Is the Mining Indaba, being held early next month in Cape Town, beginning to become a victim of its own success?
I suppose the success of a major mining conference can be assessed in part by its potential to spawn other events around it on the sidelines (or ahead and immediately after) and the big Cape Town Investing in African Mining Indaba, being held in three weeks time now, is a great example of this. Over the around 20 years it has been existence, the Mining Indaba (www.miningindaba.com ) has grown from a small to mid-sized investment conference and exhibition to a mega event which now claims to be the world’s largest mining investment conference, although that obviously depends on exactly how you define ‘investment conference’. Arguably Canada’s PDAC, which is far bigger in terms of attendance numbers, should carry that title, but it is both narrower (in terms of its concentration on mineral exploration) and broader in that it has been built out of an equipment/services trade show.
Nowadays the Mining Indaba attracts around 7,000 people to the annual Cape Town conference and accompanying trade show, and boasts a slate of highly regarded speakers – this year for example there will be a special keynote address from former U.K. Prime Minister, Tony Blair who may well know more about global mining issues than many realise given his involvement as an adviser to the Guinean government. The conference programme itself is very much aimed at those companies looking at investing in mining and metals in Africa and indeed globally.
However one suspects Tony Blair’s involvement comes at a very high cost to the organisers suggesting that new Indaba owners, London-based Euromoney, are trying to pull out all the stops to counter some of the recent criticisms of the way the overall event has been progressing over the years. Nowadays it seems to make a significant proportion of its revenue from the accompanying trade show which has very much been taken over by suppliers, many of whom have the money for big, very visual displays thus relegating mining company corporate exhibitors and African national government displays, who do not have the kinds of budgets of the big trade exhibitors and for whom the original trade show concept was developed, to an increasingly insignificant section of the exhibition. These base exhibitors feel they are being completely overshadowed on the exhibition floor and indeed are now also unhappy about being subjected to sales pressures from delegates associated with the supplier section of the trade show. It will be interesting to see how Euromoney handles the dilemma this poses – that of original concept against revenue.
But for several years now, the Mining Indaba has been big enough, and successful enough, to have spawned parallel events, mostly set up by brokers and financial institutions aimed at their own clients, but these don’t tend to impact on the main conference attendance – indeed may help add to it as long as the dates don’t clash. There has also been, for the past five years or so, an ‘Alternative Mining Indaba’ in Cape Town which is mainly for NGOs, Environmentalists and their supporters but this is no threat as the relatively small number of attendees are not those who might be tempted to go to the main event anyway.
What has been a minor problem for the organisers is the seemingly ever increasing number of investors and institutional personnel from Europe and North America who descend on Cape Town to take advantage of all the networking opportunities on the periphery of the event without paying the high delegate fees ($1,900 for on site registration). They also come to gain respite from the northern hemisphere winter weather of course. Cape Town in February is usually a very pleasant place to be climate-wise.
But what has the potential to become more of a competitor to the Mining Indaba itself is a far smaller parallel commercial mining investment conference being launched this year by the 121 Group (www.weare121.com ) – a new event organisation, managed out of Hong Kong and London and set up by former Beacon Events/Mines & Money key personnel previously responsible for running the big, very successful, Mines & Money London and Hong Kong mining investment conferences. With all their strong mining and mining financial sector connections they have come up with a two-day programme in a separate central Cape Town venue. They have tied down a good number of major sponsors for their event, which clashes with the first two days of the Mining Indaba – Feb 9th and 10th – and developed a very strong speaker programme – pulling in, in several cases, some of the top speakers from the main Indaba event also – but not Tony Blair – one suspects he would be well beyond their budget!
121 says it is thus resurrecting a February Cape Town conference very much in line with the original Indaba concept for bringing mining companies into direct contact with investors and financial institutions without there being the distractions of the big supplier dominated trade show and supplier related delegates. In their publicity 121 says what they have titled 121 Mining Investment Cape Town will be “an interactive two-day conference featuring investment strategies, market analysis and capital raising ideas, and a programme of 1-2-1 meetings matching investors with quality mining projects.” Delegates, as at some of the other high quality mining investment conferences like the Denver and European Gold Forums, are being restricted to those meeting specific criteria deemed to be of interest to the participating mining companies.
In a note to Mineweb one of 121’s executives, Pablo Martin, said he reckons this brand new event will attract up to 100 highly focused delegates and 20 mining company speakers – maybe small in relation to the Indaba registration, but the idea is only to allow attendance from those directly interested and facilitate one-on-one meetings. Martin comments that the format is more akin to that of the Denver Gold Group or the BMO events but it’s independent and cross commodity and allows for private companies too. It is perhaps a small start but one which looks to have great potential for rapid growth although it seems unlikely to supplant the Mining Indaba event itself.
Meanwhile 121 Group already has two more similar mining investment events lined up. The first of these will be in London from 20th to 21st April at a city centre location, and the second a return to Hong Kong – October 14th-15th – the location for the group’s inaugural event last year at around the same time and which has generated a whole host of favourable comment from participants.