PDAC 2007 – Prospectors and Developers Convention Place to be This Week – by Stan Sudol

This article was originally published in the March 7, 2007 edition of Northern Life – Sudbury’s Community Newspaper. It is being posted for archival purposes.

Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based communications consultant, who writes extensively about mining issues.(stan.sudol@republicofmining.com)

South African premier plans to head to Sudbury while in Canada

Seventy-five years old and still going strong as ever. The annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention, which got under way Sunday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, is expecting to see almost 18,000 participants. Like the price of many of the metals its members are searching for, this is a new record high.

The organization 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.

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.

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 just 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 investors forum. It allowed the average shareholder in a junior mining company to come 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.

One of those junior exploration companies is Crowflight Minerals Inc. Tom Atkins, president and CEO, says, “As a company that must be in touch with suppliers, investors and financiers, the PDAC is the best venue in the world. In the course of three days, I get a chance to talk to hundreds of people.”

Crowflight Minerals is a little unusual in that it is currently constructing an underground mine at Bucko Lake, near Wabowden, in northern Manitoba. Many junior exploration companies commonly sell their discoveries to a larger mining company for development.

The corporation has the second-largest land position in the Thompson Nickel Belt.  Once its operations start production, it will only be the second mining company operating in the Thompson Belt after CVRD Inco.  Crowflight also has a few other promising deposits in the region.

Increasingly, global players in the mining sector are including the Sudbury Basin on their Canadian itinerary after the PDAC convention. South African Premier B.E.E. Molewa, of the North-West province, is including Sudbury on her Canadian visit. In a brief conversation, she highlighted Sudbury’s growing and dynamic supply and services sector and its environmental rehabilitation successes, as two of the many reasons for her visit.

The North-West provincial government is creating a new mining service suppliers business park. In addition,  Molewa will be visiting Science North and Dynamic Earth as she wants to build similar tourist attractions in her province highlighting the history and importance of platinum mining.

Fifty percent of the world’s platinum group metals (PGMs) are mined in South Africa’s North-West Province. The Sudbury Basin is the third-largest global producer of PGMs, a byproduct of the nickel-copper ores. The federal South African mines minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, will also be accompanying this government delegation.

A Brazilian delegation is also heading to Sudbury, and will be giving presentations to a gathering of local supply and service companies on potential business opportunities in that country’s booming mining sector.

This year’s Prospector of the Year Award went to Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. for its discovery in 2005 of the Pebble East porphyry copper-gold-molybdenum deposit in southwestern Alaska. Once developed, the deposit will be in production for about 30 years at the very least.

Members of the exploration team who will be accepting this award are: David Gaunt, resources manager; Robert Dickinson, executive chairman; Ronald Thiessen, president and CEO; John Payne, senior geologist; and Mark Rebagliati, international exploration manager.  Rebagliati is the father of Ross Rebagliati, the Olympic snowboarder who almost lost his gold metal after testing positive for marijuana.

For over 75 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. They certainly deserve to party this year, no matter what they drink or inhale.

Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based communications consultant and policy analyst who writes a column on mining issues. stan.sudol@republicofmining.com