Franco-Mine celebrates four years and a growing sense of community

2015-03-12

Franco-Mine 2015 cloture

The sights of friendly handshakes and the sounds of enthusiastic greetings even before the official program started signalled that Franco-Mine 2015 had much to celebrate on its four-year anniversary. The annual symposium has become central not only to information sharing among French-speaking African nations and their Canadian counterparts, but it is an important place to reconnect and build relationships with global peers in the mining industry.

The morning began with a screening of a short film that provided a historical overview of the mining industry in both Africa and Quebec. CIM executive director Jean Vavrek reminded attendees that the mining industry in the Canadian province has only developed over the past hundred years, and that such growth was a clear indicator of the possibilities for success in Africa.

The first plenary session, which was moderated by Valérie Chort, the national leader for sustainability and climate change at Deloitte, highlighted the importance of water to both the industry and the regions in which it operates. Common concerns included the challenge of the naturally dry climate in many areas, the needs to focus on hard numbers (for instance around water recycling targets), and to include the community in sustainability initiatives.

Ministers and other national representatives provided the legislative perspective. For example, Boubou Cissé, industry and mine minister from Mali, said the importance of sustainable development had been initially underestimated in favour of a productivity-oriented point of view, something that is now being addressed through the creation of a fiscal and legislative framework to suit local and national development.

Representatives from mining companies Semafo, Iamgold and Managem shared some of their successes in developing water initiatives. Tidiane Barry, director of corporate affairs for Iamgold, described “Water and Sustainable Economic Growth in the Sahel,” a joint project announced in late February 2015, with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and Cowater. Under the plan, they will build a water treatment plant as well as portable toilets to serve the 100,000 people in the arid Sahel Region of Burkina Faso. In describing the positive impact of the foundation that his organization set up in 2009 to work with local communities on development, Elie Justin Ouedraogo, chairman of the board and national director of Semafo, noted, “Sustainable development is a corollary that brings more acceptance for mines in local areas, so sustainability should be a permanent thread in our development.”

The afternoon plenary focused on exploration and stock market access, with panelists that included mine ministers from Burkina Faso, Seneg al, and Niger, as well as representatives from Sama Resources, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), and Export and Development Canada (EDC). The ministers addressed various issues such as the sector’s investment landscape in their respective countries, the value of supporting local investing/entrepreneurship, and Canada's importance to continued investment in African mining. Martine Valcin from the TSX and Stephen Willhelm from EDC discussed the structure of each of these organizations and how each helps the mining sectors with such elements as providing access to capital.

The symposium ended with a keynote speech by Jean Charest, partner at McCarthy Tétreault and former premier of Quebec, in which he called the relationship between Canada and Africa “spontaneous, easygoing and sincere” and noted that in spite of the difference in population size, Canada shares the challenges that Africa faces in terms of economic, social and resource control.

Summing up Franco-Mine 2015, Oumar Toguyeni, regional vice-president for West Africa at Iamgold, called it “an excellent session with good topics relevant to mining.” Vavrek said the day was further evidence that the Franco-Mine series continues to flourish: “We are bringing leaders of the industry, both public and private, together, and the exchange of practice is very solid. All these issues are converging and we're having the right kinds of conversations.”

– Suzanne Bowness