Canada’s PDAC 2008 Convention – The Mining Boom Continues – Stan Sudol

Ontario Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle and PDAC Mining Matters KidsThe annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention is the premier event in the global exploration and mining sector. The Toronto convention, which is always held in the first week of March, is expected to set another attendance record this year with about 20,000 visitors.

As I jump from presentation to event throughout this column I may sound like I have a severe case of “attention deficit disorder. This only reflects the many stories, people, lectures and events at the PDAC which just simply overloads the mind. Combine that with the networking, business deals, and the enormous amounts of partying and the frantic three and a half days can become a blur to any participant. Where to start? How about the price of nickel?

According to TD Newcrest metals analyst Greg Barnes, the price of nickel will be “stuck in neutral” for the next while and supplies are heading for a surplus between 2009 and 2012 due to new developments coming on stream including Vale’s Goro project in New Caledonia and BHP-Billiton’s Ravensthorpe mine in Australia. Barnes forecasts that nickel will be in short supply again by 2013.

In another presentation the audience was told not to forget that there are many other regions in addition to the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – that are modernizing and industrializing their economies. This commodity-boom will ensure that metal demand will not be significantly affected by an American recession.

This was the first time City of Greater Sudbury Mayor Rodriguez has visited a PDAC convention. “I am impressed at the range of exhibitors from investors and developers to the supply side of the international mining sector,” said Mayor Rodriguez. “I’m proud that my city is an integral part of this.”

City of Greater Sudbury Mayor John Rodriguez and Key Account Agent Paul ReidThe convention gave the Mayor an opportunity to see the community’s new “City Reborn” concept used on the marketing display booth that was designed by Sudbury-based TTC Advertising. The booth has a huge image of a newborn child with a row of images at the top representing different facets of the city’s booming economy.

TTC Advertising, Senior Partner Jim Thompson says, “We felt we needed something that captured the excitement and uniqueness of the time and “A City Reborn” was born.  The creative will help Sudbury stand out from competition at the PDAC … It also juxtaposes Sudbury with the way this community is traditionally viewed by outsiders.”

“The theme reflects Sudbury very well as a city reborn,” says Mayor Rodriguez. The small images at the top accurately portray the community’s transition into a flourishing, vibrant and dynamic success.”

One of the emotional highlights of the convention was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Phil Fontaine and PDAC President Patricia Dillon for the purposes of working together to improve the lives and local economies of First Nations.

PDAC President, Patricia Dillon; AFN Chief Phil Fontaine; PDAC Chair of Aboriginal Committee, Donald Bubar“In resource development, First Nations and the mining community are natural partners,” said National Chief Fontaine. “Developing a new partnership between the AFN and PDAC will complement and enhance the growing relationships between First Nations and Canada’s major mining companies.”

PDAC President Patricia Dillon stated, “The deliberations and discussions leading up to the signing of this MOU have been undertaken with much goodwill on both sides. This historic document formalizes a relationship that has been flourishing for some time and lays framework for the mineral industry to work cooperatively with First Nations and aboriginal communities.”

Front - AFN Chief Phil Fontaine; PDAC President Patricia Dillon  Back Row - PDAC, Donald Bubar; AFN, Littlechild WiltonThe PDAC Mining Matters is an outreach initiative that aims to educate students about the importance of and employment opportunities in the minerals sector. On Monday sixty grade four students – who all received highly visible bright red t-shirts – spent the day at the PDAC convention.

Laura Clinton – Project Coordinator – PDAC Mining Matters said, “We felt that this was a valuable opportunity to teach the kids about mineral exploration. It was simply an outstanding day.”

The kids participated in workshops, demonstrations, were entertained by guitarist Chris Rawlings and his mining songs and went out on the trade show floor for a scavenger hunt. They had the opportunity to meet Ontario’s Northern Development and Mines Minister, Michael Gravelle, who hand out toques with the ministry logo to the appreciative children.

Minister Gravelle said, “Mining Matters is a great program that helps to educate children about the importance of rocks, metals and minerals. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet with so many enthusiastic youngsters and see so many smiling faces.”

Gravelle continued, “These are exciting times for the mining industry in Ontario. I can’t think of a better time to be the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. All of the buzz and energy that I have seen at this year’s Prospectors and Developers Convention is a strong indication that the future of the industry will continue to be bright in Ontario.”

Women in Mining sponsored a networking event – men were also invited – that was filled to capacity. Speeches by Director of Corporate Relations, HudBay Minerals Inc. MaryAnn Mihychuk, Ontario MNDM Deputy Minister Sue Herbert, and Director General Chrystia Chudczak from the federal Minerals, Metals and Materials Policy Branch all highlighted the tremendous strides that women have made in Canada’s mining sector.

Catharine Shaw, Golder Associates; Sue Herbert, MNDM-DM; Unidentified; Jane Werniuk, Editor CMJ; Patricia Dillon, PDAC President; MaryAnn Mihychuk, HudBay Minerals Director; Kim MacDonald PDACThere were many students in the crowd indicating that the industry is successfully getting the message out to young women that the mineral sector is modern, inclusive and that mining has tremendously rewarding opportunities for them.

We have entered the seventh year of an extraordinary commodity super-cycle that has metal prices at generational highs. There was a tremendous feeling of optimism and confidence at this year’s convention.

Many Canadians may view themselves as not as aggressive or successful as our American neighbours to the south. Whether that is true or not is open to debate, but when it comes to the junior exploration sector, we absolutely rule the world. Canada is second to no one and that is why on a yearly basis the world comes to Toronto for the PDAC convention.

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