And then we were done.
And perhaps not surprisingly albeit far from welcome, the final session of Diggers & Dealers 2021 yesterday afternoon went ahead under the cloud of a WA mining sector FIFO worker testing positive for COVID-19.
And that was just before 1000 diggers, dealers and their friends gathered in the largest marquee in the southern hemisphere for the WesTrac Gala Dinner.
In many ways, it is a minor miracle that this annual conference, at the Goldfields Arts Centre in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, was actually able to go ahead.
Not as much of a miracle that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics happened in 2021, but the past three days served as another great reminder of how fortunate Western Australia has been – and how well-led, not just by the McGowan Government and its health and emergency services leaders but also by a united resources sector that has left no stone unturned to keep COVID-19 out of the State.
Fittingly, it is time to reflect on three days of talking, talking and talking and bring you the gold-medal highlights. So go you good thing as we dissect the most noteworthy events and their winners.
People’s Choice – Gold goes to the 2400 registered delegates. The turnout was among the highest in Diggers & Dealers’ 30-year history. The pandemic may have kept most east coast and international visitors away but the Sandgropers made up for it in sheer numbers and enthusiasm.
Kick-starter – gold goes to BASF for supplying delegates with juice to kick-start the morning routine. How much juice, you may ask: however many litres are produced from squeezing 750kg of carrots, 650kg of apples and 550kg of carrots. The silver medal goes to aggreko, sponsors of the coffee stand. It was always busy, even amid suggestions caffeine consumption peaked on Monday before easing.
Digging Deep – bronze goes to Lynas Rare Earths, which announced ahead of upstream boss Kam Leung’s presentation that it had drilled a 1020m deep hole to tap mineralisation beneath its Mt Weld pit near Laverton. Silver goes to Gold Road Resources, whose boss Duncan Gibbs reminded delegates that the company was hitting serious gold, at a depth of about 1000m, beneath the world-class Gruyere deposit. But gold goes to Terra Drilling, which used Diggers & Dealers to highlight it was offering rig offsiders a $1000 swing bonus. Good onya.
ANZAC – silver goes to Mincor To Musk managing director David Southam for sharing some love with his preceding presenter and countryman, Steve Parsons from Bellevue Gold, with this quip: “Good to have two Kiwis opening the batting this session, to be followed by two underarm, slow-paced Australian bowlers.” Of course the joint gold has to go to those two underarm Aussies, Ken Brinsden (Pilbara Minerals) and Stuart Tonkin (Northern Star Resources). Anything else would be un-Australian.
Connected – gold goes to the team at CorpCloud for keeping us all connected. No mean feat and a reminder of how reliant the world is on being able to be a virtual one.
Develop – green goes to the sole competitor Bill Beament, who used Diggers & Dealers to unveil his plans for the new-look copper hopeful Venturex Resources with a Silicon Valley-esque presentation. It certainly got the delegates talking. For his efforts, Beament could’ve received a gold medal. But as he told media after his presentation: “Gold’s not green – sorry, but it’s not.”
Cheese – bronze goes to the team at Mader Group, who enticed delegates to its booth with mini golf. Joint silver goes to Aeris Resources, whose booth prize of a super-powered remote-operated car attracted huge interest, and The Perth Mint for its gold chocolate bars. But the winner has to be Sandvik for the you-beaut cheese board-with-utensils set. Great idea. Get me some Västerbotten.
Rare earth – the gold has to go to Hastings Technology Group, whose shares gained 10% during Diggers & Dealers on the back of positive news on the Onslow hydromet plant site and a bullish corporate presentation. Hastings’ market cap was $382 million last night – its highest ever. The smart punter knows there’s more upside to come.
Sustainability – it was heralded as one of the key themes at this year’s conference and lived up to expectations. But for an investor conference it was great to see Stuart Tonkin kick off Northern Star’s Business First presentation with not one but three ESG slides before delving into his gold business. An easy gold medal – and a second one at these games for Tonkin.
Bedfellows – gold goes to Ashok Parekh, the Mr Kalgoorlie, chair of Horizon Minerals and owner of the Palace Hotel, for using his Tuesday night party to list the two most influential individuals over the past year – encompassing Diggers & Dealers in October 2020 and this week – as Donald Trump and Mark McGowan. Not sure the former US President would approve. In fairness to Parekh, he hosted the WA Premier and the Labor caucus – so, in effect, the entire WA Parliament – at the Palace for dinner just last week.
Marriage – it has already been noted but is worth repeating. The Eddie Rigg-led Argonaut and Liam Twigger-run PCF Capital marriage, celebrated on the Palace Hotel balcony on Tuesday night, has been well received. Almost as well as the gold-medal winning sobriquet Twiggonaut. Love it.
And finally on to the real gold medals, dished out at the WesTrac Gala Dinner last night and presented by Richard Hayes, CEO of awards sponsor The Perth Mint.
As readers of this fine Investor Insight column will realise, our tips in yesterday’s edition were – almost completely – wrong.
Media – a conference like Diggers & Dealers does not work without a vibrant media contingent. This year was no exception and – in a repeat of 2020 – a hybrid affair with a strong gaggle crowding into the John Langford media room at the Arts Centre complemented by reporters who stayed in their home base/State and watched the live-stream. Gold this year goes to AFR reporter Peter Ker, one of the most experienced resources journalists in the country. He also lived in Coolgardie during his childhood.
Emerging Company – Chalice Mines could have won it in 2020 but was pipped by the slightly more advanced exploration success De Grey Mining. This year Chalice’s success – with the Julimar platinum discovery – was deservedly recognised with gold.
Digger – West African Gold poured first gold in March last year and was a contender for the 2020 title, which went to Ramelius Resources. But a steady ramp-up and seemingly smooth operation at the Sanbrado mine put West African back in medal contention – gold this year.
Dealer – the gold medal goes to IGO, not just for selling out of a gold mine (Tropicana) but buying into Tianqi’s Australian lithium business (Greenbushes mine and Kwinana hydroxide plant). It completes IGO’s transformation under boss Peter Bradford.
GJ Stokes Memorial – named after the Diggers & Dealers founder and awarded to an individual who has made a significant and lasting contribution to the mining industry. The gold in the 30th year of the conference goes to Steve Coughlan, co-founder and executive chairman of underground mining contractor Byrnecut Mining. Coughlan has overseen the growth of Byrnecut into a group with annual turnover of more than $1.5 billion and over 3500 employees in 30+ countries.
We have enjoyed meeting and greeting old and new friends and helping out wherever we could. Now planning can start for Diggers & Dealers 2022.
In the meantime, safe travels.