The Annual PDAC Convention Begins on Sunday – Stan Sudol

The annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention starts this Sunday in Toronto, Canada. This year’s convention has shifted to the South Building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from the North Building to accommodate more exhibitors and a larger crowd. They are expecting to see close to 20,000 participants, a new record high like the price a many of the metals its members are searching for.

PDAC was first founded in 1932, early in the Great Depression in order to fight some new provincial government regulation that was detrimental for struggling prospectors. Copper was then selling at four cents a pound (US), nickel was about 35 cents per pound, and gold could be bought for $20.67 per ounce. How things change and how they stay the same.

The March convention is the world’s premiere event for mineral exploration and development professionals. These include representatives of major and small to medium-sized junior exploration and mining companies, technical experts, government officials, prospectors, and mine financiers and investors, just to name a few of the participants.

This is the largest and sometimes one of the most “hard-drinking” and notorious conventions in Toronto. Twenty years ago, when it was still held at the Royal York Hotel, a mining promoter was murdered by an angry creditor. The longest reigning PDAC president, Viola MacMillan, was charged with insider trading during the infamous Windfall Scandal of 1964.

MacMillan served seven weeks in jail before being released on parole. Many feel she was a scapegoat and was eventually cleared of all charges. She is now in the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame and was given the Order of Canada – the country’s highest civilian honour – before she passed away.

In 1997, Bre-X Minerals chief geologist, John Felderhof, was presented with the Prospector of the Year Award for the discovery of the Busang gold deposit in Indonesia. He gave it back once the scandal exploded. One long-time attendee mentioned to me last year that this convention is also considered one of the best conventions to attend for the city’s “ladies of the evening.”

When one thinks of the hardworking prospectors in the early days, who might have spent the winter in the harsh lonely northern Canadian bush, it only stands to reason why they might have looked forward to the big city’s many charms – including the feminine ones.

At last year’s convention, I had a chance to talk to long-time attendee Ed Thompson. As a mining geology student at the University of Toronto in 1957, Ed Thompson was first enticed to attend a PDAC convention with the promise of free beer. Over the years, he has been on numerous committees, as well as serving as president during 1977-78.

“There have been many changes during the past 50 years,” Thompson says. “The most significant change, of course, is the size of the PDAC. In the late 1950s, it was an Ontario-based organization and now, I am proud to say, we are an international event with almost 100 participating countries. I was talking with the Nigerian mines minister who was telling me of her efforts to encourage more Canadian exploration companies to come to her county.”

Thompson continues, “The other significant change was the establishment of the Investors Exchange. This broadened the PDAC from a technical gathering to an investor’s forum. It allowed the average shareholder in a junior mining company to talk to the president and find out first-hand what was going on.”

The Investors Exchange was established in 1994 and is composed of about 500 mineral exploration companies that gather under one roof to promote their projects.

It has helped educate the average investor about the junior mining sector and this part of the convention is free to the general public.
Junior mineral exploration companies continue to discover much of Canada’s mineral wealth. More than 50 percent of exploration expenditures are conducted by junior companies. Large mining companies spend much of their exploration dollars delineating existing mines and less for finding brand new deposits.

Fully 62 percent of the 1,440 exploration companies worldwide are Canadian. They are entrepreneurial risk-takers, the envy of the global mining industry. I have talked to many foreign mining representatives who all admire the current good federal government policies – “super” flow-through share program – that support this dynamic part of the mining sector.

Canada is the premier destination of global exploration budgets due to the effectiveness of the “super” flow-through share program. The Metals Economics Group, a globally respected world leader in mining industry intelligence, attributes Canada’s top spot for exploration expenditures, in part, due to this great initiative.

For over 76 years, the PDAC has played an integral part in the development of this country’s mining sector and helped turn Canada into a global mining powerhouse and the city of Toronto into the world’s premier mine financing centre.

Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based executive speech writer and mining columnist.