Fun Memories from Botswana to Venezuela

Receiving reminders that I have been favoring LinkedIn updates at the cost of neglecting my Prizma blog, its time to (re)post some of the updates and catch up. Lets start with this 2017 review and move on from there.

Providing ESG/IESC-type advisory services in an international setting, I sometimes pinch myself to make sure the projects, impacts, and learning I am involved in are real. Allow me to share with you some fun things which "happened along the way" and added to my job satisfaction.

Visiting Belo Horizonte in Brazil

2016 ended with an interesting trip to Brazil. I joined my colleague, Karen Nash, and visited Crusader Resources in Belo Horizonte. We conducted a workshop focused on the IFC Performance Standards and Equator Principles with local consultants and company management, visited a small iron ore mine, and discussed other mining projects in Crusader’s portfolio. Just being immersed in this great city, which boasts a population of over 5 million in its metro area, and interacting with such competent professionals was an experience I cherished during my first visit to Brazil. It was also the perfect ending for 2016 and cued up 2017 nicely.

In early 2017, I joined an environmental and social specialist from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for a monitoring visit to the Laudato Si 215 MW wind farm in Panama (see lead image on very top). This wind park is the largest of its kind in the Central American and Caribbean region. It received $300 million a co-financing package from the IFC, features 86 Goldwind G109 2.5 MW wind turbine generators with a hub height of 90 meters, and contributes over five percent of Panama’s annual energy needs. The clip below is truly awe inspiring and shows shipping and erection of the turbines and blades in Panama. Wow!

However, as impressive as the wind farm and the team members who operate it are, a personal favorite of my trips to Panama includes a stop for a drink and/or meal at the restaurant overlooking the Miraflores locks and watching ships navigate the Panama Canal as seen below.

But its not just projects which provide opportunities to travel to interesting places, learn about different cultures, or be inspired by impressive people. Every year, I also attend a few conferences to benefit from the networking and learning opportunities they provide.

An example includes my attendance at PDAC (Prospectors and Developer Association of Canada) in Toronto. This event attracted over 24,000 attendees involved in the exploration and mining industry. One day, I found myself close to two “Mounties” and they kindly posed with me for this picture (and, no, I was not being arrested). At this event, I managed to meet with numerous clients, as well as former colleagues. My memory of Toronto: what a welcoming and friendly city at a time when the US President Trump was issuing one mean travel ban after the next.

Later that year, I also attended the annual conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) in Montreal. Here, I had a chance to learn from my peers, beef up on my knowledge about impact assessment, and further my understanding of Human Rights and many other topics. During the conference, I also helped celebrate award winning former EBRD colleagues pictured below. 

Congrats once more to Dr. Bill Kennedy (shown on right), now Director, Office of Accountability, at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC, US Government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets), and recipient of IAIA’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award; and Mark King (shown on left), now Chief Officer, Environmental & Social Standards at the World Bank, collecting IAIA’s 2017 Global Award on behalf of the World Bank for its new Environmental and Social Framework, which expands protections for people and the environment in Bank-financed investment projects. What a privilege to have worked with and learned so much from both of you (and sorry that I missed you at the EBRD, Peter)!

For me, one of the more complicated stories for 2017 involves another visit to Venezuela. I joined the C-team and other colleagues for a site visit to the Siembra Minera Gold/Copper/Silver Project (combined former Brisas and Las Cristinas projects). Here, I was able to observe the scale and adverse impacts of artisanal and small scale mining in the region, which is also a major malaria hotspot, and contemplate the transformative change a project of the scale of Siembra Minera could bring to the region and, more broadly, a country in an unprecedented economic decline. The picture below shows some of the challenges associated with artisanal mining: children involved in gold panning and extraction using the hazardous mercury amalgamation process.

The final story I would like to share with you today is about my last business trip in December 2017. I joined my colleague, Peter Easton, for a visit to Botswana. We continue to assist Lucara Diamond with its annual sustainability reporting efforts. Lucara is famed for uncovering exceptionally large and gem quality diamonds, including the largest stone during the last 100 years: the 1,109 carat stone named Lesedi La Rona.