This year, we attended the 25th Anniversary of Investing in African Mining Indaba in Johannesburg. With key players and conversations, Africa is shaping up to be a land of golden opportunity.


Prospectors of all kinds attended the four-day conference this year, with a total of some 6,000 delegates – more than ever before. This was a tell-tale sign of the increasing interest in African mining.

With future plans and historic projects lined up, South Africa is rapidly re-imagining its mining landscape.

Here are 6 lessons we learned from the event, straight from our dedicated Polyglotter attendees: Jacques Reynaud, our Global Head of Market Development, and Jason Todd, our Senior Consultant for all things Renewable Energy, Infrastructure, Mining & Sustainable Development in Africa.


1. Innovation in African mining goes way beyond technology.

The conference’s tagline: “Championing Africa’s sustainable economic growth” really set the scene for some big-picture discussions.

We are no longer only talking about “safety” or “partnering with governments”, as Jacques recalls from the conference just 9 years ago.

Indeed, the conversation is now multi-tiered and the approach to mining far broader in scope. As technology develops, so too does our capacity to tackle operational issues such as safety or regulation. The extensive line-up and sophisticated topics this year proved just this.

Why focus on just one pain point when you can look at them all?  


2. We can’t talk about the future of anything without talking sustainability.

Even heavy industry is delving into greener alternatives; particularly the automotive industry.

The compelling need for battery metals to supply the Electric Vehicles (EV) and Storage Systems markets has really shaken up the mining sector.

Currently, the cost of supplying mines with uninterrupted electricity is a cumbersome burden on the bottom line, and equally taxing to the environment.

The solution? Renewables. Mining companies are now assessing how best to harness renewable energy with their current methods.

Ultimately, we should see a move towards investing in large scale storage systems to ensure continuous electrical supply.

These long-term investments should serve to support and enhance the project life-cycle of mines for the future.

Will investors and governments see that the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs?


3. Natural resources represent the next frontier of manufacturing and infrastructure.

Metals like vanadium, lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and graphite are now major points of focus for junior mining companies.

They will become increasingly so, as a smarter global industry moves away from carbon emissions towards a more environmentally conscious and cost-effective approach.

The movement towards hybridising energy sources to supply mines will surely become more commonplace with time.

Why should we face tomorrow with yesterday’s ideologies and technologies?


4. Finally, young leaders and women are having their say.

Whilst there is certainly still room for improvement, diversity is fast becoming a priority in African mining.

25% of this year’s conference speakers were female, including Simon Niven from Rio Tinto, Elaine Dorward-King from Newmont, and Deshnee Naidoo from Vedanta Zinc International.

Globally, the mining, infrastructure and manufacturing industries are known for falling short with gender diversity and equality. However, the conference is determined to make a difference, with sections dedicated to Women in Mining and a Young Leaders Programme.

What better way to innovate and disrupt than with new voices, opinions and ideas to bring about change?


5. Automation could completely revolutionise African mining.

Being in an age-old industry doesn’t mean we have to rely on age-old methods.

Gordon Smith, Executive Head Technical of AngloAmerican, spoke about the 5 levels of automation:

  1. No automation – all manual labour
  2. Machine does the work; worker is there to supervise or operate it
  3. Machine does the work in line of sight; worker is not next to the machine
  4. Machine does the work; worker is in a city centre nearby
  5. Machine plans & executes the work; worker is no longer needed.

The upper levels of automation here may indeed point us towards a more sophisticated labour process and redefine the supply chain as we know it.

How can great minds and great technologies best co-operate and co-exist?


6. Finally, a successful and productive African mining industry comes down to 10 core principles.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa did the honours of putting these forward:

  1. inclusive growth
  2. local government partnerships
  3. invest in living social conditions of the workers
  4. education and training
  5. companies & universities partnerships
  6. local beneficiation & downstream industry development
  7. focus on health and safety
  8. internships, jobs, SME support – thinking about the entire economic value chain
  9. young women advocacy
  10. workers as shareholders


The message is clear – solutions are still being discovered and developed. But we have the means and the minds to engineer them.

The question now is how and when. So, bring on Mining Indaba 2020! We can’t wait.


We would also like to take the opportunity to thank Alex Grose and the team for another great Investing in African Mining Indaba, and, of course, the Polyglotters who allow our African presence to flourish in Cape Town – and beyond!

About the Author:

Monica is a self-confessed grammar nerd and passionate advocate of diversity, equality, and cultural heritage. Communication is her trade and words and languages are her best tools, allowing her to bring creative flair to any kind of content that she creates.