Vancouver’s Critical Metals Symposium Introduces Junior Miners to End User Investors
By Kevin Michael Grace
What are critical metals? According to John Kaiser of Kaiser Research Online, they are “Metals which tend to be incremental but critical inputs to end products whose total value vastly exceeds their costs.” Not exciting? How about this, then? They are metals critical to photovoltaics, electronic manufacturing, catalytic converters, alloys and magnets. Still not impressed? OK, let’s just say they are metals critical to the production of everything from HD TVs to steel, from cell phones, electric windmills and car batteries to lasers and other top-secret military devices.
Specifically, they include the 17 rare earth elements, as well as cobalt, vanadium, manganese, tungsten, molybdenum, tantalum and lithium. As Kaiser says, “They used to be called minor metals, but they are not so minor anymore.” Especially as exploding demand coupled with China’s decision to end rare earths exports has resulted in a, well, critical shortage.
And it is precisely this shortage that the Critical Metals Investment Symposium, to be held at Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel, January 21 to 22, has been devised to alleviate. It is, according to organizer Cambridge House International Inc, “the first conference in the world to bring together the multitude of parties involved in finding solutions to the developing world crisis in the supply shortage of rare earth and strategic metals.”
Cambridge Chairman Joe Martin says, “The purpose of this conference is to show the end users [i.e., the industrial, consumer and military entities that use critical metals] that there is an entire industry in Canada, the junior resource industry, which taps into the capital markets for sourcing and developing these metals which the big mining companies cannot be bothered with because their markets are too small and complex. The hope is that as these juniors demonstrate the solutions they have to this problem, capital will come in from downstream sources and invest in these companies to help bring deposits to the market and solve this security of supply problem.”
At press time, 28 mining companies (25 TSX or TSXV listed) are signed up as exhibitors. Speakers include Shigeo Nakamura of Advance Material Japan Corp, Cheng Zhanheng and Lin Donglu of the Chinese Society of Rare Earths, Jaakko Kooroshy of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies and Jim Powell of Laurentian Bank Securities. Martin won’t reveal the attendees, but they are thought to include representatives of the major American computer software and hardware companies.
Vancouver is the ideal host for this conference, because, as Martin points out, “60% of all minerals exploration in the world is done by Canadian companies, with two-thirds of those headquartered in Vancouver.” John Kaiser, who is also a speaker, argues that the race to find new sources of critical metals will be a boon to Canadian companies due to the implications of the Dodd-Frank Act, signed into US law by President Barack Obama in July 2010. This law, Kaiser explains, stipulates that “There must be a chain of command confirming that the supply of minerals is ‘conflict-free.’ So if end users get their tantalum from a mine in Canada, they can demonstrate it is clean, mined in a country whose environmental standards are the highest in the world, as opposed to being mined in the killing fields of the Congo, basically through a form of slave labour.”
This is the first time the end user has been invited to meet the explorers – David Hodge, Commerce Resources
Martin notes that one Vancouver junior, FCO:CA Metals, has already benefitted greatly from Dodd-Frank. The Democratic Republic of the Congo produces 40% of the world’s cobalt, which is now effectively banned in the US, while FCO:CA has found a deposit in Idaho. As a result, its share price has gone from about 75 cents in September to about $2.40 today.
Another Vancouver company set to benefit is Commerce Resources, which has a major tantalum-niobium deposit in BC. President David Hodge says of the conference, “This is the first time the end user has been invited to meet the explorers. And cell phone users, anybody who drives a car or flies in an airplane, they all have an interest in solving the critical metals problem. Specifically, Sony, Panasonic and the other big brands need a supply of critical metals.”
Hodge concludes, “Without this ethical supply, companies will not be able to satisfy consumers. The people of the world are saying that we will no longer put up with the rape, pillage and murder that is happening in the Congo and Rwanda in order to supply our lifestyles.”