• PDAC, the world’s biggest mining convention, begins on Sunday
  • Several Australian companies, particularly those focused on the Americas, will be presenting
  • Forum is renowned for playing a role in linking up aspiring juniors with cashed-up majors

It is sometimes described as mining’s version of Coachella, even Diggers & Dealers on steroids – and for any Aussie junior with a project in the Americas, it is a must-attend event, especially if you’re looking to court a major benefactor.

The annual resources conference calendar turns to Canada next week for PDAC, as most people know it. Or the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada Convention, as only those who regularly attend probably know it.

We previously told you last month’s African Mining Indaba was big. In comparison to PDAC, it’s actually rather small fish.

It could even be argued the tagline on the official PDAC website, which reads “the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention”, is perhaps underselling it to an extent.

Tens of thousands of people connected to the global mining industry attend the actual conference inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Fairmont Royal York Hotel, let alone those who hang about the peripheries of the main event.

PDAC is renewed the world over as the forum to brush shoulders by all the big-name gold players, particularly those operating across all parts of North, South and Central America. It is also the place for the major copper companies to catch up on all things impacting the red metal.

In more recent times, lithium has become a key item on the conference agenda given the influx of companies – largely led by the Aussies – into regions such as Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba known to be prospective for the battery mineral.


The Metro Toronto Convention Centre will once again play host to PDAC. Pic via Getty Images


The only real peculiarity about the four-day convention is it begins on a Sunday. Must be a Canadian thing.

Before they jetted off to Toronto for a massive week of networking, Stockhead caught up with some of the companies set to fly the Australian flag at PDAC.


‘It’s definitely more our hunting ground’

American West Metals (ASX:AW1) will arrive in Toronto with a strong tailwind of news flow behind it, having recently unveiled a maiden resource for its Storm copper project in Nunavut and raised $10 million to support some 22,000m of drilling planned to kick off this month.

It will be somewhat of a triumph return to PDAC for AW1 managing director Dave O’Neill and the team after teasing delegates about a potential major copper discovery at its flagship asset this time last year.

“Someone came past the booth in the morning and then in the afternoon came past again and said ‘you are the only company that we’ve come back to the booth twice’, so for us that was quite a good reflection on Storm,” O’Neill told Stockhead.

“A fair bit came from being on the floor at PDAC last year, we had lots of good follow-up meetings and all that sort of stuff. It’s definitely more our hunting ground. You seem to get a lot of people from Europe, North America and Asia all go to PDAC. That’s the diversity of the opportunity there.

“Our assets are in North America, so I think that’s why it resonates with people there. If you’re an Aussie going to spruik West Australian projects, I think it would be a much tougher sell.”

O’Neill will be joined this year by his new chairman – and former boss at Western Areas – Dan Lougher, with the pair also spending several days in New York prior to attending PDAC in a bid to put the AW1 story in front of more North American investors.


American West has delineated 205,000t of high-grade copper at Storm. Pic: Supplied (AW1)


Canadian investors are somewhat familiar with the AW1 narrative already given the Storm project was previously owned in its entirety by TSXV-listed Aston Bay Holdings which still has a minority stake.

O’Neill says the company would use PDAC to further push its credentials in front of major players in the copper game.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re swimming with the big boys a little bit there, but maybe that’s where the opportunity is for a little company like us because we’re not a blue-chip stock – hopefully one day – but at this point we fall into the category of those with a good little bit of growth potential, so that may be another reason why we seem to resonate well there,” he says.

AW1’s portfolio also includes the Copper Warrior and West Desert base metals projects in Utah, with the latter host to the only confirmed indium resource in the US.


‘Ground zero of the next major battery materials production hub’

While he is not directly involved in the space, O’Neill is keen to hear how his Aussie peers in the Canadian lithium sector are travelling, having been all the rage at PDAC this time last year.

It is no secret lithium has fallen out of favour with investors in recent months, but there is still expected to be a strong contingent of companies championing the next inevitable uptick in the battery mineral price cycle.

Among those will be Battery Age Minerals (ASX:BM8) with newly appointed chief executive Nigel Broomham eager to connect with a range of stakeholders from the North American lithium and battery minerals industries, including First Nations partners, government officials and some of the company’s key service providers.

“While it’s been a tough few months for the lithium sector generally, I think companies operating in North America are united in their optimism about the enormous long-term opportunity for battery materials in this part of the world,” Broomham told Stockhead.

“I’m very confident about the supply-demand fundamentals for lithium and I think North America is incredibly well placed to become one of the major new sources of lithium supply over the next decade. For that reason, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to present our story to a wide range of interested stakeholders.”


Battery Age Minerals finds itself in good company in Ontario, Canada. Pic: Supplied (BM8)


BM8 joined the Aussie lithium expedition in Canada last year and continues to make steady progress at its flagship Falcon Lake project in Ontario. In December, the company announced it had successfully extended the lithium mineralisation at the project following another round of drilling.

Broomham urged investors to continue supporting Canadian-based lithium explorers, believing some short-term investment pain now will ultimately convert into some long-term rewards.

“Canada is at the epicentre of one of the most exciting new growth areas for lithium mining and processing in the world and I often equate what’s happening in Canada right now to what happened in the Pilbara in 2014-15,” he says.

“This is ground zero of the next major battery materials production hub globally. Canada is geologically very prospective for very large deposits. And it’s a wonderful place to operate from an infrastructure and regulatory perspective.

“I think Canada is the new lithium frontier and I encourage investors to stick with companies like BM8 that are well placed to capitalise on this opportunity.”


‘That’s why big companies go to PDAC’

PDAC is also an important for the real small caps looking to partner up with larger group carrying significantly more financial clout and experience in a particular type of mining.

This year will be the first time the team from Southern Hemisphere Mining (ASX:SUH) presents the intricacies of its Llahuin copper-gold project in Chile to the PDAC audience.

SUH chairman Mark Stowell is anticipating a strong reception from delegates, particularly ones with an interest in porphyries such as the one emerging at the company’s flagship asset.

“Most of the world’s copper is produced from porphyry-style deposits and six or seven of the top 10 mines in the world are in Chile, so we tick both of those boxes,” Stowell told Stockhead.

“Our project is on the way to being one of the world’s next large copper mines. And that’s why big companies go to PDAC, to look for new projects. It’s the perfect venue for us in the stage of development we’re at.”


Southern Hemisphere Mining is developing a sizeable porphyry resource at Llahuin in Chile. Pic: Supplied (SUH)


Llahuin boasts a 169mt @ 0.4% copper equivalent resource which SUH has committed to growing thanks to ongoing drilling success in recent hits such as 82m @ 0.67% copper equivalent from 46m, even though the project is already shaping as a +20-year open-pit mining operation.

Stowell hopes the company can use the PDAC forum to put Llahuin on the map of a potential cashed-up partner.

“This project is in the majors category, it’s not a junior-type project to take through development,” he says.

“It’s way bigger than we are, so we’re doing our bit and we’ll continue to do so until we get the right major to pick up the baton and run with it through to production.”

Other South American-focused explorers looking to strike a chord with the PDAC crowd include Belararox (ASX:BRX) which continues to unearth multiple mineralised porphyry systems across the expanses of its Toro-Malambo-Tambo (TMT) copper-gold project in Argentina.


At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While American West Metals, Battery Age Minerals and Southern Hemisphere Mining are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.