Virus fails to dull Diggers

NOT even a global pandemic could stop Diggers & Dealers 2020.

 Temperatures of all Diggers & Dealers delegates were taken on the way in

Temperatures of all Diggers & Dealers delegates were taken on the way in

The 29th instalment of the famous Kalgoorlie event looked shaky even as recently as eight weeks ago, but went off without a hitch.

Due to COVID-19, this year's event was held two months later and lacked interstate and international attendees, but it really wasn't that different to previous years.

The noticeable differences included the heat - it got to a sweltering 37 degrees on the Wednesday - and a few measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Hand sanitiser was included with the delegate bags and sanitiser stations were located around the venue.

The venue - comprising the Goldfields Art Centre and two marquees - had separate entry and exit points to control the movement of people.

A thermal body scanner took everyone's temperatures on the way in.

Diggers chairman Jim Walker said over 11,500 temperatures were taken.

"We had a couple of false negatives and believe it or not, it was our policemen and policewomen, but we figured out it was because they were wearing hats," he said.

A total of 1950 delegates attended, of which 19% were women.

Walker paid tribute to an emotional Graham ‘Tomo' Thompson, who stepped down as Diggers logistics manager after 29 years, describing him as an "authentic Goldfields gentleman".

Diggers founder Geoff Stokes was inducted into the Kalgoorlie Walk of Fame, with a plaque unveiled outside the Palace Hotel, which he once owned.


The week really belonged to Northern Star Resources and Saracen Mineral Holdings, which announced a merger in the days leading up to the event, or as Westgold Resources chairman Peter Cook called it, the "royal wedding".

From their joint Diggers presentation, to accepting the 2020 Dealer Award, Saracen's Raleigh Finlayson and Northern Star's Bill Beament were everywhere.

As well as jointly opening the company presentations on Monday morning, the deal also set the tone for the event and created talking points around who, if anyone, might be next to consolidate.

At the smaller end, there was plenty of excitement around new discoveries, particularly De Grey Mining's Hemi and Chalice Gold Mines' Julimar.

"It's the sort of the shot in the arm the whole sector has needed," IGO boss Peter Bradford said on the sidelines of the conference.

"We were going through a period there where the explorers were finding it really, really difficult to attract funding and some of the successes that have been delivered, whether it be Havieron, or whether it's been Chalice or Legend or others, it's really created some excitement, and excitement results in funding, which is great."


WA premier Mark McGowan kicked things off on Monday, telling delegates to "bet big on WA".

That was followed by 53 company presentations. It was meant to be 54, but OceanaGold Corporation CEO Michael Holmes was a late withdrawal on day one.

West African Resources executive chairman Richard Hyde flew his wife in to watch his presentation, which paid tribute to his workers in Burkina Faso.

While the presentations were more gold-heavy than usual, the nickel guys also made some noise this year.

This year's crop of presentations seemed to be heavier on corporate videos than in previous years.

While most featured stock-standard backing music, Boss Resources mixed it up with some AC/DC, while De Grey Mining used George Michael's ‘Faith'.

It was worth sticking around on Wednesday afternoon for Peter Cook's 28th and final Diggers presentation.

Cooky's presentations have become legendary for his commentary on the state of the sector, as well as his mining lookalikes.

This year, he also touched on diversity, as did Fortescue Metals Group boss Elizabeth Gaines.

Gaines, South32 CFO Katie Tovich and St Barbara head of business development Meryl Jones were the only female speakers - and the latter was a stand-in for CEO Craig Jetson after technical difficulties prevented him from delivering a video presentation from Melbourne.

More people than ever saw the presentations this year, as they were live streamed for the first time.

Walker said 2349 individual viewers registered for the live stream from countries all over the world, while a number of companies broadcasted the presentations to their offices.

Out and about

The hot ticket on Sunday night was the KCGM sundowner, overlooking the Super Pit, which was attended by McGowan and described by emcee Brendon Grylls as the "engagement party" of Saracen and Northern Star.

During the day on Monday, brokers enjoyed "steak sangas" and quick presentations from seven juniors at ResolveIR's pub lunch, while nickel explorer Auroch Minerals took guests on a tour of its nearby core yard.

On Monday night, the crowd at the well-attended outdoor Macquarie function enjoyed the balmy weather.

Diggers lead sponsor Canaccord Genuity threw its welcome party on Monday night, which featured a special appearance from Peter Cook's band, the Smoking Guns.

The Smoking Guns played a few AC/DC covers and handed out branded "tour" merchandise to attendees.

Palace Hotel owner Ashok Parekh joined the band as a backing vocalist.

After a big Monday night for many, Deloitte and the Gold Industry Group held their annual breakfast on Tuesday morning, with a focus on the transition to low-carbon mining.

Gateway Mining and Kin Mining spoke at the "Next Big Thing" lunch on Tuesday, which was also live-streamed.

On Tuesday night, the popular WASMA and WIMWA event was scaled back this year due to COVID restrictions.

New listing Siren Gold held a cocktail party with broker Morgans, while attendees at the PwC function at the Kalgoorlie Museum enjoyed food and wine, with the firm pitching it as a modern, diverse and inclusive event "not in a pub".

Wednesday night's WesTrac Gala Dinner was again a sell-out, with 1200 people attending.


Mark McGowan on WA's hard border: "All I needed to do to get an invite to this event was lock everyone else out!"

Mincor Resources managing director David Southam: "We can all get a little bit bored of hearing gold, gold, gold, more gold. Well nickel is the new gold - we're the happy metal, the metal of the future, we're the metal that shows the world's actually becoming a better place."

Evolution Mining executive chairman Jake Klein on border restrictions: "Australia's done really well but the border restrictions are an impediment to business and the sooner they can be lifted, the better."

Pilbara Minerals MD Ken Brinsden on the thin crowd for his presentation: "It looks like the COVID situation and a lithium story has brought everyone's best social distancing to the fore."

West African executive chairman Richard Hyde on COVID-19: "It's been a very tough year for some of our people doing long stints in isolation, long stints on site. We know even in Western Australia it's been tough, but have a think about some of our guys, who have done five or six months on site straight."

Legend Mining MD Mark Wilson: "I always like to acknowledge my geological colleagues by putting some money rock, or rock porn, on the front of our presentations, because it gives them something to look at while I talk drivel in the background."

Saracen MD Raleigh Finlayson on Northern Star's three leaders (Finlayson, Beament and Stuart Tonkin): "We've got good cop, bad cop and I'm fun cop. I wanted to be cool cop but it's better than being unemployed cop."

Northern Star executive chairman Bill Beament on the merger: "We definitely consummated our marriage … that came across really bad."

De Grey Mining executive chairman Simon Lill on the early drill results from Hemi: "I got texts from the geologists saying f-a-r-r-r-k. So they were pretty excited about what we were getting."

Still to come: MNN's 2020 Diggers & Dealers photo gallery

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining News Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining News Intelligence team.


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