In Chinese culture, 8 is said to be the luckiest number due to its pronunciation being close to the word for “fortune”. By the numbers, fortune was smiling on the International Convention Centre in Sydney this week, where the Mines and Money team put on the annual International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC).
A whopping 8,500 attendees, including 800 companies, were in attendance. The Mines & Money Hub, established in the neighbouring marquee for the 100+ smaller companies exhibiting, attracted a constant flow of funds and brokers, with one punter recording the noise levels at over 80 decibels at one point. Whilst the activity in the tent clearly showed a strong interest in the junior mining sector, the ‘soapbox’ structure of the presentation areas may have induced sensory overload.
The IMARC conference agenda was future facing, as expected, with presentations focused on critical minerals and the energy transition. The multi stream agenda content also covered digital transformation, mining innovation, ESG and more.
International representation was incredibly strong with delegations from Germany, Sweden, Chile, Mongolia, Peru, South Korea, Canada (including Kitco Mining’s coverage as sponsored by White Noise Communications), Ecuador and India. The home team was in attendance with Government representatives from South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales all presenting their critical minerals strategies.
With its origins as a trade show, there was no shortage of cutting-edge equipment on the conference floor, with everything from handheld XRFs from the team at SciAps to autonomous trucks from Swedish mining equipment giant Epiroc.
In what has become the hottest ticket in town during IMARC week, The Melbourne Mining Club put on its annual sold-out event on Tuesday night at the Pumphouse, which was standing room only with nearly every broker and presenting company keen for some liquid refreshments after a day of talking shop. Some of the punters who intended to drop in for a quick drink before heading out for a meal ended up staying until the last drinks call and changing their dinner plans to a cheeky double quarter pounder at the end of the night.
In terms of hot topics, the lithium sector was top of mind with recent moves in M&A the subject of plenty of discussions overheard on the conference floor. The apparent game of 3D chess being played with the top lithium assets in WA by a few local billionaires has certainly kept market focus on the sector even as Albemarle, the world’s largest producer of lithium for EV batteries, reported lower than expected quarterly profit and pared back its annual forecast on the back of a 60% year to date decline in lithium prices.
Lithium support was further on display with a jam-packed brokers and investor lunch put on in the newly opened W hotel by Latin Resources and Sigma Lithium to launch the Lithium Valley initiative, a plan for job creation and offtake opportunities in Minas Gerais state in Brazil. The Australian launch of the initiative followed a recent successful launch in the US.
It wasn’t just lithium – gold companies were also getting some attention. Andrew Krelle from boutique corporate advisory firm, Bacchus Capital commented: “When interest rates stabilise and the gold price starts to strengthen, we expect to see institutional flows into gold equities, and then the retail money will follow. There is a lot of opportunity for gold explorers and developers with decent assets”.
After three long days of meetings, discussions and presentations, the conference ended with the Gala Dinner, celebrating 10 years of IMARC. Dinner guests had the opportunity to have their photo taken with a gold bar worth $1m, minted especially for IMARC, although the security in attendance made punters think twice about doing a runner. After a Rugby World Cup that most Australians would rather forget, former Wallaby captains Nathan Sharpe and John Eales had a fireside chat with some pointed views on what needs to be done for Australia to become competitive again.
While the current state of the markets could have easily been an excuse for investors to sit on the sidelines, the strong attendance numbers and the quality of the presenting companies demonstrated that the resources sector is as strong as ever.
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