Exclusive interview with Dr Tony Harwood, CEO of Montero Mining, an official event ambassador for the upcoming Africa Mining Forum.
Any exciting projects that you are currently involved in that you can share?
I am involved in developing lithium and tin projects in Namibia, a rare earth project in Tanzania and gold projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania and the DRC.
What in your view are the main challenges in the mining sector in East Africa right now?
Aligning Governments to attract mining investment and to take advantage of the next commodity cycle.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected operations?
The lockdown provisions and guidance either provided by Government or companies are having a severe effect on operations. It appears that Africa is just now just starting feel the effect of this pandemic.
In your view, what lessons and/or opportunities has COVID-19 presented to the mining sector?
The lessons relate to the health and well-being of employees (and local communities) as well as lessons on supply chain security. The mining sector has been operating on thin margin over the last decade due to low metal prices and the operational disruption brought about by the pandemic has emphasized these fine operational profit margins.
The opportunities provide for greater co-operation between the mining sector and Government working together with a common goal of preserving mining operations and investment for the long term.
The opportunity of manufacturing equipment and mine supplies in the region should also be considered to reduce overseas supply chain dependency. This pandemic is likely to have a huge impact on people and the mining sector over the next 1-2 years.
This pandemic will illustrate to all the value of true “Leadership in Crisis” and how companies, governments and peoples behave in times of crisis.
Nations should consider and reassess current investment criteria to attract foreign investment to help build nations mining sector as an economic imperative.
What in your view are the main opportunities currently?
We are 6 to 12 months away from the advent of the next upsurge in the commodity cycle. There has been an upsurge in international investment in the mining sector over the last six months, particularly in gold mining and exploration. Investors are looking critically at jurisdictions and favour those that provide low risk.
What is your vision for this sector?
Natural resources are a driver to national wealth and job-creating, helping nation-building through development and beneficiation.
You were part of the programme of the inaugural event last year? What was the experience like?
I personally was invigorated by the quality and enthusiasm of the attendees. Everyone I met was excited about the potential of the region and Rwanda provided a benchmark in East Africa as to how a government can attract foreign investment and have a growth plan to the benefits of its people.
How important is the Africa Mining Forum as a meeting place for the sector?
The true potential of the East and Central African region has not been yet realised and it has seen little in foreign investment in the mining sector.
There is a great deal happening in the regions and the forum provides a platform to showcase the opportunities that the region provides as well and the policies of Government to attract investment and uplift the peoples of the region.
The geology and natural resource endowment of the region is enormous, mineral resources are available and skills are there to be developed.
Poverty still persists in the region and this needs to be resolved by wealth creation provided by responsible investment and Government assistance and effective regulation. Corruption needs to be addressed.
What are you most looking forward to at this year Africa Mining Forum?
The 2019 conference was an outstanding success. It brought together in one place a forum to showcase all aspects of the mining sector and Government and I am looking forward to reengage in the enthusiasm and energy of the participants and see the progress made by the sector in the region.
Anything else you would like to add?
I cannot overstate the positive impression I have of Rwanda. Its people and Government are working hard on nation building and making great progress.
ABOUT DR TONY HARWOOD:
Dr. Tony Harwood is the President and CEO of Montero Mining and is a geologist with over 30 years of experience in mining. Tony has a BSc (Hons) and PhD degree in Economic Geology from the University of Wales, UK. He has focused on exploration, mine development and mining principally in Africa, working for major and junior mining companies as a principle or consultant although he has worked all over the world. He has listed three public companies in the last 10 years on the TSX and ASX. He has visited more than half of the countries in Africa.
Photographs of Montero Mining’s site at Wigu Hill in Tanzania: