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Diggers & Dealers: What’s making the headlines

At the same time as gold, silver and bronze medals are being dished out in Tokyo, there is an equally tight race to the highlights podium at the Goldfields Arts Centre.


Back to its traditional calendar slot in the first week of August – last year’s October date was a COVID-19 forced postponement – Diggers & Dealers gets underway against a backdrop of a re-energised battery minerals sector, a stubbornly high iron ore price, an increase in second and third-tier gold sector M&A and an emerging rare earths sector.

The pandemic has had an impact, of course.

Probably for the first time in Diggers & Dealers history, Monday’s keynote speaker, World Bank vice-president Professor Ian Goldin, addressed delegates via teleconference.

Professor Goldin set the tone with his criticism of Australia’s and the US’ openly aggressive approach to China relations, warning that a Cold War would not help the world address pressing issues such as the pandemic, climate change and cybersecurity.

 

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Professor Goldin, who is credited with predicting the likelihood of a global pandemic long before the existence of COVID-19, also said now was the time that civilisation needed to embrace globalisation.

“While many predicted that the pandemic would lead to deglobalisation, in fact what we’re seeing in many dimensions is an acceleration of globalisation,” Professor Goldin said.

“The compression of technological, economic and social shifts that would have taken 10-15 years to emerge, and digital connections and meetings, is one important aspect of this.

“Financial flows have accelerated, and they will expand further. I’m sure you will have seen growth in mergers and acquisitions during this time. This is a global phenomenon.”

He also talked up the prospects of a tenfold increase in nickel and lithium demand over the next decade as part of the climate change revolution.

Much more than digging…

Cannings Purple’s Investor Relations team have studied the form guide to come up with some medal-worthy themes that will get a decent talk-out in the marquee, in presentations and in the drinking holes around Kalgoorlie-Boulder over the next few days.

Sustainability

Mining is not sustainable – how can it be when the activity depletes a one-off resource. But practices can and should be as sustainable as possible, which is why investors are increasingly demanding to see the gold-plated credentials of companies they invest in.

Hastings Technology Metals (ASX: HAS; booth 51) Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Reid made it onto the podium for the first time, introducing the world-scale Yangibana rare earths project due to kick off later this quarter and boasting world-leading grades of NdPr.

Hastings Technology Metals Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Reid introducing Yangibana project

These sustainability credentials take on myriad forms, from mining being carried out as environmentally responsible as possible, relationships with stakeholders from the top (the communities in which the miners operate) to the bottom (the shareholders) being based on mutual respect and understanding, implementation of clean and responsible supply chains, adherence to the highest ethical and moral standards and acceptance and accountability for the end-of-journey of the product the miners produce.

The larger-cap companies have long included ESG in their presentations. Expect more and more of the up-and-comers to talk up the sustainability boxes that they are ticking.

Workforce

Western Australia is gripped by a skills shortage. The high iron ore price, a continued buoyant gold sector, an abundance of capital markets funding for exploration and the on-off pandemic-enforced border closures that are affecting worker movements are all conspiring to drive up wages and cause HR departments serious headaches.

Already, the iron ore and gold industries have resorted to financial rewards to entice and retain workers. Others are working on upgrading their camps to resort-style facilities.

What must be part of this conversation is the need to ensure working in mining is a safe option for all. The media storm and subsequent political inquiries into the sector’s workplace practices – and fallouts – are justified and, to be honest, worrying. The hope of any inquiry, of course, is that it delivers more and better outcomes than myriad probes into the mental health challenges of the FIFO workforce. Well documented, yes. Fixed, no.

And as we saw during the first great iron ore boom, there comes a time when employees look for perks other than just pay in their preferred employer. Think rosters, workplace accommodation, culture and support – summed up as physical and mental safety and well-being.

Precious Metals

Rox Resources (ASX: RXL; booth 88) Managing Director, Alex Passmore is getting the Youanmi project in the Murchison ready for a restart – it was last mined in 1997. The resource is getting bigger – 1.7Moz and a head grade of 2.85gpt – and the pieces of the development domino are falling into place for Rox. Get out the starting blocks.

Alex delivered an impressive insight into what the fledging gold miner has in the pipeline.

“Youanmi has significant infrastructure in place including access roads, an airstrip, core shed and workshop, a tailings disposal facility, a mine village and access to process water from local aquifers, so that all greatly helps our restart plans and lowers our capital costs,” Mr Passmore said.

“Over the past 18 months we’ve done about 48,000m of drilling, substantially increased the resource, commenced feasibility studies into restarting Youanmi, and put a well-credentialled management team together to deliver this project.”

Kicking some serious Rox indeed.

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Cannings Purple’s Investor Relations team will be at Diggers & Dealers for the duration of the conference and delivering daily updates via the Investor Insight page.