African mining ministers want more than Australian investment
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Next week Perth plays host to the Africa Down Under conference. Among the 1,500 anticipated attendees will be the mining ministers of several African nations including Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Liberia and Sudan.
The conference, beginning on Wednesday morning, is the world’s largest business forum on Africa held outside the continent’s borders.
But this won’t just be a talkfest about how they want money from investors down under.
Security concerns have reached a tipping point in several nations, including those previously seen as relatively safe and secure.
This is impacting ASX-listed explorers and miners in the region.
Companies like gold explorer Predictive Discovery (ASX:PDI)and ruby miner Mustang Resources, which is now New Energy Minerals (ASX:NXE), have previously been the target of kidnapping and theft.
Instability has seen other explorers have move out of the continent altogether.
This year, for the first time, there will be a security panel discussion involving Mali’s mines minister Lelenta Hawa Baba Ba and Resolute Mining’s John Welborn.
Resolute is building the world’s first fully autonomous underground mine in Mali which is considered one of Africa’s most dangerous countries for miners.
One prominent attendee will be Kofi Annan’s son Kojo, who will speak on how African economies ‘can activate the latent capacity in the African diaspora’.
UN estimates put the population of displaced persons at over 70 million.
Business leaders such as Hamdi Ulukaya have argued that employment is the solution towards resolving the crisis.
“For a refugee, it [a job] is day and night,” he said.
“That’s the point at which they find their life can continue.”
The conference falls right in the middle of African-Australia week. A community awards dinner and a competitive football tournament among community groups and conference sponsors will also be held.
Another special session will be on women in mining. Joining the discussion will be defence minister Senator Linda Reynolds and Ghana deputy mines minister Naana Eyiah.
“Australian miners are being seen as leaders in being able to bring more women into the domestic African mining workforce and breaking through into senior management roles,” Paydirt chairman Bill Repard said.
In countries such as Mali it was illegal for women to work in underground mines but this has recently changed.
Repard also said the mining conference would also be a chance to discuss Australian money supporting agricultural projects.
“This year’s event will provide an opportunity for engagement and conversation about how the two continents – which have so much in common climactically – can support each other and what role mining companies can play in agricultural development in Africa.”