Diggers and Dealers Day 1: Miners’ moods high as decarbonisation on the agenda
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Resources executives, contractors, drillers and PR folk were feeling a strong buzz as the 30th annual Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum got under way in Kalgoorlie-Boulder yesterday.
The annual WA mining swim-through has arrived with Covid lockdowns over east both preventing many delegates from attending the event and causing significant problems for mining companies looking for skilled labour.
But it has also come at a time of historically high prices across the gamut of commodities and the strongest level of exploration success across the junior end of the resources industry in years.
“I think it’s definitely buoyant,” Venturex Resources managing director Bill Beament said.
“There’s been some really good exploration stories with the Chalices and the De Greys and exploration success always drives a really good outcome at this conference.
“Also the markets have been pretty good and there’s some great stories there.
“Then you’ve got the whole thematic I’m playing in, the decarbonisation of the world and companies associated with that like Liontown, and Pilbara Minerals they’re a great story, first mover status and now kicking goal after goal.
“It’s a good buzz and probably reflects the 2450 delegates here.”
The former Northern Star boss Beament was one of the star names to present on Monday, rebranding copper mine developer Venturex Resources (ASX:VXR) into DEVELOP, a decarbonisation focussed underground mining contractor and miner.
The role of miners and metals in decarbonisation is set to be a major focus, along with the “sabre-rattling” of trade tensions between China and Australia that globalisation expert Professor Ian Goldin critiqued in his keynote speech.
IGO (ASX:IGO), AngloGold Ashanti (ASX:AGG), Lynas Rare Earths (ASX:LYC), South32 (ASX:S32) and Regis Resources (ASX:RRL) were among the majors who presented, while Rox Resources (ASX:RXL), Calidus (ASX:CAI), Auteco Minerals (ASX:AUT) and West African Resources (ASX:WAF) were among the junior and mid-tier names on the card.
IGO boss Peter Bradford told delegates at Diggers and Dealers yesterday reality could outpace analyst estimates on the uptake of electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries.
“That’s a 25% compound annual growth rate,” he said. “If you were in a business where your market was growing 25% per annum it would be happy days.
“That could be wrong. You look at the technology adoption in recent times, using solar PV as an example, reality has always outperformed analysts’ projections.
“Each year analysts projected higher and each year reality outperformed it and we’re starting to see that emerge in the fully battery electric vehicle space.
“In the year to date to April, we had a 166% improvement on last year, over the last six years 55% CAGR, so early days reality is outpacing analysts’ expectations.”
It has informed the company’s shift from a diversified gold and nickel miner into a miner with a pure focus on battery metals including nickel, copper, cobalt (through the Nova mine) and lithium (through its share of Greenbushes and the Kwinana lithium refinery).
There is one area where Bradford would like to see some growth, and that is in government support for EVs.
“EVs were at about 4.2% of light vehicles globally in 2020, Australia was at 0.7%,” Bradford said.
“Just as we are with Covid vaccinations we’re behind the eightball with electric vehicle take-up as well.
“In many other jurisdictions we’re seeing a combination of carrot and stick to incentivise the transition, we’re not really seeing of the carrot and stick in Australia.
“There were no incentives when I bought my electric vehicle and I’m not seeing the aggressive rollout of infrastructure we could have that gets rid of the range anxiety that stops many people turning to an electric vehicle.
“I think there’s much more that could be done, particularly in this year when government is looking for great stimulus projects to stimulate the economy.”
I think we’re still on that gas-fired recovery, Pete.
Former Westgold Resources, Hill 50 and Metals X boss Peter Cook may not take to the podium at this year’s Diggers and Dealers, but his spirit lives on.
Having sold the Higginsville gold mine to the former RNC Minerals (now TSX-listed Karora Resources), a few years ago, he was successful in cajoling its Canadian boss Paul Huet into reviving Cooky’s popular mining look-a-likes schtick.
Diggers greenhorn Huet, who recently moved with his wife and five of his seven children from the US to Western Australia, was his only victim.
Karora owns the Beta Hunt gold mine, a decent enough operation known for occasionally spitting out massive sparkly gold rocks.
An ASX listing has been on the cards for years, a question for Huet that has been amplified since the company sold the remainder of the Dumont nickel project it partly owned in Quebec.
Having moved his family and the entire business to Perth, Huet said listing in Australia would be a logical move.
“Listing makes sense to us, we’ve just got to find the right path,” he said.