Mamphela Ramphele speaks at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on February 6 2013. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Mamphela Ramphele speaks at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town earlier this week. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

THE Mining Indaba is an investor conference at its core but remains an open forum where everyone can participate, says its MD, Jonathan Moore.

Speaking at the end of the four-day conference in Cape Town on Thursday, Mr Moore reacted to criticism from some quarters that there was an overall lack of labour representation at the event.

Earlier in the week, a group calling itself the Alternative Mining Indaba demonstrated in front of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, claiming the conference was not taking into account the needs of communities affected by mining, lacked a focus on sustainability and did not represent workers.

The National Union of Mineworkers was absent from this year’s Mining Indaba although in the past it sent delegations. The union this week held its bargaining council in Midrand, Gauteng.

Mr Moore said various investor conferences were held around the world and typically labour was not included.

"The core (aim) of this conference and others is to link investors with the executives of companies so they can get a better handle on the risks they may face in their investments," he said.

"If they want to hear about labour issues, then the investors would typically ask the company executives or government delegations for their views."

Mr Moore said the Mining Indaba had grown substantially over the past four years. In 2009 3,500 delegates attended and this year there were about 7,800.

He said there was a direct correlation between the number of delegates and the number of mining projects in Africa.

"Investors are used to companies saying what projects they are busy with. But what really gets them excited and what they want to hear is those projects that lie in the future, or what is coming down the pike (road)," he said.

Delegations from Asian countries, especially China and India, had grown although most attendees came from the traditional investor countries of North America and Europe.

About 60 delegates were part of an official Chinese party and more than 50 were part of an official Indian group. "That is actually amazing as three years ago they were not here (at the conference) at all," Mr Moore said.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said earlier this week that the Mining Indaba had generated about R300m in business for the city over the past five years.

Mr Moore said it was difficult to determine the influence of the conference on Cape Town, but for every paying delegate at the conference there was another person outside it working on a deal or negotiating with a counterparty.

"Law firms and banks that have offices nearby the conference centre have had their meeting rooms filled with meetings of two or three people working out deals," he said.

Mr Moore said Indaba delegates had filled 40 hotels to capacity but he expressed concern that there were costs the organisers could not control. Some delegates had complained of hotel accommodation costs rising 60% over the past two years.

Mr Moore said many African governments had approached the Mining Indaba organisers about moving the event to their countries, although it would stay in Cape Town for the foreseeable future.