Right on cue, the sun started shining in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
On Mega Deals Monday – as investors were digesting Santos’ $8 billion bid for Oil Search and Afterpay’s $28 billion takeover by Square Inc – the Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum got underway with a spring in its step and a packed marquee at the Goldfields Arts Centre.
Delegate registrations have jumped to 2400 numbers and the pandemic was relegated – for the time being at least – to the backseat of conversation as the mostly West Australian-based crowd of miners, explorers, investors, media and supporters focused on the challenges and opportunities in their sector.
Former World Bank vice-president Professor Ian Goldin, the first keynote speaker in Diggers & Dealers history to address delegates via video link, set the tone with his criticism of Australia’s and the US’ openly aggressive approach to China relations, warning that a Cold War would not help the world address pressing issues such as the pandemic, climate change and cybersecurity.
But it would keep the gold price buoyant – a message well received, not just by The Perth Mint which yesterday announced it was storing a record $6 billion worth of gold and precious metals for clients in its vaults.
Professor Goldin, who is credited with predicting the likelihood of a global pandemic long before the existence of COVID-19, also said now was the time that civilisation needed to embrace globalisation.
“While many predicted that the pandemic would lead to deglobalisation, in fact what we’re seeing in many dimensions is an acceleration of globalisation,” Professor Goldin said.
“The compression of technological, economic and social shifts that would have taken 10-15 years to emerge, and digital connections and meetings, is one important aspect of this.
“Financial flows have accelerated, and they will expand further. I’m sure you will have seen growth in mergers and acquisitions during this time. This is a global phenomenon.”
Professor Goldin also talked up the prospects of a tenfold increase in nickel and lithium demand over the next decade as part of the climate change revolution.
Not surprisingly, St George Mining’s news that a soil survey at an unexplored area of its high-grade Mt Alexander nickel-copper sulphide project near Leonora had thrown up some juicy new drill targets pleased the market.
St George hopes to start drilling the new Carnac prospect later this month.
Delegates are yet to see the first merger or acquisition announced at Diggers & Dealers though the next deal won’t be far away.
On the sidelines of the conference, Red Hill Iron confirmed its intention to sell a stake in its Pilbara iron ore project to Mineral Resources for up to $400 million while lithium hopeful Liontown Resources struck a $30.25 million deal to terminate a royalty held by Ramelius Resources over its Kathleen Valley lithium project.
So the corporate advisers are clearly doing some good business at the moment.
Day 1 is always a busy one on the podium, with IGO boss Peter Bradford – a contender for Dealer of the Year – highlighting the transformation of the business that included this year’s acquisition of an indirect stake in the Greenbushes lithium mine and Tianqi’s Kwinana lithium hydroxide plant.
For the second year in a row, COVID-19 has kept Lynas Rare Earths boss Amanda Lacaze from attending Diggers & Dealers, with the company’s vice president upstream Kam Leung instead presenting and reminding delegates that it is still making its way through the approvals process for a proposed Kalgoorlie-based rare earths processing plant.
Oh, and Lynas has also dug a hole at its Mt Weld mine near Laverton – a very deep one: 1020m deep into fresh carbonatite beneath the Mt Weld pit.
Closer to the surface, Hastings Technology Metals made it onto the podium for the first time, with chief operating officer Andrew Reid explaining why his company’s Yangibana rare earths resource – with industry high levels of permanent magnet ingredient NdPr – is a world-class act.
The Perth company yesterday also announced that it had struck a deal to locate Yangibana’s hydrometallurgical plant at the Ashburton North Strategic Industrial Area, south of Onslow.
The pieces of the Yangibana puzzle are fast coming together and Hastings is hopeful of securing firm credit commitments, from its assortment of government (including NAIF) and commercial lenders, later this quarter to kick-start project development in earnest.
Bill Beament used his first appearance as the head of long-time copper hopeful Venturex Resources to unveil a new company name – Develop – and strategy to “utilise the power of people to produce clean metals and decarbonise the world”. Not sure if gold fits into his plans.
Battery minerals may have been a dominant theme on Day 1 but nothing beats a good gold development story.
Rox Resources boss Alex Passmore delivered an impressive insight into what the fledging gold miner has in the pipeline.
Rox owns 70 per cent of the Youanmi gold project near Mt Magnet and is planning to restart the historic operation, which previously produced about 670,000oz at 5.4g/t
“Youanmi has significant infrastructure in place including access roads, an airstrip, core shed and workshop, a tailings disposal facility, a mine village and access to process water from local aquifers, so that all greatly helps our restart plans and lowers our capital costs,” Mr Passmore said.
“Over the past 18 months we’ve done about 48,000m of drilling, substantially increased the resource, commenced feasibility studies into restarting Youanmi, and put a well-credentialled management team together to deliver this project.”
Kicking some serious Rox indeed.
What else did we learn?
The Hockeyroos’ loss to India at the Tokyo Olympics was very disappointing; some Kalgoorlie pubs have added tonic to their post-mix set-up (though it lacks the Schweppervescene of the bottle) and former WA Premier turned Australian Ambassador to Japan, Richard Court, made a return to Diggers & Dealers.
Also, some drilling companies are offering offsiders a $1000 bonus per swing – welcome back to boomtime.
BHP Nickel West was introducing its new boss Jessica Farrell – in her first day in the job – to media while her predecessor Eddy Haegel was working the marquee ahead of his presentation this morning.
Last night’s schedule of broker parties included Euroz Hartleys’ shindig – the second since the two firms merged earlier last year – and Bell Potter, which is celebrating several big-ticket mining services IPOs this year.
Tonight it’s the turn of Argonaut and PCF to celebrate their marriage with some of their closest friends in digging and dealing.