October 2013

CIM ramps up activities in West Africa

Dakar branch hosts events, looking to build local expertise in Senegal

By Herb Mathisen

Although it is new to the region, CIM is ramping up its work in West Africa in support of local efforts to build a strong and responsible mining industry, and to create and strengthen partnerships between West African and Canadian mining professionals.

CIM’s first major step toward this goal, its Dakar branch, is now up and running. Oumar Toguyeni, CIM Dakar Branch president, said one of the branch’s most important priorities is to promote and explain mining to key business people, communities and government leaders in Senegal. “In many parts of the world, there is a misconception that mining companies do not care about the environment, contribute very little to the local and country economy, and that [they] make super profits,” he said. Senegal has long been a producer of industrial minerals, with production centring primarily on phosphate. But gold exploration has picked up of late, and Senegal is now home to the Sabodala mine, which Teranga Gold commissioned in 2009. Iamgold’s Boto project is also in development.

In early September, as its first formal event, the branch hosted a delegation of nearly 100 business people from Quebec, headed by the provincial government’s Minister of International Relations and External Trade, Jean-François Lisée. This delegation also travelled to Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast. The Dakar branch held a workshop on the particularities of the local mining industry, with an additional focus on environment and energy.

The trip also helped identify serious local business leaders for future networking ventures. “One of the other opportunities that we have,” said CIM executive director Jean Vavrek, “is support to bring a delegation of leaders – probably five to 10 – from West Africa to the Québec Mines conference in Quebec City, in November,” adding the expenses are partially funded by a federal government sponsorship program. “They’re typically business people that are either involved in the mining industry or want to be and are near-ready,” he explained. “They want to find other businesses that they can learn from and partner with.” Delegates are looking to do joint ventures, transfer intellectual property or become a franchisee, Vavrek said, adding they are also searching for suppliers that provide service levels equal to those enjoyed by Canadians and Australians. CIM will also consider bringing delegations to Canada for the third annual Franco Mines event at PDAC next February and for the CIM 2014 Convention in Vancouver next May.

Additionally, the Dakar branch is seeking to develop local expertise in Senegal. “Our branch has identified that we really need to look at shaping programming, training and processes so that geologists, mining engineers and professionals in West Africa can be recognized as Qualified Persons (QP) under National Instrument 43-101,” said Vavrek. “Not having access to QPs locally is adding a burden of costs and delays process,” he explained. “Right now there is not an easy way for graduates and professionals coming out of West African universities to acquire some of the entry-level credentials [required] to build up with other experience to be recognized as a QP.”

The branch is also organizing a late-November symposium on mining, environment and agriculture. This is an area where CIM can leverage the mining industry’s wealth to assist local business development, Vavrek said. “The mining industry is interested in being a platform, as well as an incubator, for small- and medium-sized businesses, some involved directly in the operation and the supply [of mines],” he said. Land use has traditionally been a source of conflict between some farm land owners and the mining industry, added Vavrek. “So we’re trying to be a lot more intentional about how we develop that relationship.”

The Dakar branch has not been fully incorporated yet, but Vavrek expects that to be completed later this fall. He said the lessons learned during the examination and development of the governance process will help CIM as it looks to grow internationally. “I think what we learn from that is going to help us accelerate [our efforts] in other branches in West Africa and even in formalizing some of the branches in Latin America,” he said. CIM recently established a branch in Lima, Peru and has a branch in Los Andes, Chile.

Toguyeni said the Dakar branch will help CIM in its efforts to grow membership and increase the number of branches in West Africa. Ideally, said Vavrek, this work will culminate in the development of an International Francophone Mining Institute – or an African Francophone Mining Institute – to be unveiled at the upcoming Francophonie summit in Senegal in fall 2014. “We’ve got an objective: we want CIM to grow,” said Vavrek. “We think we can bring leadership. At the end of the day, we think this is going to be good for Canada.”

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