MNN's Diggers 2016 preview

A HOT gold sector, a lithium boom, and an improvement across base metal prices is likely to make for a jovial mood at Diggers & Dealers next week.
MNN's Diggers 2016 preview MNN's Diggers 2016 preview MNN's Diggers 2016 preview MNN's Diggers 2016 preview MNN's Diggers 2016 preview

Diggers & Dealers

Kristie Batten

The forum celebrates its 25th year, and unlike the past few events, this year it seems as if there is more to celebrate.

"Commodities are doing the right thing and the industry is in a pretty healthy position with many companies delivering record growth that looks sustainable," Diggers chairman Nick Giorgetta said earlier this month.

The booths and gala dinner are sold out, and organisers are expecting more than 1800 delegates from 12 countries.

Gold miners are flying high with prices near all-time highs in local currency terms, there's huge interest in lithium and other battery related metals, and bulk and base metal miners have strengthened their balance sheets despite weaker prices.

Unsurprisingly, 59.6% of the program is made up of gold presenters, up from 44.4% last year.

Surprisingly, the next best representation is uranium with four presenters, or 8.4% of the total, up from two or 4.4% in 2015.

There are three speakers each from the lithium, copper and diversified sectors, with zinc, vanadium, rare earths, iron ore and mineral sands each featuring one presenter each.

The biggest changes is the drop in nickel presenters from seven to just one (in Western Areas), though its fellow nickel miner Mincor Resources remains on the program but is likely to be spruiking its gold strategy.

Of the 47 presenting companies (up from 45 last year), 70.2% have all their projects in Australia, with a further 19.1% having projects in multiple countries (which include Australia).

International gold producers Newmont Mining and Zijin Mining are missing this year after presenting last year, but first-time attendees Newmarket Gold (Canada) and Hanking Gold (China) will speak for the first time as both look to step up their local activity.

In an important step, this year's program features two female presenters in Gold Fields vice president: legal and compliance Kelly Carter, and Lynas Corporation CEO Amanda Lacaze.

It is the first time a female speaker would have presented in at least the past five years.

This year's keynote presenter is former International Monetary Fund deputy CEO John Lipsky, who will speak for an hour on Monday morning.

Gold consolidation is again expected to be a key theme of Diggers this year, with presenting companies like Northern Star, Evolution, Metals X and Hanking all considering offloading assets.

Northern Star boss Bill Beament said the Australian gold sector was in fantastic shape.

He doesn't expect too much local consolidation, but said the rise in exploration that had come with stronger balance sheets was a big positive.

"When you drill those world-class systems, you pull out more gold," Beament said last week.

Northern Star itself is likely to report "more gold" with the company likely to stick to its usual move of releasing updated resources and reserves next week.

It is also thought the company may announce the outcome of the sale process for the Plutonic mine, while Beament also hinted at an announcement on another mine development outside its current plans of Central Tanami and Millennium.

Dacian has a resource upgrade for Westralia due, which may sneak out just before the event, while Regis is due to release a maiden resource for the Tooheys Well deposit.

Argonaut has flagged a "conservative" estimate of 300,000-450,000oz gold.

Lithium leader Pilbara Minerals and emerging tailings producer Carbine have definitive feasibility studies due in August, which they may choose to release next week.

MNN's Kristie Batten and Michael Quinn will in Kalgoorlie next week covering the event. You can visit our booth at stand 46 to catch up on the day's news and follow us on Twitter @MiningNewsNet for updates and photos.

Tomorrow: Our tips and predictions for this year's Diggers & Dealers award winners.