June 17th brought us the opening of the 2022 in-person Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada or PDAC convention. This year marked the 90th anniversary of the event and the first in-person convention held since March of 2020. Last year’s event was entirely virtual due to the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, and this year’s event was postponed from its regular March date to allow for a safe hosting of the in-person event. The convention saw 17,445 attendees, with a record attendance for the opening ceremony. The event included investors, mining executives, indigenous leaders, analysts, geologists, government officials, and students from around the globe. The in-person event’s attendance numbers confirm the desire for the sector to get back to business face to face. This year’s convention was a rare summer event, and the added warmth brought a positive outlook on the future of the commodities market. The attendees’ consensus was that commodities produced through mining would gain in value even with the ongoing inflation concerns seen in the overall global economy.

PDAC's Keynote Speeches

Many of PDAC’s Keynote Speeches were focused on the balance between the needs of the industry and the needs of the globe. Vanessa Davidson of CRU, London, England, was the first keynote speaker, and she spoke of her work in the copper industry, supplying ground-breaking research into end-use markets, new industry players, and the various technological advances that CRU is applying to its metals production.

Day two’s Mineral Outlook keynote was presented by Tom Palmer, CEO of Australia’s Newmont Corporation. Mr. Palmer spoke of a need for the industry to drive change and provided his valuable insights into the future of the mining industry in the coming century.

Day three’s keynote speeches started with Jeff Hanman, Vice President of Sustainable Development for Teck Resources’ steelmaking coal business unit. He spoke about technology and innovation leading the future of mining. Hanman said that future mining operations would need data analysts, software developers, and even biotechnologists to meet the rising demand for metals to decarbonize the environment in an environmentally friendly fashion.

And the final keynote speech was co-presented by John Kilroe & Jennifer Maguire of Australia’s Rio Tinto. They discussed their 2017 discovery of the Winu copper-gold deposit in the Paterson Province of Western Australia. These two geoscientists were effectively able to explore for mineralization under a cover of rocks and sediments. Their discovery of an inferred resource of 503 million tonnes grading 0.45% copper equivalent for Winu was arduous; many of the deposits were in deep areas. However, they followed up with airborne geophysical surveys and found a shallow EM conductor coincident with one of their targets. Though the subsequent drilling program also had to deal with harsh conditions that included 450 temps, cyclones, and wildfires, they were able to expand the mineralization enough to justify the development of an open-pit mine.

Friend to the Community

Much of the focus of the PDAC convention saw a push toward the mining industry becoming a partner with the communities in which it does its business. Several presentations, products, and services displayed were focused on specific innovations that did exactly this. Environmental responsibility was a key push for many at the PDAC conference, ensuring that the production and processing of the minerals we work with are sustainably harvested, having a minimal impact on the local communities in which we serve.

Green energy was a specific touch point seen at PDAC 2022. The desire for the future energy needs of the earth while reaching its Net Zero goals, will be fueled by batteries that require the use of rare earth minerals. Many of the presenters stated the importance of a balance between the sourcing of these minerals and the environmental benefits that they can supply over fossil fuels.

According to Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson,

“In fact, we possess all 31 of the minerals listed on Canada’s critical minerals list and significant deposits of those minerals that will be in greatest demand.”

If the search for, production, and refinement of these valuable future minerals produce more waste than they conserve, their ultimate value is minimized. In Jeff Hanman’s keynote speech, he stated that….

“The same ESG factors that are driving demand (for these metals) are increasingly constraining supply,…… The truth is it’s probably never been harder to build a new mine. Investors, regulators, (and) Indigenous Nations are all rightfully demanding reduced impacts. This is translating into much more complex, regulatory and engagement processes that take vastly more time.”

We must devise the best possible solution to this careful balance which is attainable using technology and sustainable planning.

PDAC was the first prospecting and mining organization globally to create its responsible exploration framework called “e3” back in 2003, which has since evolved into its e3 Plus program. e3 has gone beyond just environmental issues and now includes Social and Governance aspects, making it a comprehensive ESG framework for the industry.

This ESG e3 Plus process requires the inclusion of local communities, which for Canada often includes indigenous communities that deserve special attention.

Governmental Announcements

A few important regulatory and tax-related announcements were made at the PDAC convention.

During his speech at the 2022 PDAC conference, Óscar Graham, the Peruvian Minister of Economics and Finance, announced that the Peruvian government would be extending its tax refund benefit to mining and oil exploration until 2025. This benefit was planned to end in December of this year and was a welcome extension by those that serve the Peruvian market.

Another important announcement was from Xavier Vera, Ecuador’s Energy Minister. Mr. Vera stated that despite the talks of nationalization and stricter regulations of mines seen across several nations in South America, Ecuador would be taking a different path that is much more beneficial to the mining industry as a whole. The Ecuadorian government has an aim to begin the construction of six projects by 2025. In his interview with the Northern Miner at the PDAC Conference, the Minister stated that Ecuador, home to 18 million, aims to export around C$9 to 10 billion worth of minerals by the year 2030, and he reiterated his belief that the nationalization of Ecuadorian mines was not their intent. Stating that,

“The public sectors in most countries are not efficient, and that is why it’s very dangerous. Well, there are some exceptions, but that’s the general rule — at least in South America.” 

Canadian Mineral Supply

The Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Parliamentary Secretary Yvonne Jones presented a white paper outlining the government’s plans to create mining sector jobs while simultaneously steering Canada towards its climate goals and maintaining good relationships with its First Nations people.

Concurrently Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane and Minister of Industry, Tourism, and Investment (ITI) Caroline Wawzonek, told the Northern Miner in an interview that they wish for the federal government to step up by providing more support for the territory’s infrastructure needs, which lags behind southern Canada and limits mining development potential due to increased costs.

Online Event Still to Come

Though the in-person event has successfully concluded, the PDAC convention is not over; there will be a virtual online event with both learning and opportunities for additional networking from June 28th to the 29th. The virtual event has continued to serve the needs of all of the mining and prospecting community and was planned due to the popularity of last year’s successful online-only conference.

More information about the online event can be found at: https://www.pdac.ca/convention