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Great Indaba

I normally don’t get too enthusiastic about trade shows, as I have had to traipse around more than a few on sore feet. However, this year’s Mining Indaba in Cape Town was exceptional. True, we had to wait a bit for our admission documentation, but once the Mining Review Africa team were inside, it was ‘go’ from start to finish.

I have to congratulate the Indaba organisers on an excellently organised conference and exhibition.

The highlight for us at MRA, of course, was our Breakfast Briefing held on Wednesday February 8. Superb fare, a stunning view and excellent intellectual stimulation was provided by our keynote speaker, Simon Tuma-Waku, vice president of the Chamber of Mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who offered insight into mining developments in the DRC. Simon was largely responsible for the liberalisation of the mining sector through the enactment, in July 2002, of the Mining Code legal framework governing the DRC’s mining sector to this day.

Also at the podium were speakers from our sponsors for the occasion, Johan de Bruin director of DRA Mineral Projects and Paul Thomson, managing director of Minopex. It was most enlightening hearing about what these companies are currently undertaking.

Personally, I enjoy the Mining Indaba because, as I have been in and around the mining industry since the late 60s, the Cape Town event serves as an opportunity to catch up with old friends. Though as my beard becomes greyer, the familiar faces are fewer year by year.

It is also a wonderful place for a mining writer, as the exhibition hall and the conference provide a cornucopia of new article potential.

What impressed me this year was the sense of optimism that seemed to be all pervasive. In the restaurants and coffee shops, everywhere, in fact, there were groups of people talking animatedly over thick volumes of mining documents. Maps and plans were being unfolded and much explanation given.

However, I also suspect that the truly heavyweight discussions were being held in quiet rooms in the various hotels near to the International Conference Centre.

I was surprised at this level of optimism because there are so many threats to mining in Africa at present. Many African countries are now proposing to raise taxes on mining companies and indulge in resource nationalism, a phrase, which makes me uneasy at the best of times. Many mines are not vast fountains of wealth, even though, as assets they might represent billions of dollars. Many mines survive on modest margins, and, then, also to attract investors they have to offer returns that are well above other industry sectors. Foreign investment is not going to be wooed with offers of single-figure returns on investment.

Acts of economic lunacy are being enacted in Zimbabwe, and just down the road from Johannesburg, in Rustenburg, by striking (and sometimes homicidal) workers, who yet have to table a proper wage demand.

In spite of this, the message from the Mining Indaba was clear. Mining is going ahead, all over the African continent, regardless of regulatory threats and other unrest.

In this edition, I bring you two articles, which had their seeds in the Mining Indaba. One of these articles deals with Taung Gold, which is going to bring Jeanette gold mine and Evander No 6 shaft back to life. Years ago, I was at Tshepong looking at a mine map on the wall of an office. I noticed there was a mine to the north of Tshepong called Jeanette. I knew obviously of Lorraine gold mine, but Jeanette? I asked around and was told that in the 50s a shaft had been sunk, but the miners at that time found the reef at Jeanette to be unmineable. Driving from Tshepong on my way home, I took the back road which goes past Jeanette, and took a look at the overgrown pile of waste rock and the concrete slab over the defunct shaft. I expected that I would hear no more of this Free State lady.

Taung Gold has proven me and other detractors wrong. Taung Gold explains that it is possible to mine at Jeanette, and the Evander operation has a potentially long and prosperous life ahead of it. I am looking forward to following Taung’s progress in the years to come.

To view further articles from Mining Review Africa
edition 3 2012, click here