Insights From Mining Indaba 2024: Can Disruption Forge a Brighter Future for Tanzanian Mining?

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The saying “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” can also be considered an unavoidable evil. It means that in making difficult choices to gain something, there are pains to incur. Several circumstances that are constructive involve some complex decisions. That may explain the current state of the extractive industry, which has been hotly debated in the just-ended Mining Indaba 2024 in Cape Town, South Africa.

The 2024 Mining Indaba theme was “Embracing the power of positive disruption: A bold new future for African mining,” highlighting the need for Africa’s mining industry to adapt and become a meaningful global competitor. There are so many Indabas ranging from Tourism, tax indaba, design indaba and this mighty mining indaba of concern in this discussion. Indaba is a conference or an important meeting that is typical of South Africa’s English. 

Why Mining Indaba 2024, and Why Did it Matter to the Entire African Continent?

This can be arguably a sensible question since this Indaba has acquired popularity, unlike other conferences. It involved delegates from different countries, both government and private sectors, making it an international and worth spotlighting on this important conference. To shed more light on this crucial event, therefore, the discussion will focus on relating the event to the African mining industry and how it is worth for environmental sustainability.

The meeting was attended by about 8100+ attendees, including 900+ investors and 700+ executives from mining companies, according to the official website of Mining Indaba. By its scope, it is the world’s most prominent African mining investment event, and it took place from 5-8 February 2024 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia were among the high-profile executives who also addressed the meeting on various sector challenges in their countries. Besides, other speakers came from multiple companies such as Anglo American, Rio Tinto Minerals, and Barrick Gold Corporation, amongst others.

The mining industry is among the robust sectors supporting the economy of African countries. Its contribution to the economies of South Africa is about 7.5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 60% of its export value. Likewise, Tanzania contributes about 7% of GDP and 40% of export value; Zambia has about 10% and 70% of export value.

In DR Congo, again, the export of minerals accounts for about 95% and includes some rare and critical minerals that are highly needed to support cutting-edge technology globally. Ideally, the contribution of mining to Africa’s economy cannot be emphasized, leaving alone the enormous employment contribution to households and individuals.

While the sector is considered detrimental to the environment, it has a significant role at the same time in changing the game towards clean and modest technology. Technology and advancement in science rely on robust backups from critical minerals. These vital minerals are the building blocks of essential modern-day technologies.

They are used in making mobile phones, computers, batteries, electric vehicles, and green technologies like solar panels and wind turbines. The list includes graphite, lithium aluminium, antimony, Arsenic, Barite, and Beryllium, to mention a few. These are critical as they are now the game changer in clean energy generation; without these, the global initiative to combat climate change will be in vain if not in pain.

The Indaba 2024 intended to unlock several corporate social responsibility (CSR) milestones and zoom into Artificial Intelligence (AI). There has been some progress in CSR, but it needs to be more vibrant to support the booming mining industry. CSR is the commitment of businesses to act ethically and contribute to the economic, social, and environmental well-being of their stakeholders and society.

What Lessons Does Tanzania Have to Take From the Mining Indaba 2024?

Tanzania can glean several valuable insights and lessons from the Mining Indaba 2024, a premier event in the global mining industry that brought together stakeholders, experts, policymakers, and investors worldwide. Here are some key takeaways Tanzania might focus on:

Adopting cutting-edge technologies for exploration, extraction, and processing can enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize environmental impact. It is time for Tanzania to learn about the latest advancements in mining technology and how they can be applied domestically.

We have to ensure Sustainable Mining Practices. Implementing sustainable and environmentally friendly mining practices is crucial for the industry’s long-term viability. The Indaba is an excellent source of knowledge on sustainable mining standards and practices that balance economic growth with environmental protection.

Effective regulatory frameworks that promote transparency, fairness, and stability attract investment and support industry growth. Insights from the Indaba have shown a way for Tanzania to best practices for regulatory policies that encourage investment while protecting national interests and environmental standards. We must diversify the mining sector and add value to raw materials before export can significantly boost economic benefits. Tanzania can explore ways to encourage the development of local processing industries, enhancing job creation and revenue.

Understanding and managing risks associated with mining, including commodity price fluctuations, operational challenges, and geopolitical tensions, are critical. The Indaba offered insights into effective risk management strategies that Tanzania can adopt to ensure resilience.

Apart from Indaba, as a nation, we can create a Tanzania-specific mining conference and invite other countries that could offer significant benefits, providing a tailored platform for stakeholders within the nation’s mining sector to engage, share knowledge, and foster collaborations.

Read Related: Insights From the Africa Critical Minerals Summit 2023 Held in Cape Town.

On that note, mining Indaba is necessary, especially when AI is at the driving seat of all sectors coupled with automation and blockchain technology. These have become influential in global business and affect entire ecosystems, without exception in the mining sector. They are essential in ensuring transparency and increasing productivity and resilience in the industry. 

The urgent need to shift to net zero by reducing carbon emissions was also under the spotlight in the Indaba. It implies that the mining industry needs to change from the use of fossil fuels to electricity and lithium batteries for trucks, drilling machines, vehicles, and excavators. Although it is an ambitious target, it is worth exploring to drive the industry toward zero carbon. The shift to clean technology should also involve mining per se and the community at large, workers and the general low-carbon economy.

Tanzania’s participation in the Mining Indaba 2024 was for the first time since the inception of Indaba in 1994. This time, Tanzania participated with a joint delegation of government and private sector representatives. The Tanzanian delegation showcased the nation’s vibrant mining sector and unlocked exciting investment prospects.

The theme of the Tanzanian participation was “Advancing mining investment to accelerate prosperity.” It was intended to attract the attention of investors to explore the abundant investment opportunities to benefit its economy. The Tanzanian mining sector offers opportunities for service providers, small and medium-sized miners, financial institutions, young Tanzanians, and businesses. Leveraging government representation and fostering meaningful connections can further enhance these opportunities.

It was a moment of business talks and exchange for different mining industry gurus to ponder the future of the African mining sector. Tanzania’s participation is likely to have attracted investors for prospects available, and therefore, the saying “Mgaagaa na upwa hali wali mkavu” will be realized.

We should expect further intensification and unabated carbon emissions if this is realized. However, as the saying goes, “You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs,” we hope for sustainable mining prospecting since the overarching theme was Embracing the power of positive disruption. With this positive disruption as a necessary evil, Tanzania is tricked into opting for it while hoping for good.

Dr. Emanueli Ndossi, a seasoned EIA and EA Expert, directs J & Enviroconsult (T) Ltd, with over a decade of experience. His expertise covers Project Management, Monitoring, and Evaluation (M&E) for comprehensive environmental assessments. Dr. Ndossi, with impactful roles in WCST, TFCG, and the University of Queensland, has shaped conservation efforts work spans diverse sectors, contributing to sustainable practices in tourism and conservation. Dr. Ndossi holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Göttingen and an M.Sc. in Environmental Management from the University of Queensland. His active engagement in organizations like ISIE, Carbon Lab, Soil Science Society of Germany, WCST, and FCC showcases his significant contributions to the environmental field.

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