File picture: Carl De Souza

JOHANNESBURG  - Mining ministers from Africa will meet in Perth next week for a three day international forum to attract more  Australian investment over the near-term, including by companies already operating on the continent, organiser Paydirt said on Wednesday.

The Africa Downunder (ADU) conference is the world’s largest business forum on Africa held outside of that continent’s border and focuses on its untapped mineral wealth, a continued magnet for international investors.

Issues at the heart of this year’s agenda will include increasing security concerns, widening the economic role beyond mining that Australian miners can play in Africa’s development, and breaking down barriers to ensure more African women participate in the continent’s mining future.

"Heightened concerns in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, as well as ongoing threats in Nigeria, Kenya and Sudan, have brought the security issue to the forefront of investors’ risk assessments," Paydirt executive chairman Bill Repard said.

Repard said the next six months would see at least three Australian-owned gold operations in Africa hit steady-state production with a host of others further up the development pipeline.

"After a string of failures in the Australian gold space, project execution has become paramount in Africa for Australian players there, underpinned by enhanced contingency planning to better manage Africa’s geopolitical, logistics and community variables," he said.

The conference's program would be mindful that despite a slow start, the Australian mining sector was finally embracing gender diversity but the African resources sector still lacked equality, he added.

Australian miners were being seen as leaders in being able to bring more women into the domestic African mining workforce and breaking through into senior management roles or overcoming such inhibitors in countries such as Mali where, until recently, it was illegal for women to work in underground mines.

Repard said the 2019 forum, set for September 4-6, would see mining equipment, technology and services industry growth leaders present for the first time, with Africa likely to prove a major beneficiary of Australia’s proven expertise.

"Such economic engagement is also the pivot point for scheduled ambassadorial meetings over two of the three day ADU program with wider initiatives covering infrastructure, education and agriculture, to be canvassed," he said.

"While Australia is well-established in African resources projects, its agricultural investment is less advanced. This year’s event will provide an opportunity for engagement and conversation about how the two continents – which have so much in common climactically – can support each other and what role mining companies can play in agricultural development in Africa."

The forum has attracted around 1,500 delegates, at least 14 African mining ministers and delegates from South East Asia, Europe and the United States.

- African News Agency (ANA)