The 21st Investing in Africa Mining Indaba, and its estranged sibling
Written by :Tunicia Phillips
7000 delegates covering six continents attended this year’s investor indaba at Cape Town’s International Convention Centre (ICC), rendering the event to the world’s number one mining conference.
Channelling billions of dollars in investment through Africa since its inception, it’s no secret that the deal breaking affair is a haven for growth in the troubled minerals sector. Plummeting commodity prices amid fragile labour relations was no deterrent for the moguls who sought to maintain and attract investor confidence on a continent fraught with socio economic and political trials. These factors have however; never stopped foreign companies from clenching onto the mineral rich ground beneath its inhabitant’s feet.
After all the industry jargon and factual rhetoric so foreign to the rest of life this week, I figure it’s only fitting that this piece paints a sensational tail absent of the business as usual.
The conference reminded me of an estranged sibling who, while growing up in the same community, live vastly different lives cursed by contrasting values. Its estranged sister, the infamous black sheep of the family calls itself the Alternative Mining Indaba. The alternative, to capital focused progression at the expense of the quality of life of the home her older brother so often fails to consider. The sometimes orphaned younger sister has a vested interest in mending the broken ties of her family, this while big brother sometimes walks blindly in the direction of his purpose.
Big brother has an undeniably significant role to play in the family; they will not survive without the purpose of his existence. According to his sister, the day has long come for that purpose to reunite with the neglected aspects of their interconnected lives.
The Alternative Mining Indaba #AMI was held in Woodstock at the Double Tree Hotel, a fittingly smaller venue which matched the weight of the most important issues of the day. Her entourage spanned across Mother Nature’s spectrum, from environmental advocacy, displaced land, water quality, violations of regulations and the absence thereof. Marching towards big brother’s location day after day hardly moved his army of enthused forward thinkers, high on the potential breakthroughs of their deliberations.
“Brother,” they said, “Our families suffer at their new homes.
“The water is poor, the air sings toxic melodies and the labour is dying.
“When will you remember us, the people who connect you to the soil, to the land and to the power?
It’s easy to romanticise the paradoxes plaguing the mining industry and the communities in which it operates. Maybe the hard objective narrative simply sounds like an old song.
How ironic that the last day of these separate reunions saw less than half of the amped and energetic big brother clan present at the weak attempt to remember his sister, and her cry for unity and shared values.
Not only was the main stage at the ICC closed on day five of big brother’s investor conference, but the usual buzz was dimmed by emptiness. Day five had been dedicated to sustainable development and mining communities, to everything that was right up little sister’s ally.
She, and her clan could not witness the glory of the final recognition on the last day, her brother’s gatherings are always above her endowment.
It’s a tail of ironies and masquerades, one of contradicting actions and shameless gestures of absence. I hope she comes back next year, she must not give up her pursuit to mend the fundamental fibres of survival, even when big brother has long forgotten.