Tomorrow morning, more than 50 investors, analysts, media and gold industry leaders will take off from Perth Airport destined for the Gruyere gold mine development in the north-eastern Goldfields.
It will mark the start of the annual pilgrimage to Kalgoorlie-Boulder for the Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum, one of the world’s great mining and investor conference and taking place each year in the Goldfields’ capital, Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
This year, about 2300 delegates – miners, explorers, advisers, investors and media – will converge on the Goldfields Arts Centre for three days of networking, deal-making and promoting.
Tomorrow’s early-bird trip to Gruyere is part of the annual Diggers & Dealers ritual – a Sunday mine site visit on the way to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
A $621 million mine development operated by Gold Fields (50%) based on a six-million-ounce discovery made by Gold Road Resources (50%) (ASX: GOR) across the underexplored Yamarna Greenstone Belt, Gruyere should be producing first gold in the June quarter next year.
With average annual output of 270,000oz and an expected mine life of 13 years, Gruyere will be the biggest new gold mine development in Australia since AngloGold Ashanti and Independence Group celebrated a first pour at the Tropicana mine, also in the north-eastern Goldfields, in 2013.
The scale and mine life of Gruyere mean a budget increase announced by the JV partners earlier this week – in part because of the impact of heavy rainfall in February but also owing to some scope changes – has largely been absorbed by investors.
Big new gold mines are hard to come by, as will no doubt be discussed during the three days of company presentations at Diggers & Dealers, starting on Monday.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the former prime minister of Portugal and ex-president of the European Commission, will set the scene in his opening address by drawing on his global insights – including as chairman of Goldman Sachs International – for a sell-out audience wondering about the long-term impacts the Donald Trump-inspired trade wars will have on commodity prices.
Base metal prices are off their highs reached earlier this year while gold has also fallen.
Nonetheless, gold will again provide the mainstay at Diggers & Dealers, with miners expected to highlight their success at improving shareholder returns at the same time as extending mine lives.
The much-awaited consolidation among the gold stocks, however, is yet to occur. Although Diggers & Dealers is always good for a takeover story.
Although neither a gold producer nor a presenter, Diggers & Dealers sponsor The Perth Mint will be shining its own light on proceedings as it continues to develop global markets for Australian gold processed by it here in WA.
Not that gold is exclusive to Australia. Upcoming ASX IPO Black Dragon Gold, which has a millon-ounce resource with upside at its high-grade Salave project in Spain, will be making the rounds of investors.
Also focused on metals riches in Europe, Alta Zinc (ASX: AZI) has largely flown under the radar of zinc hopefuly, belying the potential of its high-grade Gorno zinc project in Italy.
Back to gold, and jostling with the precious metal for headline status are the battery minerals and metals stocks. BHP’s Nickel West boss Eduard Haegel set the tone last year with an inspired address that firmly focused investor attention on nickel’s role in the EV boom – nickel sulphides, in particular.
New nickel sulphide discoveries are hard to come by but the smart money is keeping a close eye on St George Mining (ASX: SGQ) and progress at its Mt Alexander project near Leonora.
Lithium remains the most topical and sought-after exposure to the EV boom, and spodumene miners and lithium concentrate producers will be in full flight at Diggers & Dealers.
Kidman Resources (ASX: KDR), which struck a transformational JV deal with Chilean giant SQM almost a year ago to pave the way for development of the Mt Holland lithium project near Southern Cross, is not among the Diggers & Dealers presenters – but will not be far from investors’ minds.
Diggers & Dealers welcomes contractors to the list of presenters for the first time this year, with NRW Holdings (ASX: NWH) one of two ground-breakers.
One of its well-credentialled peers, BGC Contracting, will hold court again in the marquee and may one day become of interest to investors, depending on how the flagged carve-up of the Buckeridge empire unfolds.
If the crowds in the marquees – yes, there will be a second marquee at Diggers & Dealers – and out in the courtyard prove too much of a challenge to focus, try on these five red-hot stocks for size:
- Northern Minerals (ASX: NTU) – about to begin production of heavy rare earths at its Browns Range project in WA’s Kimberley region, Northern Minerals is on track to become the first significant producer of dysprosium outside of China.
- Core Exploration (ASX: CXO) – targeting development of its Finniss lithium project on the outskirts of Darwin, Core does not have a miner’s traditional infrastructure challenges. Offtake talks are advanced and a feasibility study under way.
- Aeris Resources (ASX: AIS) – the copper turnaround story following a transformational restructure of its balance sheet, Aeris is targeting about 27,000t from the Tritton mine in NSW and has some exciting exploration projects.
- POZ Minerals (ASX: POZ) – Tiffany’s & Co argues that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. And Tiffany’s likes yellow diamonds, like the ones POZ is unearthing at its Blina project in WA’s Kimberley. A low-cost mine development is on the cards.
- NTM Gold (ASX: NTM) – there are few better addresses globally for gold exploration than in the Leonora region, where NTM has already delineated a 500koz resource at its Redcliffe project. Drilling is about to kick off again.
- More great investment opportunities will surface, along with the inevitable hangovers.
And for those occasions, make sure you chase done a bottle of Pitcher & Partners-sponsored water – just the cleansing tonic you need after a good night at Diggers & Dealers 2018.
For all the latest on news, trends and gossip stay tuned to our Investor Insight on our LinkedIn page https://www.linkedin.com/company/33211586/admin/notifications/likes/ and get in touch with the Cannings Purple team at Diggers & Dealers 2018.