MINING INDABA: A Canadian in Cape Town

Mining Indaba is the world’s largest gathering of key stakeholders in the African mining industry. Hosted at the modern facilities of the CTICC in Cape Town, South Africa, delegates and exhibitors represent more than 180 countries covering investment, services and mining houses. I was definitely looking forward to this experience for the business potential it presented but also from a personal perspective – the opportunity to visit a world-class city, Cape Town on one hand while experiencing for the first time, the mysterious ‘dark-continent’ that gave us the origins of life – Africa.

At such a large, multi-national convention, it was exciting to see such a significant presence of Canadian mining companies. On any given day of market outlooks and regional reports, you saw a number of presentations from Canadian companies successfully operating or exploring in different regions of Africa. Recognizing this involvement; the Government of Canada set-up an impressive networking pavilion in an area of the trade-show dominated by Canadian mining companies.

In conversations over a cold glass of Castle Lager, it was amazing to meet people from all over the world that were not surprised in the least to find a Canadian on the other side of the world from his frozen white homeland. This was a mining convention; of course you find plenty of Canadians in the mix.

In recent years, a great majority of the activity from Canadian mining companies operating outside of the country has been in South America. The reasons largely being shared time zones and the perception (right or wrong) that the operating environment is more stable than Africa. From my experience at this year’s Mining Indaba I see a number of Canadian companies bucking that trend to capitalize on the red-hot growth of exploration, projects and operational expansions across Africa. In addition, breaking news during the convention was the un-expected merger of the Toronto and London Stock Exchanges. This should create closer relationships between Canadian resource companies and European investors more knowledgeable in the African mining industry. As a result, I think we will see even more ventures from Canadian companies into Africa.

With all this activity, it is not surprising how busy the Globe 24-7 booth was throughout the conference. Starting on the Monday, when the trade-show was only open to exhibitors for set-up, I spoke with dozens of people that are growing operations or advancing projects needing different types of professionals across the life cycle of mining projects. The action did not let up with Tuesday hosting the most frenzied activity. I assumed these needs would be evident for companies based mainly outside of Africa (not having day-to-day access to people in region) but, it seems this is an issue just as prevalent for companies based right in the region. This busy atmosphere did not let-up for the duration of the conference. Everywhere you looked people were deeply engaged in productive exchanges.

My experience at the convention made it clear that the demand for quality talent in the global mining industry is as evident today as it was before the Global Financial Crisis. Companies operating in any resource region worldwide will need to expand their planning of projects and expansions to not only include financing and commodity prices but, the ‘people factor’. That people factor is not limited to manpower planning; it will need to cover attraction, retention and development strategies to ensure these projects achieve the desired ROI and sustainability.

From a personal perspective, Cape Town the city, and the Cape Peninsula as a region, are reason enough to attend; combining some of the best cultural, scenic, climatic, and lifestyle attributes from other world-class destinations. Not to mention the friendly and helpful nature of the locals.

While I hope to attend next year’s Mining Indaba, it will not be hard to stay in touch with the growth of the industry. Here’s looking forward to the coming year busily working with Canadian mining companies growing their assets in Africa.

— Blair Ferris, Senior Recruitment Consultant, Canada

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