Australia’s commitment to investing in African mining is evident in the more than $40-billion that Australian minerals and resource companies currently have invested in projects across the continent, according to the Australian High Commission in South Africa.
Further, more than 200 Australian companies are working in mining activities in Africa, while more than 700 companies are involved in exploration, extraction and processing activities.
The commission reports that Australian interest in African resources remains significant, despite challenging global economic conditions, with strong support from the Australian government.
Australia’s High Commissioner to South Africa Graeme Wilson says Australian companies offer advanced technology, high standards of environmental management and advanced occupational health and safety practices to Africa. “Above all, Australian companies are committed to working in partnership with local African communities, which includes upskilling the local workforce.”
2014 Mining Indaba
Australia had substantial presence at the 2014 Investing in African Mining Indaba, which was held in February at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Sixty-three Australian companies exhibited and an Australian government delegation attended the conference, including Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, who delivered a keynote address.
Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) CEO Bruce Gosper also attended the yearly event, with a team of senior officials from Austrade, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the country’s Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.
Australia has also cohosted a two-day pre-conference sustainable mining roundtable, in partnership with the World Bank Group. The first day of the event focused on developing solutions for Africa’s mining-related infrastructure gap, while the second day focused on opportunities to improve the enabling environment for mining investment in Africa, with a focus on investment in minerals geodata.
Further, in partnership with the African Union (AU), Australia also organised an event focused on rolling out the AU’s Africa Mining Vision (AMV), which included panel sessions focused on skills development and local content, helping delegates find practical methods of implementing the AMV.
At the indaba, Australia had two government locations: the large commercial Australia Lounge and an official Ministers’ Lounge.
“The Australia Lounge is an important venue for commercial networking and for Australian officials to inform relevant African counterparts about our sustainable mining initiatives,” says Wilson, adding that the Ministers’ Lounge provided a space for Australian companies to discuss investment projects with local African mining and resources Ministers.
The Australian government has prioritised business in Africa since its Mining for Development initiative was first launched in 2011. The initiative aims to assist governments to leverage their mineral wealth for economic growth and poverty reduction.
Managed well, mining can drive innovation, generate the revenue needed to fund critical social services, such as education and healthcare, and directly and indirectly create the jobs that lift people out of poverty.
“Australia is a resource-rich country with substantial experience in mining and development. We are also a significant recipient and effective manager of foreign investment in mining,” says Wilson, adding that Australia is well placed to share this experience and assist African countries wanting to develop and overcome the challenges of a growing mining sector.
Commitment to Skills Transfer
Meanwhile, Australia was the first donor to commit financial and technical support to the African Minerals Development Centre, a joint initiative of the AU, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
The centre, launched in December 2013, will be a strategic hub for the implementation of the AMV and will coordinate technical support to AU member States to better manage their extractive industries.
Australia is also supporting the development of the African Mineral Skills Initiative, a public–private partnership that focuses on building the capacity of African institutions to deliver quality skills, education and training in the minerals sector.
In addition, Australia provides African countries with education and professional development assistance in mining-related areas. In 2013, Australia hosted about 170 participants from 27 countries and five African organisations on mining study tours to Australia. These study tours enabled African officials to see first-hand the good and the bad of Australia’s experience in managing its mineral wealth.
Meanwhile, the Australian government also offers postgraduate training opportunities through its Australia Awards scholarships. Last year, 128 Australia Awards scholarships were awarded to individuals from 34 African countries for studies related to the mining sector.