Canada, Africa strengthen ties at Franco-Mine 2014



Photo by David W. Dorken

At Franco-Mine 2014, CIM once again facilitated a successful discussion among the top actors of French-speaking Africa's mining industry and its Canadian cohorts, and a historic signing of a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with Cameroon by Canada's Minister of International Trade Ed Fast. At the forefront of discussions were some familiar issues around sustainable development and capacity building, along with renewed emphasis on the importance of maintaining strong relations between Africa and Canada.

The first morning's industry plenary session, facilitated by Daniel Gagnon (co-vice-president of the CIM Africa District), offered valuable insight into some of the ongoing challenges faced on the ground in Francophone Africa's mines.

Oumar Toguyeni, regional vice-president of West African operations for Iamgold and chair of the CIM Dakar Branch, cited commodity price fluctuation as one recent concern. The 28 per cent drop in the price of gold has resulted in correspondingly lower revenues. This has brought Toguyeni and colleagues to consider investing in different sectors.

Benoit La Salle, president and CEO of Windiga Energy, highlighted the need for community engagement in areas surrounding mining developments, referencing his more than 20 years of experience working in Africa. According to La Salle, it is essential to identify talents and skills that can lead to job creation as well as to provide financial support for local initiatives; previous examples of this include a paprika plantation in Niger and a soap factory in Burkina Faso.

“We have to think of ourselves as guests and make sure people like us,” said La Salle. “It's important to never forget this.”

This advice was echoed by Mohamed Cherrat, director of human resources and communications for Groupe Managem, which operates in seven regions across Morocco as well as in Burkina Faso, Congo, Sudan, and Mali. Cherrat attributes his company's ongoing success at least in part to a commitment to community empowerment.

Cherrat also brought forth key themes of environmental stewardship and Canadian partnership. The company has partnered with Canadian CEGEPs as well as local organizations from mine site regions to educate youth in sustainable development practices.

Richard Young, president and CEO of Teranga Gold, also stressed working together to create value for all shareholders. On that note, he cited how a regional development plan between Teranga Gold and Senegal is projected to create sustainable benefits for the surrounding communities and their people for the next 25 years. Young says the plan has been under development for around 18 months, involving more than 100 meetings with representatives from the Government of Canada and local business and government leaders.

In the government plenary session that followed, representatives from both Canada and Africa provided their perspectives.

Diane Jacovella, assistant deputy minister, multilateral and global programs branch at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), spoke of social responsibility as a goal to optimize local development. In Africa, this has meant working alongside the World Bank to ensure business standards are set. It has also meant a dedicated effort to build capacity among youth.

Emmanuel Bonde, Cameroon's minister of mines, industry and technology development, highlighted his government's exploration plans for the near future. Cameroon also aims to consolidate operations for improving the country's regulatory framework and reinforcing its judiciary system to strengthen security, improve access to geological information, and adopt mechanisms for better traceability of products.

Boubou Cissé, minister of mines, industry and tourism for Mali, pointed out that while the country's recent political security crisis has deeply affected the economy, the mining industry has remained strong. He added the latest version of the country's mining code, drafted in 2012, enables foreign companies to comply with agreements that are most favourable in their eyes. Now, the focus has shifted to diversifying mining activities so as to reduce dependence on gold and move toward more sustainable development.

Salif Lamoussa Kaboré, minister of mining, quarries and energy of Burkina Faso, voiced similar concerns as those expressed in the morning's industry plenary, emphasizing a priority to establish conditions that would be favourable to increasingly demanding local populations and local governments alike. Such efforts have proven ideal for sector growth in Burkina Faso, which he remarked, is a country of peace and security.

Line Dubé, board member for the Canadian International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development (CIIEID), summed up Canada's involvement in French Africa succinctly: “While the m ining sector is an engine of development, capacity building within the population is equally important as is sharing revenue from mining initiatives.”

Fast's signing of the FIPA with Cameroon was very much in keeping with the themes of the day, cementing a longstanding industry partnership with a sharpened aim on setting clear rules for dispute settlement.

“Canadian companies recognize that a commitment to corporate social responsibility is also a commitment to their own success,” he said. Fast also announced that the Canadian government has initiated FIPA negotiations with Kenya.

Franco-Mine 2014 closed in the afternoon with a keynote address by Fatimata Dia, director of the Institut de la Francophonie pour le développement durable (IFDD).