Mining Indaba Day 2: Why Ethiopia is the right destination for mining

MiningIR meeting with the Ethiopian Mining Delegation(L-R)Dr Shiferaw Teklemariam Menbacho – The Ethiopian Ambassador to South Africa, Vic Korajian – MiningIR, Samuel Urkato – Minister of Mines of Ethiopia

By Elisee Isheloke, writer, MiningIR

Day 2 of Mining Indaba in Cape Town and once again attendees are spoilt for choice of sessions to attend, companies to meet and new ideas to share. After attending a session on Ghana earlier, Ethiopia was as a mining destination was in the spotlight this afternoon.

H.E. Minister of Mines and Petroleum Samuel Urkato came down to the Mining Indaba with his executive team to showcase what the country has to offer as a mining destination. Ethiopia, the Capital of African Union, has got the basics right, the Minister stated, when presenting the legal framework, job creation and economic competitiveness as the priorities for engagement in mining in Ethiopia. A key objective for the country is the figure of 11% economic growth. This is an indication that the economy of Ethiopia has been steady for some time now.

The minister was of the view that: “Enabling infrastructure development is critical for economic growth. 9% economic growth has been achieved over a period of the last ten years in Ethiopia. The secret behind this impressive growth figure was said to be ‘better management of available resources’. They have also reduced the number of cabinet ministers from 28 to 20.

Just as the minister emphasized, mining in Ethiopia is an old story, with the history of mining, specifically gold production, extending back over 3000 years. While the question that Ethiopia is facing as a mining destination on beneficiation policy was not answered except superficially by a panellist, the ministerial delegation’s approach is to focus on marketing Ethiopia, to ensure they can attract and retain investors going forward. To do that, the Minister emphasised the need to encourage transparency in all they do. Part of this means to ensure they make mining information is in the public domain for all to see, something they are already making significant inroads into. “You can come to see me in my office, you don’t need a license for that. Just make an appointment or write to me to see me”, the minister advised.

The ministerial team was clear that what they are trying to do is to make sure Ethiopia isn’t cursed when it comes to mining, as has unfortunately happened to many resource-rich countries.

A panellist pointed out that Ethiopia is celebrating the 58th anniversary of their geological survey and that their calendar is different from the rest of Africa. “If you come to Ethiopia not only will you benefit for the ease of mining business but you will be 8 years younger as well!”.

Ethiopia is rich in nickel, tantalum, copper, zinc and many other minerals. The government has made the whole environment to be as business friendly as possible by encouraging online applications. The country’s strategy is also to invest in education, and to ensure the qualified professionals required by the mining industry are trained in local universities as the country strives to put in place a modernised system.

Reforms are targeting the HR system which is being improved: “We do not want a hit and run approach”, one of the panellists said.

As a country Ethiopia wants to do mining development holistically. The MC commented that he has never seen people who are as serious as the Ethiopians in developing their countries. “How can you develop mines from sand?” A comment that pleased the audience who cheerfully agreed.

Dr Elisee Isheloke, PhD, is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working on the Minerals to Metals Initiative in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is writing for MiningIR in a personal capacity.

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