AAMEG INTERVIEW: “Despite COVID-19, all our members’ operations are continuing, and the supply lines are keeping open”

AAMEG INTERVIEW: “Despite COVID-19, all our members’ operations are continuing, and the supply lines are keeping open”

Exclusive interview with William Witham, CEO of AAMEG, the Australia-Africa Minerals & Energy Group, a returning supporting association of the upcoming Africa Mining Forum in November.

Let’s start with some background on AAMEG (Australia-Africa Minerals & Energy Group), its members and its goals.
  • The Australia-Africa Minerals & Energy Group is the peak body representing Australian companies engaged in the development of Africa's resource industry. Our 95 plus members originate from the exploration, mineral and energy development, professional services, government and resources services sectors.
  • Our goals are
    • To provide Advocacy, Insights and Connections for Australian companies operating in Africa
    • To support our members in being successful in Africa 
Any specific projects in the mining sector that you are involved in currently that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
Despite all the challenges that COVID-19 is giving us all at present, we are finding that our members are having continuing success in Africa now. Many are still attracting investors for exploration, buying new projects, and running sustainable community development programmes. It is interesting to note that there is a lot of M&A activity.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic must have had an impact on your members’ activities on the continent?
Interestingly, there has not been a great deal of disruption; all of our members have their operations continuing, and the supply lines are keeping open. The reduction of travel has opened up new opportunities, especially for those already on the ground in Africa. And with more use of the internet, operations continue to run smoothly, and acquisitions, pegging etc. continue.
 
Tell us more about AAMEG’s interests in the East & Central African regions. And in Africa at large?
Australia being English speaking and, in the Commonwealth, has always had close ties to anglophone countries such as Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda etc. Although interest in those countries has been less than say, West Africa, recently, we expect that there will be renewed interest going forward.
 
How important is sustainability, responsible mining and eco-friendly practices on the ground?
The main reason that AAMEG was formed was to directly address these issues. We promote both good practises for new entrants into Africa and promote the good work that is already being done! We have a very active ESG Forum and conduct annual AAMEG Awards, which highlight achievements in the community and workforce development.

How excited are you about the mining opportunities in Rwanda and the region?
AAMEG is very excited about Rwanda’s prospects. The focus on value-adding of mineral products such as gold, tin, and other metals is a good move for the region and provides important service for those primary industries operating in the region. With CHOGM* hopefully being re-scheduled to next year, we expect to see an upsurge in investment into the future.
 
*The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
 
What advice would you give a prospective investor in this sector in the region?
  • Obtaining and maintaining your social licence should be the first consideration of any project
  • Have a good local partner
  • Structure your business in the correct way
  • Seek to understand local culture and traditions before you start
  • Be patient and enjoy the experience!
What is your vision for mining in East Africa?
I foresee a modern integrated industry where there is free trade across borders, where the people share in the wealth, reducing poverty through better access to clean water, education and food for the whole region. This increase in prosperity should reduce the amount of civil conflict and allow the people and environment to flourish.
 
What will be AAMEG’s message at this year’s Africa Mining Forum?
What COVID-19 has made clear, is that there has never been a more critical time to work together to support our employees and local communities. Looking ahead, collaboration between government, civil society and the private sector will play an important role in helping African economies and supply chains rebuild. The mining industry will have a crucial role to play in responsibly producing the metals and minerals needed to aid economic recovery and continue the transition to a low-carbon economy.
 
The Africa Mining Forum in October will bring together companies, commodity associations and national mining associations to exchange resources, knowledge and accelerate learning to assist efforts to protect, support, rebuild, and prepare for the future.
 
What surprises you about this industry?
The high level of resilience and ingenuity to keep us all going and solve problems.