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Scenes from IMARC 2019

Activism, agility and authenticity key themes at IMARC

With 7000 mining and resources professionals in attendance, concurrent presentations in five conference theatres covering the entire mining supply chain and hundreds of networking opportunities – IMARC is one of the biggest events on the sector’s calendar.

Last week’s event in Melbourne also provided some pause for thought. Activism was a major theme as more than 1500 people gathered outside the venue to protest.

While Australians respect the right to protest peacefully, there is less tolerance for protests which become physical or threatening.

Coming into AGM season, all listed companies should keep in mind the fact that some shareholders are likely to be active and vocal and possibly open to approaches from activist groups. Companies should think carefully about how they manage these potential issues logistically and also how they communicate around them.

Cannings Purple was strongly represented at IMARC Melbourne, with Queensland State Director Peta Baldwin chairing a number of sessions, Managing Director Warrick Hazeldine facilitating a panel session around financing the minerals industry and Melbourne-based Special Counsel David Paterson hosting a discussion on attracting international investors.

I was chair of the Finance and Investment session on the conference’s third day but also managed to take in plenty of the action that came before and around that.

Here’s what I picked up:

Supply is in demand – there was a growing representation at IMARC from companies in the supplier space, further highlighting the global importance of Australia’s mining equipment, technology and services sector. That said, mining companies still played a dominant role in the speaking aspect of the conference.

Modern agility – it’s clear heading into the next decade that there’s an appetite for the industry to evolve. Oz Minerals’ Gabrielle Iwanow stated that her company calls itself a modern mining company.  When asked what that meant, she said:

“We deliberately don’t define it – it means we always have to be looking to upscale, upskill and think about what we can do to move ahead of, or at least with, the times.”

Capital concerns…and caution –  Raising capital seems to be a tough ask at the moment with many players noting that getting the right kind of investment is even harder. When asked to make some forward predictions about the year ahead, most panellists were highly cautious, saying they were simply happy to look project-by-project and take individual cases on their merits.

Clear views and cultural clashes – Transparency was a very big theme, with it becoming apparent that companies are looking to be proactively transparent rather than waiting to be asked for information.

It was interesting to observe a session on Japanese involvement in Australian mining and hear of the challenges arising when participants come from different cultural backgrounds.

Overall, IMARC was an eye-opening experience – from protests to plenary sessions featuring international guests speakers. I’d happily recommend the event to clients and colleagues and I know Cannings Purple is already looking forward to partnering with IMARC again in 2020.

Peta Baldwin is Cannings Purple’s State Director in Queensland and an expert in investor relations and the resources industry. She has worked in in-house roles at Mount Isa Mines, Alcoa and most recently AngloGold Ashanti. Contact Peta

 Warrick Hazeldine is a founding Director of Cannings Purple and an expert Board-level adviser in the areas of investor relations, M&A, crisis and reputation management, with significant experience in the mining and resources sector. Contact Warrick.

David Paterson is Cannings Purple’s Melbourne-based Special Counsel and has 25 years’ experience working for Rio Tinto in locations as diverse as Melbourne, London, Darwin, Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) and Lusaka (Zambia).  He is an expert in managing social and political risk to help create shareholder value. Contact David

 Peter Klinger is Cannings Purple’s Director of Media Strategy and has provided strategic communications advice on more than $1 billion worth of corporate transactions over the past year. Peter is a former Business Editor of The West Australian and has also worked for The Times (London) and the Financial Review. Contact Peter

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Main image thanks to IMARC