Prospectors, developers and investors flock to Toronto for the world’s largest annual event of its kind
by Greg Klein
Of course there’s partying too. With so many thousands of people swarming into Toronto for the March-1st-to-4th PDAC 2015, some R&R would be understandable—even compulsory. But “by far most of the effort is business,” maintains Rod Thomas, president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. “It’s an opportunity to meet people, look at projects in detail and keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry. And there’s a lot of deal-making going on. It’s a very hectic four days.”
The world’s largest and longest-running annual event of its kind, the PDAC convention has been an industry institution since 1932. Naturally it’s grown tremendously. Thomas, active for 20 years with the organization, has seen the convention grow from a few thousand attendees at the Royal York Hotel. “Now it’s 10 times that, an order of magnitude greater” and taking an ever-expanding presence at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Thomas expects a turnout similar to last year, when over 25,000 attendees showed up, nearly a quarter of them from 102 countries other than Canada. Over 500 aboriginal delegates arrived, as did 374 media, 61 sponsors and representatives from 63 governments.
Welcoming them were 420 exhibiting organizations with 665 booths in the trade show and another 543 exhibitors with 572 booths in the investor exchange.
This year’s trade show will be even bigger, having expanded into the convention centre’s northern reach where, along with the prospecting tent and core shack, attendance is free.
And, like previous years, there’ll also be professional upgrading with 11 short courses and 19 technical sessions. Forums, product demonstrations, corporate presentations and talks by newsletter writers also fill the agenda. Additionally, about 60 companies will be vying for attention at the core shack. “A lot of deals get done there,” Thomas tells ResourceClips.com. “It’s fairly typical that senior company geologists, mining analysts and people wanting to make acquisitions will look at those projects to get a sense of what’s on offer, and a lot of deals get done. In fact a lot of deals get done at the convention. It’s a huge networking opportunity.”
Evidently companies find their participation worthwhile. “We offer a lot of value for money,” Thomas says. “If you look at other investment conferences of one form or another, we’re very competitive in terms of price but also in sheer size and what we offer for people who attend.”
Nor has the downturn effectively dampened enthusiasm. “As an industry we’re fairly resilient and optimistic,” Thomas adds. “The mining business is a depletion business. We need to replace those reserves that are being mined every day. The junior exploration and development industry’s intent is to explore and find new mines for the future. We go through these cycles. This is one of them. My career started in the late ’70s and I’ve probably been through four or five commodity price cycles.”
Difficulties remain, obviously. Having served both senior and junior companies as an exploration geologist and executive, Thomas sees two challenges in particular.
Access to capital is one of them. “The big mining companies produce revenue and they can devote a portion of that to exploration and development. But junior companies don’t have any cash flow. So we need to raise risk capital and it’s difficult doing that. Money is scarce right now, I think mainly because commodity prices are down.”
Then there’s access to land. “As junior companies, we need land to explore. Being able to explore in large areas can be problematic. We need social licence to operate and there are issues in some instances gaining access to land.”
Yet he senses growing optimism in the industry, noting renewed “activity in the marketplace—M&A activity and there’s been a bit of an uptick in deals being done, raising capital for example. Those are all early signs of an improvement in the market. The overarching aspect of the business is that it is a depletion business. So new mines need to be found.”
To find them, the world relies to a large extent on Canadians. “Canada is a global leader in mineral exploration and development,” he points out. “Roughly 60% of the world’s companies are Canadian and the vast majority of them are junior companies. Canada really plays a huge role and punches way above its weight in mineral exploration and mining.”
That helps explain PDAC’s endurance, not to mention the organization’s growth, which Thomas pegs at approximately 10,000 members, about 1,100 of whom are corporate members that include not only juniors and mid-tiers but also big names.
Certainly the industry has bolstered PDAC. But that can work both ways. “As an organization, we are the voice of mineral exploration and development in Canada and a lot of our companies work internationally as well,” Thomas says. “So we’re a Canadian organization but we have a global presence. We advocate for our industry.”
PDAC 2015 takes place March 1 to 4 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Click here for attendee registration.