The Colombian Gold Symposium has gathered the most important decision makers in the Andean precious metals mining sector annually since 2016, bringing together investors, operators, explorers and service providers in the gold, silver and copper mining sector across Colombia and Ecuador. This year, the event returns to an in-person format after last year’s virtual version due to the disruptions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Next week, November 16-17, Colombia Gold Symposium will present a line-up of gold and copper companies providing project updates as well as panels and presentations on country risk aspects in Colombia and Ecuador, including presidential elections, and what they may mean for the sector. Colombia Gold Symposium will host cocktail receptions, a commercial hall with around 20 exhibitors, special one-day geology courses, among other activities.
Within the context of the symposium, Finance Colombia’s Executive Editor Loren Moss had the opportunity to talk to Paul Harris, organizer of The Colombian Gold Symposium and publisher of Colombia Gold Letter, the only publication exclusively focused on gold and copper mining across Colombia and Ecuador.
More information and tickets for the event can be found at ColombiaGold.co
Finance Colombia: Welcome back, Paul. Last year, Colombia Gold Symposium was a virtual event because of the pandemic. Now that we’re finally going back to an in-person format, what new things do you have in store for us this year?
Paul Harris: Thank you, Loren. We’re looking to do a few things differently this year. When we started the planning process at the beginning 2021, we were still uncertain about how the COVID-19 pandemic would play out and particularly how the government’s management of the pandemic would evolve. So we were initially working to get a much bigger hotel and expand the event, but we decided against that this year, instead we tried to be a bit more conservative. However, we did change the location to the Marriott Hotel in Medellín, because it’s recognized as a solid international brand. They take the safety of their international guests very seriously, with strong COVID management methods, but more than that, they’ve got an excellent conference space.
But the main thing, the continual thing this year will be the focus on projects. A lot of mining events focus on equipment but without projects there is nothing, everything else is moot. We’ve always focused on the projects, and we’ve got a very strong program this year around copper and gold in Colombia. Another new thing focuses on how inside the industry we understand that miners and explorers do a lot of good things with their communities. It’s becoming part of the DNA of many companies, but not all of that is broadly recognized. So we were thinking, how could we help showcase some of these efforts?
We came up with what we’re calling the Colombia Gold Symposium Economic Development Awards. What does that mean? Well, many companies work with their host communities to stimulate and develop other economic activity that doesn’t necessarily depend on mining. The idea behind that is to provide the community with economic alternatives for when the mine has eventually run its course and been depleted. We developed these awards with an international panel of judges to recognize these efforts. Five or six companies have submitted some of their projects to the panel for evaluation, and we’ll be including an award ceremony in the program, as well as giving the finalists five minutes to talk about their economic development projects.
“This will help us to hopefully open people’s eyes about the good work mining companies do. We want people to look beyond mining and see how many companies go the extra mile for their communities to try and help them along the development curve.”
For me, this is really, really exciting. This will help us to hopefully open people’s eyes about the good work mining companies do. We want people to look beyond mining and see how many companies go the extra mile for their communities to try and help them along the development curve.
Finance Colombia: I think you’re right. You and I have both seen cases where companies have done it the right way, there are other examples of companies doing it the wrong way. Colombia Gold Symposium will have speakers discussing this and many other issues. You always have good speakers, whether it’s political risk experts like Sergio Guzmán and environmental specialists like Brigitte Baptiste or big players in the industry like Ari Sussman. I’ve met some people that have come in as far away as Australia to attend your events, tell me about some of the speakers this year.
Paul Harris: We have delegates coming in from Peru, Chile, Brazil, as well as Canada. The travel situation with Australia is still very difficult, so unfortunately, we don’t really have Australians per se this time. But we do have representatives from Australian companies. We’re continuing another one of our traditions, which is a panel about the regulatory environment and other things around that. We have our regular Colombia law panel or mining regulation panel, as well as an Ecuador mining regulation panel. But we’re doing it slightly different this year, in the past these panels have been quite theoretical. This time, we’ll go through a more practical empirical approach. We’ll have people discussing regulatory issues who have the actual experience of dealing with them. We have a very complete program with a strong value proposition. We want to transfer that value to our speakers, our sponsors, and of course the delegates that join us.
Finance Colombia: I love attending your events. I know your events are always in November, but it seems like some other organizers are throwing everything in November as well this year. That’s disrupting the traditional event schedule. There’s ANDICOM, the big IT industry event in Cartagena, which is normally in June. There is usually no conflict between IT and the mining industry when it comes to these events. This year is different, there’s also the very important ACP Congress, which is the Colombian Petroleum Industry Association, having an in-person event in Bogotá. I also just got back from a major event up in Orlando. It seems like everybody has just now turned on the spigot and that’s good news, but for journalists like me it is complicated to be everywhere. For those who want to attend, how can they find more information?
Paul Harris: Of course, I think you’re right. Now that events can happen again, people have been keen to put them on. For us though, it’s a little bit different because as you mentioned, we’ve always put this together in November. Back in January, February, we started having people asking us, are you going to be putting on an event this year and will it be an in-person event? So obviously we’ve been able to answer yes to all of that. The event has become a calendar feature, and the response has been amazing, and people really do want to meet in person again.
That’s been the overwhelming takeaway. We’re very happy and proud to be, one of the choices for people in order to meet again like that. In our website Colombiagold.co, we included details about the program, including the speakers, geology courses and the economic development awards that I just mentioned. We have a section there showing the entries of the community programs of the finalists.
Finance Colombia: I know it’s going to be a great event. I’m not a mining expert, I’m not a gold expert, but every time I go, I come away feeling like I learned a bunch. This is a really important event; I’ve come across foreign ambassadors and people from the Colombian government there before. This is definitely an event that people need. They can even easily travel to Colombia, a country for which you don’t even need a COVID test to secure entry. I’m just thrilled to see that it continues to progress and grow. You and I will stay in touch, and I am already reserving my calendar for next year.
Paul Harris: That’s great news Loren, and just to go back to some of your comments. The Australian embassy has a delegation coming, the Canadian embassy is bringing in a trade mission from Ontario. We have the president of Colombia’s National Mining Association giving a keynote speech, and Colombia’s Deputy Mining Minister Sandra Sandoval giving a keynote on the second day, so yes, very high level. It’s going to be very interesting.
Finance Colombia: Great. I look forward to hearing about it and to report on the proceedings.
Paul Harris: Excellent. Thank you very much, Loren.
Photos: Loren Moss