International Investment Conferences (IIC), which built the event up, Sandy Lawrence, in retrospect chose the location and timing for it perfectly. While Johannesburg, with its big mining community, might have seemed the logical venue, Cape Town had huge appeal, both within South Africa and globally, as a must-go-to location and with a climate offering respite from the bitter Canadian and European winters (most of the non-African delegates came from there) the conference was a success from the start – and has grown almost every year since.
Nowadays the organisers reckon it to be the largest mining investment meeting held anywhere. We might debate this reckoning that the PDAC in Toronto in March is far bigger in terms of numbers, but the Indaba organisers might argue in response that the PDAC is a trade show with an investment segment tacked on. Be this as it may, they should also bear in mind that the exhibition part of Mining Indaba has nowadays been largely hijacked by trade exhibitors and it too is no longer purely an investment meeting, although the conference itself remains almost totally investment oriented. But that is just quibbling – the annual Mining Indaba is very much a major show in its own right and to complement the investment element it has also spawned a number of investment related spin-off events around it, and the participants undertake a huge amount of entertaining as well, Cape Town being a relatively low cost place to do this given the huge fall in parity of the South African Rand against most major currencies.
But the success of Indaba owes a huge debt to the initial groundwork put in by Sandy Lawrence and her team in persuading companies to participate in the initial event and, perhaps most importantly, in enlisting the participation of so many African government Mines departments and the Mines Ministers themselves, which really put the conference on the map as the place to meet with those who control the various African nations’ resources. You could hardly move in Johannesburg the week after the first Indaba without bumping into some West or North, or East African Mines Minister – all there to try and get to talk to South Africa’s major mining company executives and to try and persuade them to invest in their countries’ mining potential.
In its second and subsequent years, IIC built on this initial success and the conference grew – at the same time Cape Town was building new hotels and then the big new Convention Centre into which the ever-growing conference and associated exhibition could relocate. Sandy Lawrence eventually sold IIC and the Indaba conference came under the guiding hand of Mineweb founder and former editor, Tim Wood, who now runs the Denver Gold Group and its highly respected forums, who took it up another notch or two. The Mining Indaba continued to grow from strength to strength and now attracts several thousand delegates to Cape Town each February – indeed it is a major earner for the city. Just try and find a decent hotel in central Cape Town around the Mining Indaba. It’s difficult even despite the plethora of big new hotels which have been built there.
Delegates are already flooding into Cape Town – some for a few days R&R before the event and others to participate in satellite conferences, workshops and other meetings which have grown up around the main convention – truly a sign of conference success in its own right.
The exhibition section of this year’s event, which starts this coming weekend, is sold out, quite an achievement at a time when the mining sector is generally depressed, while the array of speakers presenting is impressive with some very well known names and faces from the government, financial, corporate, economics and advisory sectors as well as a large number of presenters from mining companies looking to build projects throughout the African continent.
But perhaps the original masterstroke dating back to the first Mining Indaba 20 years ago was the choice of Cape Town as the venue – and at a time of year when the weather is generally good and warm (high 20s to perhaps 30s Celsius – high 70s to 80s Fahrenheit). Just the thing to get away from polar vortexes and incessant rain and flooding in North America and Europe respectively – and even offering a slight respite from the heat for the Australian delegates!
The Cape Town setting itself with the city nestling below Table Mountain is one of the most impressive in the world. There are many attractions in the city and surrounding areas, terrific restaurants – and all at prices which make the city one of the world’s tourist hotspots as well as a great conference venue. The facilities are excellent and the conference organisation is very strong having built well on 20 years of prior experience.
In its promotional material for the Mining Indaba, the organisers – now under the banner of Mining Indaba LLC – note that Investing in African Mining Indaba has helped channel billions of dollars of foreign investment into the African mining value chain and that the conference is the world’s largest gathering of mining’s most influential stakeholders and decision-makers vested in African mining. 2013 was a record breaking year, with more than 7,800 individuals representing more than 1,500 international companies from 100 countries and approximately 45 African and non-African government delegations.
This is where, the organisers aver, the world connects with African mining and it is looking for similar success in maintaining this kind of level of attendance this year. Now while some of this may be conference organiser hyperbole there is no doubt that the Mining Indaba has been very much a major conference success story, and as long as Africa, the Dark Continent, still has a plethora of mineral riches to be found and developed, it will likely remain one of the world’s big ‘go-to’ mining conventions and by a large margin the premier such event for those interested in all aspects of African mining and its development.
This article appears courtesy of Mineweb. To read more daily international mining and finance news click here.