Dec '12/Jan '13

In the driver’s seat

CIM leads Canadian mining industry development in West Africa

By Correy Baldwin


Pierre Boivin, partner at McCarthy Tétrault and co-leader of the Africa subcommittee of CIM’s International Advisory Committee, meets Prime Minister Stephen Harper | Courtesy of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)

As a region with many emerging mining jurisdictions, West Africa has much to offer Canada. Canadian businesses are connecting with West African industry partners, while governments on both sides are working to promote a boom in development opportunities. CIM is at the forefront of this exchange.

The Institute has emerged as a leader in the region, facilitating industry partnerships and becoming a vital link between the Canadian and West African industries, and between national and regional governments. In October, the government of Canada sought out CIM’s expertise during a discussion with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several other government representatives in Dakar, Senegal.

The discussion, attended by a select group of seven Canadian business representatives, focused on both the business climate in Senegal and Canadian business interests in the country, as part of Ottawa’s efforts to bolster trade and to develop industry partnerships in West Africa. The prime minister was in Senegal to finalize an investment agreement between the two countries and to discuss business relations as they move ahead.

“Harper is known to enjoy meeting with the private industry and, in this instance, his objective was to speak directly with some of the key players involved in Senegal,” says Pierre Boivin, a partner at McCarthy Tétrault, who represented CIM at the meeting. Boivin is co-leader of the Africa subcommittee of CIM’s International Advisory Committee, along with Daniel Gagnon, general manager, mining group at Met-Chem Canada. “It was also fact-gathering to help him prepare for a meeting with the president of Senegal, where he would have the opportunity to voice the concerns, preoccupations and objectives of Canadian business and industry,” added Boivin. The subcommittee has been planning CIM’s activities in the region since it was formed on May 5, 2012.

The mining sector was a major focus of the discussion, with three other mining sector representatives participating – Teranga Gold, Iamgold and the Oromin Joint Venture Group. Boivin stressed CIM’s role in fostering business development of the Canadian mining industry in Senegal. According to Boivin, CIM can be instrumental in stimulating trade, employment and investment, as well as in developing supply chains and training capacity, and in promoting best practices.

CIM has previously collaborated with the Canadian government in West Africa through trade missions and the development of corporate social responsibility models. This collaboration will continue with future trade deals and investment programs.

CIM puts feet on the ground

In conjunction with the meeting, CIM announced the opening of its first West African branch in Dakar, as well as agreements in principle to open branches in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Conakry, Guinea; and Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire. “The prime minister’s visit has, for us, crystalized the importance of West Africa,” says Jean Vavrek, executive director of CIM.

CIM is also establishing its presence in West Africa through partnerships with West African organizations, most significantly the Centre Africain d’Études Supérieures en Gestion (CESAG), a university-level management school that will act as secretariat of the new branch.

The Dakar branch will allow CIM to organize initiatives and programs on the ground. Programs run through the branch will connect West African businesses with Canadian suppliers of goods ­­and services. They will also build supply chains, develop technical and professional training, bring industry professionals and practictioners together, and share Canadian expertise and best practices.

Initial programs will focus on upgrading training for Senegalese graduate geologists so that they can be recognized as professional geologists under Canadian standards, and on improving technical programming at Senegalese technical schools.

CIM has also announced the funding of two research projects: to develop its understanding of and possibilities for a regional supply chain for gold mining in West Africa, and to examine options to develop a Franco-­American Institute of Mining. “We’re also looking to improve the awareness of investors about the potential in West Africa, because it’s really misunderstood,” says Vavrek.

Event sets gold standard for collaboration

The CIM Gold Symposium, organized with support from the Canadian embassy at Dakar and CESAG, was held on November 3, 2012, in the Senegalese capital. The symposium, themed “Doing Business in the Mining Sector in West Africa,” was the first of its kind in the region. It focused on legal and commercial frameworks that Canadian mining companies and suppliers need in order to operate in West Africa.

A wide range of topics, from corporate social responsibility to resource evaluation, was explored. One panel focused on how to develop employment forecasting models to coordinate both the programs and capacity at educational institutions with the needs of the mining industry. Panelist Maxime Detraux of PricewaterhouseCoopers discussed the similarities between infrastructure needs of West Africa and the Canadian North, and brought up the possibility of addressing the needs in West Africa through a Plan Nord-style approach.

“The idea was to bring them processes that worked for us and to create business links with some of the key industry leaders in Senegal,” points out Vavrek. The symposium, he says, showcased Canadian expertise and generated business opportunities for Canada.

Now, with the event a success, the concept can be taken to other West African countries. “Canadian trade commissioners are really keen to see us bring similar types of symposiums to the regions they are in,” says Vavrek.

“You’ve got to take that first step,” adds Boivin, who was also a speaker at the symposium. “Then the ball gets rolling and you build momentum. Through such forums, business people, government officials, mining companies, industry players and academics can join forces to facilitate business development opportunities in the region, such as the exchange of products and services.”

“We can start by bringing together communities of expertise in West Africa,” says Vavrek. “They have a lot that they could share between themselves, but they don’t yet have as good mechanisms to do that as we do. Our network of branches, along with our concept of technical societies is ideally suited to bridging that gap, and helping them come together.”

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