Indaba is finally back with attendance at the level seen in 2020

It’s been two years in the waiting and the making, but here we are at last: the Cape Town Mining Indaba and 121 Investor Conference, probably the most anticipated week in the mining calendar. Spread over three days of panel discussions, conference speeches, and important face-to-face meetings, networking opportunities abound, with investors and companies eager to meet once more in person in under the aegis of Cape Town’s spectacular Table Mountain.

There was much to discuss: our online broadsheets have seen constant flurries of headlines as commodity prices reach new records in times of uncertainty, and changes in global energy policy highlight the importance of base and battery metals in the bid to net zero carbon emissions and the fundamental energy transition away from oil and gas.

The pandemic threw life as we knew it into chaos, and upended financial markets on a global scale, and, as is traditional in times of turmoil, gold fulfilled its role as a hedge, and rose to a dizzying height of US$2,063 in August 2020.  The Russia-Ukraine conflict has sent prices skyrocketing – a short squeeze in the nickel market saw nickel surge 250% on the London Metal Exchange. Other commodities have raised eyebrows and prices: inventories of key industrial metals including aluminium, copper and zinc have plunged by as much as 70% over the last year alone, with booming demand on the back of pandemic recovery, depleting stockpiles and future supply constraints have set a fire under the base metal melting pot.

We are more dependent on a greater variety, and larger volumes of mined materials than ever before and every year, and according to a UN report, an individual in a middle-income country uses 17 tonnes of raw materials, twice as much as 20 years ago. From our mobile phones to electric vehicles, each part of daily life serves to highlight the famous credo: “if you can’t grow it, you have to mine it”.

The agenda for the Indaba was jam-packed with heavy hitting speakers, from Presidents representing their southern African nations and commodity interest in the largest gathering of pan-African ministers, to mining legends – names that have made the industry what it is today, representing junior, mid-tier and major mining companies. 121 has been a hyve of activity with 96 companies in attendance and 550 investors and analysts registered, a record surpassing 2020 – a good omen for its new owners who also own the Mining Indaba.

In panels and discussions throughout both the Indaba and 121 investor conferences, collaboration was an overriding thematic – with presidential addresses from Botswana, Zambia and South Africa highlighting cooperation at an regional and commercial scale in the natural resources sector and the development of clean energy technologies. China has continued to dominate the analyst narrative, not least for concerns over western independence, and the overriding global energy concern made apparent in the last few months has led to increasing medium-term renewables and nuclear forecasts from major houses. The prevalence of the energy question and the global transition in the media has also resulted in increased generalist investor interest in the sector which analysts anticipate will drive considerable re-rates for commodity companies. This interest from non-specialist investors has further highlighted the reputational requirements and adherence to commitments across Environmental, Social, and Governance areas.

Tavistock Director, Charles Vivian moderated a main stage panel on the Monday: “ESG investing: emerging from the pandemic into a better world?” which covered the increasingly key themes of investment criteria, and millennial interest in sustainable mining. Speakers on the panel included Abdullah Bin In Mufter Al-Shamrani, CEO of the Saudi Geological Survey, Mpho Makwana, Non-Executive Chair of Nedbank Group, Neil Pereira, Principal Investment Officer at IFC (World Bank), as well as representatives from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Absa Bank, Vedanta and ICMM.

 Later than usual in the year, and with the south easterly breeze, Table Mountain was regularly covered in the “Table Cloth”, but the sun still shone in the southern Hemisphere and the team was kept busy coordinating meetings, chairing panels and facilitating our client’s activities, to say nothing of welcoming acquaintances old and new to our annual Monday night drinks reception!