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MINING INDABA 2017 MARCH 2017 • E&MJ 51 www.e-mj.com the past about how companies squandered the gold run by overspending on expansion and doing too little to contain costs. Randgold was one of the few to escape the rapid decline in fortunes following the end of the commodity supercycle. "Reckless behavior left the industry in debt. Money spent during the supercycle went down the drain," Bristow said. Only by managing their costs would they escape a repeat of the last boom and bust, he said. Bristow added that underinvestment in exploration to try to save costs would mean a shortage of supply down the line. "We are headed for a supply cliff and by 2025 could see a steep decline of gold onto the market," he added. New Territory Putting in a strong showing at this year's event were the so-called "Islamic Belt" states in western and eastern Africa. During the previous commodity run, it was central and southern Africa that ben- efited the most, but this time countries such as Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Maurita- nia, Ethiopia and others that form part of Islamic Africa are hoping to join in. "We've been finding chunks of gold as big as a fist," Hassane Barke, head of ex- ploration at the Niger ministry of mines, said, while manning a booth at the Inda- ba. "We are getting requests daily from companies seeking a license to explore and mine." Gold, uranium and newly fashionable minerals such as lithium — used in modern batteries — are among those being sought. Niger has long been the source of ura- nium, mostly for the French power utility Areva. Now it is looking to develop not only other mineral resources but to bring in further investment into uranium, its chief export. Indaba attendee Daniel Major, whose company GoviEx Uranium is in the final stages of planning to build a uranium mine in Niger, was enthusiastic. "I can't think of many countries where the minister of mines will simply let me walk into his office to discuss an issue," he said. "Offi- cials in Niger are very easy to work with." Major said conditions have turned fa- vorably for commodity producers, even ura- nium miners. "We've battled on with our uranium project since Fukushima, and it looks as if now we can get the mine built," he added. Hardnosed financiers that kept uranium plays at arm's length are now will- ing to talk money again. By year's end, he expects to begin building his mine. Another country in the Islamic Belt, Mauritania is also enjoying renewed atten- tion from mineral hunters, said Ibrahim Boh Mavine, an official of the country's mining and petroleum ministry. "We've is- sued more than 300 exploration permits, most in the past year, and already have Randgold CEO Mark Bristow warns that mines should not make the same mistakes that led them close to ruin during the last commodity supercycle. Ethiopian Mining Minister Motuma Mekassa (right) attends the conference to represent one of the newer resource countries that took part in Indaba. Africa's mining scene is embracing change as demand for minerals increases, a central theme of this year's Indaba.