Exclusive interview with Elodie Delagneau, event manager of DRC Mining Week, taking place in Lubumbashi in October. 

Elodie, you recently moved the dates for DRC Mining Week to October. How has COVID-19 affected your preparations?

Before I give you the official details, let me quickly say that although the event has been postponed to October, we are already working on a very exciting Digital conference programme that will take place online during the original week of the event in June. And, kicking off on 20 May, we are starting a series of free topical webinars – so we are staying connected and in touch throughout with our mining community on the Copperbelt!

But yes, as we all know, virtually no business or sector worldwide has escaped the COVID-19 pandemic and the mining sector and the African continent are no different. Due to the current status of the virus and the ban applied on mass gatherings by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, we decided to reschedule DRC Mining Week. The event was due to take place from 17-19 June and will now run from 7-9 October 2020. The venue – The Pullman Grand Karavia Hotel in Lubumbashi, DRC – remains unchanged. 

Elodie Delagneau at her home office in Cape Town with daughter Anouk.

Tell us more about the digital event and webinar series?

Well, as regular attendees of our event in Lubumbashi will know, it is always a lively gathering with high-level speakers, lots of debate, networking, business deals being done but it is also very social, and our webinar series and digital event will have the same quality and energy and we plan to inject the same sense of fun that we are known for.  

Why are we doing this? We understand that a lot of our clients are currently having to work from home, juggle family and work life, because we are facing the same challenges. Just as the DRC Mining Week team is rallying to face this challenge head-on and come up with creative initiatives to keep the momentum going, we are also keen to support our customers during these difficult times. After all, we are all standing at the same crossroad, adapting to a new global and dynamic environment and accepting that our current business models will never be the same again.

And in such moments of uncertainty and even despair, innovative channels to communicate and exchange ideas are created.

So, starting next month until we meet in again in person in October in Lubumbashi, the DRC Mining Week team and Mining Review Africa will be offering free monthly webinars looking at trending issues affecting the mining sector in 2020. We are expecting many of our partners to join us and to engage with our speakers and experts. All we ask of participants is to bring their own drinks when they join us online!

Registration is free of charge on the event website and open to anyone looking to improve their knowledge and business model in the next few months.

Last year you celebrated the 15th anniversary of the event and you were bigger and better than ever before. What can the mining community expect from DRC Mining Week this year?

I’m glad you refer to the industry as a community because we feel part and parcel part of what I consider the mining family in the DRC, we have been around long enough for the ups and the downs. And it is also thanks to the mining sector’s support that the event has grown substantially over the years.

By no means will we ever rest on our laurels, there is so much to explore and develop in the industry to keep us busy for decades to come. And what is most exciting of all to me is that the rest of the world’s mining community is starting to seriously take notice of the DRC: its potential, its vast resources, its people and the fact that the government wants to encourage investment. DRC Mining Week is part of that drive to turn DRC into a top mining destination.

What can we expect from DRC Mining Week this year?

With the support of the Ministry of Mines, the Federation of Congolese Enterprises (FEC) and our strategic partners, we will once again gather about 5000 local and international mining stakeholders and influencers in the public and private sector doing business in the DRC. South Africa, Germany and Zimbabwe will be amongst at least six international pavilions and we will have more than 230 sponsors and exhibitors, including our two diamond plus sponsors this year, Standard Bank and Orange as well as Kamoto Copper Company and Vodacom who are diamond sponsors.

The event will also feature a heavy machinery section and seven conference tracks. 100+ mining houses and operators will be represented.

What are in your view the highlights of this year’s conference?

Definitely our opening session addressed by the Honourable Prof Willy Kitobo Samsoni, DRC’s Minister of Mines.

New features at the event this year include the Women in Mining session and a dedicated Junior Mining Forum. We will also focus on battery metals, particular power challenges in DRC’s mining sector, local skills development and creating a “Made in the DRC” brand as well as a discussion on legalising artisanal mining.