Turning the tables: Could Africa lead a resources revival?
With the resources market very much in a malaise, it is timely the year’s first major gathering of influential industry figures should take place against the backdrop of perhaps the world’s most picturesque settings.
Table Mountain, isn’t she a beauty?
Next week, this remarkable piece of nature will be the scene of an important meeting of the minds (or rather the city it was built around). Central to the discussions will be how development of Africa’s vast array of untapped natural resources could spark life back into a sector which hasn’t had the best of starts to the year.
If you are remotely connected to anything mining and exploration on the African continent, Cape Town is undoubtedly the place to be during the first week of February.
Just ignore the fact there’s not a single mine or exploration prospect within spitting distance of South Africa’s “Mother City”.
This year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba will be the 30th edition of the conference with a whopping +8,100 delegates expected to saunter through the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
According to the official conference website, +900 investors, +700 senior mining executives and +450 junior resource companies will be in attendance.
Not included is the number of London-based brokers, lawyers and finance professionals looking to sneak in a bit of networking while sipping on a cocktail and basking in the African sunshine.
The who’s who of the African mining scene will be there, from Barrick Gold boss Mark Bristow to Gold Fields chief Martin Preece and head of Rio Tinto’s minerals division Sinead Kaufman.
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema is the most senior African government official confirmed to be speaking at the conference.
The Indaba program now includes the 121 investor forum – previously a competing side event to the main conference – and is typically a must attend for any ASX-listed miner or explorer with a project on the African continent.
Stockhead caught up with some of the key figures heading to Cape Town to ask what they were expecting from the arguably the most important week of the year for African-focused companies.
Peter Ledwidge has lost count of the number of Mining Indabas he has attended over the years, but the 2024 conference could well prove to be one to remember if his emerging gold exploration company continues to attract the investor interest it has garnered over the past few days.
Mako Gold’s (ASX:MKG) share price surged 55% earlier this week on the back of positive progress at its flagship Napié project in Côte d’Ivoire as well as a timely and favourable plug from respected mining guru Barry Fitzgerald.
Ledwidge is anticipating a “pretty full on” first two days at the 121 investor forum.
“As the name suggests, it’s one-to-one meetings with potential investors and some of our current shareholders as well,” he says.
“Obviously the objective is to give more exposure to the company and hopefully to get people to jump in and buy shares on market, and then get involved in capital raises down the road.”
Ledwidge – who along with his wife Ann is revered for spearheading the multimillion ounce Boungou and Nabanga discoveries in Burkina Faso for Orbis Gold early last decade – looks forward to catching up and making new acquaintances at Mining Indaba each year, primarily due to the fact he doesn’t have to spend long explaining the risk profile of Africa as he might be required to do elsewhere.
“You don’t have to convince anybody there that Africa is a good place to invest, because that’s why they’re at the conference,” he says.
“Sometimes if you go to conferences in Australia, or in Europe, or wherever, you have to spend the first half of your discussion explaining why Africa is a good place to invest. That’s why for us, Indaba is a must do, because people have a genuine interest in investing in African projects.”
Joining Ledwidge and the MKG team in pitching the credentials for West African gold explorers and developers will be Toubani Resources (ASX:TRE).
For TRE chief executive Phil Russo, his discussions with potential investors will be vastly different to those he held during the course of Indaba Week 2023.
The Mali-focused company last week indicated in a DFS progress update that its 2.4Moz Kobada gold project was amendable to free milling with ~95% of the oxide material expected to be recovered.
“We have a real distilled vision for the project now, following that work on the DFS update, and we’re looking forward to communicating that to investors,” Russo says.
“In my mind, we’re the largest single asset oxide project of scale in the sector. Other large oxide projects are run by producing companies so in terms of assets of this size and this simplicity, given the soft rock nature of our Kobada gold project, that’s a key differentiator for us.
“Creating a project that’s relevant and has reduced technical risk and is as economic as what we think it can be is what I’ll be telling people. And I can say that with a lot more confidence now than I could have said 12 months ago.”
For the first time in close to 15 years, uranium will likely be the headline commodity at Mining Indaba.
Not since Paladin Energy (ASX:PLN) was breaking ground in both Namibia and Malawi in the late 2000s has the yellowcake sector received so much love from investors.
Longstanding Elevate Uranium (ASX:EL8) managing director Murray Hill is more than happy to trade precious time on the golf course for a full book of meetings with prospective investors.
“It was only 2-3 years ago where you called investors and they didn’t want to take your call. Now, you’re choosing who you want to talk to because there’s so many people interested in uranium,” he says.
“I don’t have any free time, it’s all fully booked, and I’m staying for an extra couple of days than I normally would have to accommodate additional interest and additional meetings. It’s a great time to be in uranium.”
Having made four uranium discoveries in the last four years, headlined by a 48Mlb U3O8 resource at its flagship Koppies project in Namibia, EL8 will be jostling for the spotlight among a throng of other emerging ASX-listed uranium hopefuls including Senegal-focused Haranga Resources (ASX:HAR).
Newly appointed Aura Energy (ASX:AEE) managing director Andrew Grove, formerly of Chesser Resources, will also use the Indaba platforms to touch base with the company’s investor base and unveil his plans for the development-ready 113Mlb Tiris uranium project in Mauritania.
While uranium might be all the rage, the same can’t be said for battery minerals such as lithium and nickel which have fallen out of favour with investors.
Rare earths have also taken a bit of a hit in recent weeks, but it hasn’t proven a detractor for the likes of Ionic Rare Earths (ASX:IXR) which will continue to spruik its plans to build Uganda’s first commercial mining operation. The company last week ticked off an important milestone with the landmark award of a mining licence for its Makuutu project.
Prospect Resources (ASX:PSC) will also mount strong investment cases for its burgeoning lithium and rare earths portfolio which extends across Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia.
Having only listed on the bourse six months ago, Malawi-focused rare earths hopeful DY6 Metals (ASX:DY6) will be one of the fresher faces on the Indaba agenda and chief executive Lloyd Kaiser plans to use that fact to his and the company’s advantage.
“We’re still building our brand, at the moment that brand probably sits behind me as the face of the company, so I’m looking forward to talking more about the interesting projects we’ve got in the rare earths space,” Kaiser says.
“We’re in a region that is very unexplored and over this next sort of six months I think we’ll probably discover a few things that others haven’t found before. It’s a very exciting phase coming up for DY6 and for the groups that will be having a listen to our presentations.
“The rare earths markets have been quite solid, it hasn’t really suffered all that much, but unfortunately we’ve been caught up in this sort of lithium and nickel slide to an extent. The dysprosium price is actually higher now than what it was at the start of last year and NdPr is still looking pretty solid around US$56/t. That’s what I’ll be pointing out to investors.”
At Stockhead, we tell it like it is. While Mako Gold, Toubani Resources, Elevate Uranium and DY6 Metals are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.