HomeFeatures & AnalysisLaura Cornish, MRA editor: My journey down the road less travelled

Laura Cornish, MRA editor: My journey down the road less travelled

Laura and Chantelle (senior deputy editor) on site at Wesizwe’s Bakubung mine on the Western Limb of the Bushveld Complex.
Laura and Chantelle (senior deputy editor) on site at Wesizwe’s Bakubung mine on the Western Limb of the Bushveld Complex.

By Laura Cornish

What countries come to mind when I say – East Africa? It was the first question I asked myself when starting the April edition – Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia, of course. I am relatively certain the majority of you would agree. 

And we would be right – they are without doubt East Africa’s three largest mining countries. As you will see in the pages of this issue, these countries feature prominently as attractive destinations to explore, invest in and develop new mines. In addition to great reads from Tanzania and Ethiopia in particular, I have also taken the ‘road less travelled’ and ventured into a country I have never been to before (ashamedly, I might add).

Rwanda, which is a dot on the African map by comparison with most other countries on the continent, is also the keeper of one of the greatest success stories in history. Tainted by a devastating genocide in 1994, the country has emerged 20 years later as one of the best investment destinations in Africa (second to Mauritius, according to the World Bank). I have spoken with industries who are present in the country, I have researched extensively its evolution, and I can confirm it is a truly remarkable place.

President Paul Kagame, although criticised for his dictatorial style and approach, has turned his country around – it is growing (despite the economic climate), his people are happy, employment figures are on the rise and together with mining minister Evode Imena, he is focused intensely on encouraging mining houses to invest in building project portfolios in the country.

Those who are mining and exploring in the country – ROKA, Piran Resources and Desert Gold Ventures – speak highly of Rwanda as well as its potential to produce great quantities of tin, tungsten and tantalum: metals which are forecast to move into deficit this year. They also appear to have gold – although artisanal mining at this point (from where the majority of gold is being generated) cannot provide quantities or grades.

I understand the roads are good for travelling, there is power (although probably not enough) and apparently it has one of the best internet connectivities on the continent as well. The government has in fact employed contractors to design a new state-of-the-art airport to serve the Rwandan capital city of Kigali.

The New Bugesera International Airport (NBIA) will replace the existing Kigali International Airport and will be located on a Greenfield site 25 km south east of the city centre. The new airport will provide a world-class gateway for Kigali and Rwanda, with the flexibility to expand and develop as a key hub airport within the East Africa region. Yes, I am still talking about ‘little’ Rwanda. This country has made it onto my list of Top 10 destinations to visit, and I think it may be worth adding to yours if you’re looking for lucrative and potentially attractive mining opportunities.

But let’s not forget Tanzania. What this country has to off er goes beyond the gold sector, which is the commodity it is traditionally recognised for. For Peak Resources it represents a lucrative rare earths destination while for Cradle Resources it holds the only African-based niobium deposit in Africa. Both the Ngualla rare earths project and Panda Hill niobium project are set to become fantastic operating mines in years to come and should be on everyone’s ‘keep watch’ list.

Our energy crash

Chantelle and I also attended a one day conference presented by the Fossil Fuel Foundation on the South African electricity status and its impact on the mining sector in the past month. It should come as no surprise that the impact is devastating and to me, largely unfair.

Roger Baxter from the Chamber of Mines revealed just how much energy the mining sector has contributed to saving since the 2008 when load shedding first became a reality. He also says that Eskom keeps asking the mines to reduce their energy consumption further and while there may be small initiatives to implement in this regard, there is very little else the sector can do without compromising production further.

There were so many fantastic speakers at the conference that I have compiled a selection of the best quotes of the day from every presenter who took to the stand in order to capture the theme and overriding messages. These are our country’s energy and mining experts and in summary, they depicted a bleak situation which leaves me pondering our country’s mining future when coupled with depressed commodity prices.

Where to from here? What next? Where will our industry be in 10 or even five or two years’ time without stable electricity supply? I’m still looking for answer.

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