PDAC 2015: Optimism clashes with reality on day one of conference – by Peter Koven (National Post – March 2, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

As the junior mining sector continues to scrape along the bottom, the world’s biggest mineral conference is the one place where they can always find some reason for hope.

The annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference kicked off in Toronto on Sunday. Not surprisingly, the mood on the conference floor was a little subdued as metal prices continue to slump, financing dollars remain scarce, and the S&P/TSX Venture Composite Index trades near an all-time low.

“Everybody here is hoping to weather the storm,” Aubrey Eveleigh, chief executive of graphite firm Zenyatta Ventures Ltd., said in an interview. “They’re waiting for a turnaround in the sector because we’ve seen it before. They’re hanging on with the little bit of money they have.” But even in a rough year, the PDAC conference can reliably attract around 25,000 people, and another big crowd is expected at this year’s show.

On day one, they got a big burst of optimism from the mining industry’s most famous promoter: Robert Friedland of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. He kicked off a commodity outlook panel with his usual gusto, talking about the giant urbanization trend that continues to happen worldwide and predicting it will have very positive implications for metal prices.He pointed to a United Nations study stating that 54% of the world’s population lives in cities today, and that proportion is expected to rise to 66% by 2050.

Urbanization is the “most profound phenomenon in the history of our species,” Mr. Friedland told a big audience.

But that is not doing much for metal prices at present. And other speakers on the outlook panel took a more cautious tone than Mr. Friedland, noting that oversupply remains a problem in certain commodities. A rising U.S. dollar is also keeping a lid on prices.

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