Every year, Medellín hosts the Andes region’s most important precious metals mining event: The Colombia Gold Symposium. The name doesn’t do the event justice, as the Colombia Gold Symposium, organized by Paul Harris (above), publisher of Colombia Gold Letter, also covers other metals such as silver and copper, and gives Ecuador equal billing in the symposium content, with additional attention given to Peru and Chile.
For the last several years Finance Colombia has been an eager participant. This year, due to the Pandemic and travel complications, the format has gone online. However, Paul Harris tells us that this has created some additional opportunities for participants. Finance Colombia was able to speak with the organizer to find out what is in store for next month’s event.
Finance Colombia: Paul Harris is the founder of Colombia Gold Letter, and he also is the organizer of the Colombia Gold Symposium, the most important event in the Andes for the gold, copper and silver mining industry. I’ve known Paul for several years, I attend the event every year, it really is a must-attend for those who are either operators involved in mining or investors. It’s interesting because they have technical tracks that go into the geology and that, but then there’s also a lot of good information for those that are on the financial side. This year, of course due to everything that’s happening, Paul and his team has decided to make some changes. Can you tell us Paul about the format for the Colombia Gold Symposium this year in 2020?
Paul Harris: Thanks Loren. Yes, well obviously because of Covid-19 it was impossible to hold a physical event in a hotel as we usually do, so like many others we’ve gone virtual, we’re going to do the event this year via Zoom, and we’ve had to change the format because of that. Typically the event is a two-day physical event, but this year we’re spreading it over three days. The sessions are going to be shorter, because no one’s going to want to be stuck to their computer screens for eight hours a day watching a conference, so we split the conference up over four days from the 10th to the 13th of November, and each day will have a specific theme. The first day will be ESG, the second day will be legal, the third day will be projects focused and the fourth day will be sort of technical focus, each day we’ll have three sessions; a two hour session in the morning, one hour lunch session, and a two hour session in the afternoon, so there’ll be 12 sessions in all.
We’re also changing the format slightly, as well in terms of the content and we thought long and hard about how can we add value to the participants and so we thought, what we can do very well is to lead discussion panels to really dig into the nitty-gritty of each particular theme, and so the majority of the program will feature discussion panels with experts looking at ESG themes, legal themes, technical themes, project themes…being virtual also gives us the possibility to bring in more leading experts from around the world than we would usually be able to do for the physical event because we won’t have to pay for airfares and hotels, so we can bring in people from Toronto, from the United States, from Vancouver, from Australia, to really bring in a lot of expert opinion about the various different subjects that we usually aren’t able to do.
Finance Colombia: Excellent, I think that is true because it’s a logistical challenge; I know that you’ve had speakers in from as far away as Australia, and participants, and that has to be a logistical challenge no matter if you’re bringing them in as a speaker, as a keynote, or if they’re coming in themselves as a participant, not just in the monetary cost, but in the time. I mean you look at Zijin, out of China, just purchased Continental Gold. China is a huge consumer of mining output here in Latin America like copper for example, so that does make a lot of sense. If you can tell us, are you having any speakers or any interesting keynotes that you can announce?
Paul Harris: Thanks Loren, that’s a very good question. One of the panels I’m most interested in is the ESG finance panel. ESG is becoming a more and more important criteria behind investment decisions, whether it’s debt or equity, financial people are asking more and more of mining projects in terms of their ESG performance, and so we’ve put on a panel with some expert opinion from Canada, the US including Cynthia Urda Kassis, an expert attorney from the Sherman Sterling law firm in New York that puts together the term agreements, the loan documents and is very involved in the ESG aspect and Jeff Swinoga, a partner for EY out of Toronto, again another thought leader in the ESG finance space.
We’ve got a panel on looking at CSR and best practices there, and that’s going to include Don Clark from Vancouver also in Victoria, British Columbia, looking and talking about the E3+ exploration principles developed by the PDAC in Canada, we’ve also got Andrea Bradia, who’s the regional director of the GRI Initiative here in Colombia, she’ll be on that panel.
We will have a very interesting panel on small miner formalization. Small miner formalization is something that a lot of formal companies have to get involved with and engage with, it’s something the governments really are very keen to promote, in Colombia, Ecuador and elsewhere. We’re going to have Nicole Smith, assistant professor at the Colorado School of Mines, to give a regional perspective based on her research. She’s an anthropologist and has done a lot of research on the subject of small miners and we’ve got Marcin Pierciak, from the Alliance for Responsible Mining; he works a lot with small miners and he’ll be providing the perspective of what small miners are looking to get from the formalization process. And we’ll also have Jorge Haramio, from the Secretary of Mines of Antioquia, formalizing the small miners is one of the key policy initiatives of the the mining authority here in Antioquia, so it’ll be very interesting to get this opinions.
On the more technical subjects I have great pleasure in announcing that I’ve got two very good speakers, we’ve got Richard Tosdal, who’s a recognized leading world export expert on the porphyry copper gold deposit, he’s going to be doing a one hour keynote session on the Friday lunch time, and we’ll also have Hildebrando Leal Mejia here from the University of British Columbia, doing something similar but focusing on the on the the middle Cauca Au-Cu belt which is one of the principal gold bearing belts here in Colombia. He’ll be talking about the latest academic research on the middle Cauca belt. We’ll also have a special presentation from the Colombia Geological Survey looking at the updates and the the latest knowledge in the geological understanding of Colombia.
Also on Friday, I’m very pleased to have Jennifer Abols from the Goodman School of Mines in Ontario, Canada. She’s going to be giving a presentation about how universities work with mining companies in Canada. In Canada, the US, Australia and other jurisdictions, there can be a very close relationship between mining companies and universities. Universities in addition to training technical people, can provide research, development and a whole host of other services. This is something that hasn’t really been developed here in Colombia. In the mining sector, it has to a certain extent; in the oil and gas sector, but not in the mining sector. So the idea of this presentation and the panel that follows, is to look at how the mining sector can perhaps work closer with the university sector in Colombia and help develop skills and resources and use their resources for research and other things.
Finance Colombia:You’re right I think on two fronts. One I think cooperation between the academic and the commercial is less developed here than than in other places and there really is room to grow there. I think it’s also interesting to see expanded talks on the technical session. You mentioned you have some people from Colorado School of Mines, which is like the the Harvard or Cambridge University of mining.
If they want to attend virtually, how can people sign up or contact you as the organizer? I’m sure that it’s open to sponsors…you always have great participation from really relevant sponsors from some of the major mines as well as the major mine industry suppliers. How can people contact you either for the event or if they can’t attend to sign up for your publication?
Paul Harris: Well, initially through our website https://colombiagoldletter.com/ people can sign up to our mailing list and receive updates , or for the event https://colombiagold.co/ we’ll be posting and emailing out the zoom registration details, each session will have its own registration, so people can sign up for the sessions that they’re interested in, without having to sign up for the whole thing, so we’ll be sending that information and we’ll be posting that on on our website https://colombiagold.co/ people can also write to us at [email protected].
Finance Colombia: You know, the only thing I’m going to miss is the great food of San Fernando Plaza.