MNN previews Diggers & Dealers 2018

MORE than 2300 delegates are expected for the 27th instalment of the Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie next week.
MNN previews Diggers & Dealers 2018 MNN previews Diggers & Dealers 2018 MNN previews Diggers & Dealers 2018 MNN previews Diggers & Dealers 2018 MNN previews Diggers & Dealers 2018

This year's numbers represent the largest turnout since 2012.

The forum attracted 1750 delegates in 2015, 1900 in 2016 and 2100 last year.

However, this year's conference will also be a sombre affair for organisers, after the sudden death of Diggers director John Langford last month. Langford is likely to be recognised in some way during the event.

Site visits

Understandably, Diggers organisers aren't too keen on companies dragging delegates away from the main conference but the competition to get investors to site is fierce.

Like previous years, there are a number of site visits on the weekend before the conference starts, with Independence Group hosting trips on both days - Nova on Saturday and Tropicana on Sunday.

Northern Star Resources will hold its annual strategy day on the Saturday, followed by a site visit to Jundee on Sunday.

Sandfire Resources and Western Areas will also take investors to site on Sunday.

There are a number of visits during the week, including Evolution Mining's annual trip to Mungari on the Monday. Dacian Gold will take around 30 people to its new Mt Morgans mine on Wednesday, while Blackham Resources will host a similar number at Wiluna the same day.

The stage is set

Goldman Sachs International chairman and former Portuguese Prime Minister José Manuel Barroso is this year's keynote and will speak prior to the packed schedule of company presentations.

Barroso was president of the European Commission for 10 years until 2014 and is expected to deliver insights on the economic implications of Brexit and the restructure of the European Union.

Demand was high as always for presentation slots, with 106 companies vying for the 48 speaking slots.

Of the 48 company presentations, 38% did not present last year.

There are also fewer gold companies presenting - 20 down from 27 - reflecting the improvement in base metal prices and the continued momentum of battery mineral stocks and the resurgence of base metals.

For the first time, mining services companies will present, with leading players Ausdrill and NRW Holdings to take the stage.

All of the usual ASX 200 miners are on the program, and Newcrest Mining will present for the first time since 2010.

South African-based WA gold miners AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields will return once again.

Hot overseas listed stocks SolGold and Novo Resources Corp will make their Diggers debuts, with last year's TSX contingent of Kirkland Lake Gold and Superior Gold left off.

 ase metals are back with speakers making up a combined 13 of presentations Base metals are back, with speakers making up a combined 13% of presentations

Diggers and dealers and...rock stars

At Diggers 2016, the gold price was nearly A$1800 an ounce and Evolution Mining executive chairman Jake Klein described gold miners as the "rock stars" of the mining sector.

Speaking to MNN on Friday, Klein laughed off the rock star tag.

"It's never a permanent thing in the mining industry," he said.

"It is very good times. The gold industry in Australia's had an amazing renaissance and the good thing is we're making lots of money which has to be a good test of how things are going."

Klein noted that global sentiment for gold was generally weak, but noted that a $1650/oz gold price was a great price still.

"I suppose one of the most intriguing things, and it will come out at Diggers, is just how differently the Australian gold producers have performed relative to the international, particularly to the Canadian, peers," he said.

"Sentiment isn't great in the gold space at the moment.

"I think we're kind of living in a nice bubble - it's a very pleasant one and long may it last, but if you go and speak to investors offshore and companies offshore, they're certainly not feeling that this is such a bright time in the gold sector.

"The only people who are smiling are Australian gold producers."

Dacian Gold executive chairman Rohan Williams said he enjoyed Diggers because the company usually did well there.

"Diggers is always the best marketing we've ever done - both Dacian and Avoca," he told MNN.

"It's a fantastic conference and it's a great collection of the industry, so yes I look forward to it.

"It's always hard work and it's busy and it's always worthwhile so I'm hoping it's the same again this year."

Things to do

If the presentations and networking aren't your thing, there's other activities to keep delegates busy both during and outside the conference.

Kalgoorlie is celebrating 125 years since gold was discovered in the town, with the Gold Industry Group launching its Heart of Gold Discovery Trail to coincide with the milestone earlier this year.

Diggers organisers are encouraging delegates to download the app and take the self-guided history tour of the town.

There is also discounted golf on offer and free access to local health and aquatic facilities.

Meanwhile, there are the usual social and networking events around the conference.

One of the more offbeat social events is a $100-a-head Sunday sundowner being held by Nationals WA Senate candidate Nick Fardell and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack at the Kalgoorlie Golf Course.

Various investment banks, including new senior sponsor Canaccord Genuity, will hold cocktail parties throughout the week, while a hot ticket once again this year will be the WASMA/WIMWA sundowner on the Tuesday night.

For early risers, Deloitte and Gold Industry Group will hold a breakfast on Tuesday focusing on innovation.

Around the event itself, delegates can see a drone demonstration from Airobotics or play four holes of mini golf or trial virtual reality technology in the second marquee, a new feature for this year that will also host 11 extra company booths.

The climax

Wednesday's gala dinner has been sold out since late May.

A mammoth task for organisers will see the booths dismantled in a matter of hours to make way for 130 tables of 10.

A charter flight will fly in 70 additional service staff at midday on Wednesday to set up, look after the 1300 guests and pack up.

The staff will do a 14 hour turn-around, flying back to Perth before sunrise on the following morning.

As well as closing Diggers, the gala dinner also sees the best of the previous year recognised.

After a clean sweep by gold companies in the forum awards last year, 2018's winners are harder to predict.

Our tip from last year, retired MMG boss Andrew Michelmore, could still get a call-up this year for the GJ Stokes Memorial Award, but a better bet could be former Fortescue CEO Nev Power.

The Digger award typically goes to a new mine or turnaround story, and a worthy recipient this year could be resurgent rare earth producer Lynas Corporation. Earlier this week, its MD Amanda Lacaze was named as CEO of the Year in the 2018 MNN Awards.

Or perhaps Canada's Kirkland Lake Gold will be recognised for the performance of the Fosterville mine. Its CEO Tony Makuch will be in Australia next week to speak at the Melbourne Mining Club on Friday.

The hot tip for the Dealer award is Kidman Resources, fresh from its win as Deal and/or Merger of the Year in the MNN Awards.

MiningNews.net will be reporting live from Diggers & Dealers next week. Follow us on Twitter @MiningNewsNet and email your Diggers photos to editor@miningnews.net for inclusion in our annual gallery.