Something quite peculiar happened on Day 2 of the Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum – coffee consumption volumes fell sharply compared to Monday’s intake, apparently.
This goes against the general trend – certainly anecdotally – that the need for caffeine goes up on a day-by-day basis, as usually reflected in long queues in front of the coffee machines outside the Goldfields Arts Centre in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
This inconsequential revelation aside, yesterday was a day of high-profile presentations and the theme of battery minerals dominated.
Eddy Haegel, in his final presentation on behalf of BHP Nickel West and still jubilant after signing up Tesla as a nickel customer, said he expected global demand for the nickel-in-batteries to rise more than 500% over the next decade.
On BHP numbers, that amounts to about 23% of the 2030 forecast of 3.7 million tonnes of total primary nickel demand.
Haegel said BHP already sold 85% of its nickel metal to the electric vehicle supply chain.
In further good news, Haegel said BHP’s Kambalda nickel concentrator should be up and running again in the March quarter while the Kwinana nickel sulphate plant had finally started producing.
And then there is, of course, BHP’s $350 million cash offer for Canada’s Noront Resources – not officially part of the Nickel West business and not part of Haegel’s presentation yesterday.
We all watch with bated breath to see if Andrew Forrest’s Wyloo Metals, which holds 37% of Noront and launched an earlier, lower bid, will come back with more cash for this nickel stock.
Rio Tinto’s borates and lithium boss Marnie Finlayson, who has been charged with delivering the Jadar project in Serbia, spent yesterday roaming the Diggers & Dealers marquee and no doubt watched the BHP presentation with interest.
Why is this all good news?
If the majors are kicking goals and promoting their investment in battery minerals, the sparkle rubs off on the emerging players.
Look no further than David Southam’s Mincor Resources, dishing out stubby holders emblazoned with Mincor To Musk. That’s Elon to you, Southy.
Speaking of booth takeaways, Sandvik is dishing out some nifty cheese board-plus-utensils kits. Not bad. Almost as good as Aeris Resources’ 100km-an-hour remote-controlled car, which is a booth raffle prize.
Back to Mincor and construction of the Woodall Decline – named after the late, legendary Roy Woodall – is underway at the Cassini mine and Southam has flagged maiden concentrate production in the first quarter of next year, tied of course to BHP reopening the Kambalda concentrator.
Oh, and Mincor’s largest individual shareholder is Wyloo.
It’s not just nickel that attracted attention yesterday.
Copper is on a tear and Aeris, newly debt free, timed to perfection news yesterday that it would invest $50 million at its Tritton mine developing three new production sources – Budgerygar, Avoca Tank and Murrawombie. Production this financial year has been forecast at 21,000t to 22,000t, rising to 22,500-23,500t in financial 2023.
Aeris has also committed $15 million on exploration at Tritton, including drilling out the high-grade Constellation discovery made in the lead-up to last Christmas.
No wonder the Aeris share price is full of rocket fuel – up from 5.3¢ a year ago to 24¢ last night. That takes some beating and executive chairman Andre Labuschagne, presenting from locked-down in Brisbane, was rightly pleased.
So there was lots to talk about as Diggers & Dealers delegates moved from the Kal Tire Traditional Bash to the myriad functions last night including the WA School of Mines/Women in Mining double-header featuring another performance from Peter Cook’s The Smoking Guns band, Ashok Parekh’s traditional all-in at the Palace Hotel and the belated wedding celebrations of Argonaut and PCF Capital.
Argonaut boss Eddie Rigg has already coined the nuptials with Liam Twigger’s PCF the “Twiggernaut”. The real risk here is that the name may stick.
There was no shortage of talk last night, too, about those other smoking guns – the gala dinner awards to be dished up tonight.
The smart money was shorting the odds of:
- Cooky or Fortescue Metals Group boss Elizabeth Gaines for the GJ Stokes Memorial Award;
- Peter Bradford’s IGO for the Dealer of the Year for selling out of Tropicana and buying into Tianqi’s Australian lithium assets;
- BHP Nickel West or Ken Brinsden’s Pilbara Minerals for Digger of the Year for sterling turnarounds; and
- Chalice Mines for as the Best Emerging Company.
The Media Award will just have to remain a secret until this evening.