This week marked 18 years since Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury’s famous race at the 2002 Winter Olympics – a tale of the underdog persisting through a challenge to take the ultimate prize at the end.

Were it not for a final corner pile-up in the final of the short track 1000-metre race in Salt Lake City, Bradbury would have finished his race last. Instead, he famously stuck the course, nailing the fundamentals to be the last man standing and earning himself a permanent place in the Australian cultural lexicon.

A gold medallist for life at his fourth and final games.

On the sidelines of Vertical Events’ annual RIU Explorers Conference in Fremantle this week, Hot Chili managing director Christian Easterday told Stockhead there were lessons to be learned from Bradbury’s famous run for the junior exploration sector.

Like the eventual winner on last leg of that race, the room at The Rydges’ Esplanade Hotel Fremantle was buoyant this week – spurred by the privilege of being able to attend such an event in person, promising economic signs for a number of commodity spaces and market enthusiasm for junior exploration stories.

It comes off the back of a year in which many explorers – Hot Chili (ASX:HCH) included – faced substantial challenges but rode the wave, sticking to their fundamentals to come out the other side with a significant acquisition almost complete and a commodity supercycle looming on the horizon.

“It was challenging for a lot of people last year, when you’re faced with such a big challenge as a lot of us were, you’re forced to innovate, to look at productivity and solve the issues which initially seemed almost insurmountable,” Easterday said.

“You can see a lot of that in the room today. Steven Bradbury won gold 18 years ago by staying on his feet and keeping going – there’s a bit of that here today.”

Innovation was in the air at RIU. The event was live-streamed to ensure those who couldn’t be in the room still had access, and had a strong social media presence among companies and pundits alike.

Venture Minerals (ASX:VMS) managing director Andrew Radjonic said feedback for his Tuesday presentation, which coincided with a sharp rise in the tin price – a commodity VMS is exposed to at its Mount Lindsay project in Tasmania – had come in from the east coast.

“It allows those who can normally come over and listen, but can’t this year, the ability to take part,” he said.

“I had a few text messages after my presentation, as well as people coming up and having a chat about our suite of projects.”

For a company like Venture, with exposure to a number of commodities, there’s no shortage of projects to cover off on.

The foot presence on the ground at RIU was just as notable. Alicanto Minerals (ASX:AQI) managing director Peter George told Stockhead that after such a turbulent year it was great to have the industry back in the one room.

“I’ve seen a few faces around that I haven’t seen in a while, given the Covid issues we had last year,” he said.

“It’s nice to get a good feeling back in the room – it’s onwards and upwards from here.”

Alicanto recently picked up the Sala silver project in Sweden and has made significant strides at its Greater Falun copper project over the past year.

Moho Resources (ASX:MOH) commercial director and company secretary Ralph Winter agreed with George’s sentiment, and said the mood was lifted from previous years.

“There’s been a lot of interest in the room this week, its been quite buoyant,” he said.

“The conference feels double the size of what it was last year, and it’s good to see the industry having a nice little revival.

“No matter what commodity people are in or what they’re doing, people have been absolutely flat out – it’s an exciting time for the industry.”

Moho has just completed a maiden RC campaign at its Burracoppin gold-silver discovery.

There was a vast array of commodities on show at RIU this year. Metal Hawk (ASX:MHK) managing director Will Belbin noted plenty of enthusiasm for the company’s gold and base metals assets.

“The awareness is certainly quite strong from people coming up and having a conversation,” he said.

“There’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of companies exploring who have had a lot of interest from investors.”

Great Northern Minerals (ASX:GNM) executive director Simon Coxhell, whose Queensland projects are the gold space, said RIU had highlighted the availability of services companies to junior explorers.

“There’s a lot of service providers pedalling their wares, but it’s nice to know what the availability is of resources which help us in our job,” he said.

Saturn Metals (ASX:STN) MD Ian Bamborough said the event was buzzing with enthusiasm from retail investors, brokers and all-important industry peers.

“We’ve had a really nice mix,” he said.

“I always like to think of it as the influencers in the industry, your peers and those with a genuine interest in what you’re doing.”

Saturn recently took the mineral resource at its Apollo Hill gold project to nearly a million ounces.

For those with recent newsflow, like many of the companies above, events like RIU offer another avenue to get the good word out.

This was the case for Impact Minerals (ASX:IPT), which earlier in the week revealed some significant IP targets at its Apsley copper-gold project in New South Wales.

Managing director Dr Mike Jones said this interest combined with the flood of eager attendees made RIU 2021 feel particularly special.

“This has been a great conference for Impact, with huge interest in our exploration results,” he said.

“It is evident from the buzz in the crowd and the standing room only talks that the resources boom is in full swing.”

As they near the final corner, it’s clear that those explorers who stuck to the fundamentals as well placed as any to achieve the ultimate commodity prize.


This story was developed in collaboration with Hot Chili, Venture Minerals, Alicanto Minerals, Moho Resources, Great Northern Minerals, Saturn Metals and Impact Minerals, Stockhead advertisers at the time of publishing.

This story does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.