CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES: Prospectors’ ritual gathering, v.2008

TORONTO - It's over. The booths have been packed up and shipped out, the rugs have been rolled up, the leaflets and...
TORONTO - It's over. The booths have been packed up and shipped out, the rugs have been rolled up, the leaflets and balloons and refuse recycled or disposed of, and everyone has scattered to the four corners of the world.

The 76th annual convention of the PROSPECTORS & DEVELOPERS ASSOCIATION OF CANADA was a smash hit success, with all the record-breaking numbers that you might expect of an industry riding the big kahuna of high commodity prices and the favour of investors. The attendance rose to more than 20,000 this year, at least 14% over last year's record numbers of 17,600. The number of Trade Show exhibitors rose 24% to 351, and occupied 12,500 m. The number of exhibits in the Investors Exchange, comprising exploration and mining companies, rose 52% over last year to 650, and covered 11,600 m. More than 10% of the exploration and mining companies who exhibited are based outside of Canada. More than 100 countries had a presence at the convention.

Despite the rapid expansion, the PDAC staff and their hired hands did a very professional organizing job, with no glaring errors or omissions. There were a lot of happy customers.

The grand prize for one lucky delegate was a 1.54-ct princess cut diamond from the Ekati mine northeast of Yellowknife, donated by BHP BILLION. Its $16,000 retail value was more than any of the previous diamond prizes.

The increasing size of the convention and clamour for more exhibit space forced the association to move the convention to the South Building of the Metro Convention Hall, allowing all the exhibits, talks and meals to be on just two levels of the same building, although there were convention-related receptions spread across the downtown area. It was a remarkable sight at 5.30 each evening when the exhibit halls were closed down, to see thousands of tired bodies funnelling onto two escalators to make their way up two levels to the ground floor (where the door opened up to a view of the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre stadium, and waiting shuttle busses to the downtown hotels), or up one more level to the Skywalk over to Union Station and the Royal York Hotel.

As the popularity of the Prospectors' convention has grown, there has developed a large gang of repeat conventioneers from around the world who consider the PDAC convention home turf for a few days every March. Wherever they come from, and whatever languages they speak, they know their way around the streets, the PATH, the subway, restaurants and bars of downtown Toronto. The remarkably popular PDAC convention has truly brought the mining world to Toronto, helping to maintain the city's status as the world's largest mining finance centre. A London, U.K.-based mining reporter told me, "I don't think you can be in the mining business anywhere in the world and not attend the PDAC; I do more business here than at any other show."

There was a euphoria about the convention this year, at a time when gold is edging toward a US$1,000 per ounce price, and the platinum price has risen almost 50% in the first two months of 2008. Increased precious and base metal reserves and resources were being announced like show-and-tell, with companies wanting to bring out their very best news in front of all their friends and colleagues.

What was it like to try to find those special people whom you want to meet, deal or bargain with, or just rub shoulders with, in a crowd of 20,000? It's interesting how you saw a lot of the same people over and over, but, without the use of cell phones (which often didn't work in the subterranean location), it was actually hard to find a specific person. On the other hand, the number of eligible brokers, students, employees, suppliers, investors and other contacts has grown so large that your chances of finding one (if you're not fussy which one) were much increased. There were noticeably more students and younger people, partly because they are attracted by the prospect of finding summer jobs (a traditional function of the convention), and because they were treated well by prospective employers and by the PDAC, which hosted a student lunch on the Tuesday, attended by around 500 university students.

For the first time, the program included a reception for Women in Mining, with more than 460 in attendance, and speeches from several women including outgoing PDAC president Patricia Dillon and Ontario's assistant deputy minister of Northern Development and Mines, Sue Herbert.

Aboriginal people were high on the agenda this year. Ms. Dillon on behalf of the association signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Chief Phil Fontaine on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, cementing the teamwork approach that has been developing between the two organizations. The election of Glenn Nolan this year as the association's 2nd vice-president means that Mr. Nolan with become the PDAC's first Aboriginal president in 2012.

More than 250 media representatives were registered. The National Post newspaper had an editor and two reporters full time at the convention, publishing a whole section on Mining Business for the March 4th newspaper; their online editor Drew Hasselback admitted that they could have used an extra writer on site because of the size of the convention and the number of stories that could be covered.

You know your industry has hit the big time when former U.S. president Bill Clinton and mining magnet Frank Guistra plan a major mining industry fund-raiser for the Clinton Foundation on March 2nd, the day before the convention began, attracting many celebrities and notables, as well as mining industry types with deep, deep pockets. And to think that was just two days before presidential candidate (and Bill's wife) Hillary Clinton's must-win primaries in Texas and Ohio. Oh Bill, who does your scheduling?? (Fortunately for Bill, Hillary won both primaries.)

In summary, the convention was lots more of everything - excitement, news, money, people, fun, entertainment... With a wary eye over their shoulders, people were enjoying the good times, hoping that they continue, at least until retirement.


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