MINING INDABA: A personal perspective from an Australian first-timer

I had keenly anticipated this event, for both personal and business reasons.

Personally because this was my first visit to Africa – the mysterious, magical and magnificent birthplace of humanity. Africa provides a comprehensive and contiguous time line of human development going back at least 7 million years. Africa, which developed the world’s oldest human civilization, gave humanity the use of fire a million and half to two million years ago. It is the home of the first tools, astronomy, jewellery, fishing, mathematics, crops, art, use of pigments, cutting and other pointed instruments and animal domestication. In short Africa gave the world human civilization. I couldn’t wait – even if my trip was to touch briefly only on the southern most part of the great continent.

From a business perspective I was intrigued to see how it worked and excited by the potential given the generally steady worldwide recovery from the GFC. And I certainly was not disappointed! The venue was the Cape Town International Conference Centre, a modern and spacious facility, with in excess of 300 exhibitor/sponsors and 5000 delegates, the scale certainly was impressive.

The level of activity and general optimism was even more impressive. From lunch time on day one (Monday 7th February), the floors were heavily populated and the booths were busy. Our first day was very impressive. It was immediately clear that people had come to do business and there was a lot of business to do. This trend continued over the 3 days of the conference, with Tuesday being the busiest.

The overall impression from a business perspective (and as recruitment consultancy we detect trends in the industry quite early) is that there are a large number of mining projects that have been reinstated and/or are now progressing to next stage of development. Other producing mines are increasing their scale of operations. In particular there are a large number of well developed exploration projects that will be progressing to mine construction over the next 12 to 18 months, across a range of commodities including uranium, platinum, coal, nickel, gold and manganese. These projects are spread around Africa, although from my perspective the east and south had impressive numbers of projects. There were also some delegates in attendance with projects in SE Asia and Australia, including new gold and other mining projects.

As a result of all this activity, there is clearly already an impact in terms of the availability of experienced, qualified professionals, covering all disciplines including geology, engineering construction and maintenance, planning and processing. Senior operational management personnel, such as Chief Operating Officers, General Managers, Mine Managers and Site/Processing Managers are also in demand. This is a time for strategic manpower planning, including a thorough analysis of the alternatives for securing skilled staff and maintaining the desired standards and holding true to the organisation’s values. Executive management will seriously need to consider what their organisation offers in attracting and retaining the best staff at all levels.

Personally, the trip exceeded my expectations. The Western Cape region has stunning scenery, super friendly and happy people, a very pleasant climate and clearly offers a very special lifestyle. I certainly look forward to my next visit.

— Ian Graham, Recruitment Manager Australasia

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