African Mining Conference Indaba Kicks Off With a Whimper – by Scott Patterson, John W. Miller and Alexandra Wexler (Wall Street Journal – February 9, 2016)

http://www.wsj.com/

CAPE TOWN—For the world’s mining elite, the party is over.

Executives of the industry gathered Monday at a 316-year-old winery owned by U.K. giant Anglo American PLC for a night of dancing, drinking fine wine and deal making. But the dancing was subdued, and there were few deals to discuss as a colossal slump in commodity prices cast a pall over the shindig.

“It’s a tough time for the industry,” Mark Cutifani, chief executive of Anglo American, told partygoers at Vergelegen, the vast winery the company bought during better days in 1987. If miners don’t develop “new pathways to success…there will be no future.”

Then, a steak dinner was served with the estate’s signature wines, and the dance music started.

Investing in African Mining Indaba, the industry’s most important conference, kicked off this week in Cape Town with the sector in a state of collapse. Once mighty companies such as Anglo American, Glencore PLC and BHP Billiton Ltd. are scrambling to adapt as their profits plunge and their shares hemorrhage value.

Indaba, as the annual conference is known, was once an unmissable week of top speakers such as former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair by day and beachfront parties thrown by Glencore traders in the balmy South African summer air by night.

“You’d get invitations to parties on gold coins,” said Nichole McCulloch, managing partner of the Ashton Partnership, a London-based headhunting firm.

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