AMBASSADOR INTERVIEW: “We were reluctant to do business in the DRC but we have recently started exploration on a sizeable coltan concession”

AMBASSADOR INTERVIEW: “We were reluctant to do business in the DRC but we have recently started exploration on a sizeable coltan concession”

Olebogeng SentshoExclusive interview with Olebogeng Sentsho, CEO of Simba Mgodi Mining Incubation Fund and event ambassador for the upcoming DRC Mining Week in Lubumbashi.
 
Thank you for this opportunity, please tell us more about your organisation and the work that you do in the mining industry.
The Simba Mgodi Mining Incubation Fund is a development fund that offers financial products to the emerging and junior mining sector. We operate across the spectrum of minerals and throughout the SADC region.
 
What in your view do you regard as the highlights for DRC’s mining sector and community during this past year?
Policy certainty is a huge highlight. The government has gone to great lengths to smooth relations between large mining companies and local artisanal miners. Things are not perfect, but the government has demonstrated its willingness to engage on the issues and chart a way forward for all involved. This means that the junior mining sector in the DRC will be afforded the room and legal framework to grow organically and exponentially.  In addition, the world is looking to the DRC as the capital of battery minerals. This is an encouraging development as it indicates that the industry is no longer reluctant to tackle the Copperbelt.
 
Is there a particular project/success story that you have been involved in that you are particularly proud of? Tell us how it changed lives…
Yes absolutely! We were reluctant to do business in the DRC and were blocked for quite some time. We have recently started exploration on a sizeable coltan concession that will likely yield massive economic benefit for the region. We were able to coordinate and secure the finance and expertise to get the project going in record time across borders. This is a first for SMF and we are immensely proud of the work we continue to do.
 
What in your view are the main challenges in the industry for 2020.
The ESGs as envisaged by the United Nations present a unique challenge for the industry. Never before have we seen the world so determined to address issues of climate change and environmental protectionism. Sustainability and shared value remain elusive in the industry and must become a priority. Financing remains challenging as it requires a wide range of products and services before a project becomes viable for seasoned investors. This is a barrier to entry and must be addressed with a firm economic strategy.
 
And what opportunities in the DRC mining sector are you most excited about currently?
The guys at AFRITIN continue to amaze me with their innovative mining methods and sheer guile. The deposit that they are mining is spectacular but their business model and ingenuity is a thing of beauty. I look forward to seeing them rise and rise! In addition, the current opportunities in cobalt and coltan also present a unique opportunity for industrialisation through the mineral economy. I believe that if the DRC can take politics out of mining, the world will witness the birth of an industrial giant.
 
What is your vision for the sector?
I envisage an African mining sector that is fully capacitated to beneficiate every ton of ore/precious metal that is extracted. The proceeds of those beneficiated products will create hospitals and schools, universities and centres of excellence that will inform the African economic agenda for the next millennium.
 
Looking ahead to 2020, what is on your calendar that you can share with us?
We look forward to setting up shop in DRC!
 
What surprises or delights you most about this sector?
The mining industry attracts some of the most tenacious and resilient entrepreneurs I have ever met. Where some have failed, the best in the business have re-strategised and found ways to make it work. Where there was no infrastructure, companies partnered with governments to create shared value and truly transform the economies of the towns and villages that they found themselves in.
 
What is your message to current and future investors in DRC’s mining sector?
Learn the lingo. The DRC speaks a very different mining language. Those who made it took the time to understand the geopolitical landscape and align themselves with the development goals of the DRC. Congolese people dream big and every project must demonstrate an understanding of their ambitions as people. Shared value and human capital development are key priorities that must be paramount for any investor.
 
DRC Mining Week celebrated 15 years of gathering the mining community in the country last year.  Why would you consider it valuable to attend DRC Mining Week?
DRC Mining Week is a window into Africa’s future. We need to make sure that we accelerate the injection of venture capital into the sector, as the home of some of the world’s largest copper and cobalt reserves.
 
What will be your message at the event this year?
Africa and its governments need to be realistic: the era of the mega mining companies is over. The face of mining is changing to reflect a younger, more agile miner with a shorter life of mine and the ability to create more value. The mining industry will soon belong to the junior miners and in order to stimulate the growth of the Junior mining sector on the continent, we need to be innovative in our policies and resource finance solutions. The democratisation of capital resources is a survival imperative at this junction.
 
Anything you would like to add?
My dream is to industrialise Africa utilising its resource base as a catalyst for broad based economic growth and development. In order to do this, the continent must be investment ready at all times and remain so even when times are tough. The mining sector is cyclical by nature and the next super cycle will be initiated by the exponential growth of the African economy.