LAWRIE WILLIAMS: 2021 PDAC goes virtual – gold and silver juniors particularly isappointed

The COVID-19 global pandemic is already having an unparalleled effect on the events sector, with virtually all annual conference events involving mass gatherings either postponed or going virtual – and this is now impacting major mining/minerals industry related events previously due to take place next year.  The latest casualty is the hugely well attended Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) meeting planned to take place in Toronto in early March 2021.  The PDAC, which this writer had attended most years from 1977 onwards, had become the global mining sector’s largest annual conference in terms of attendance as it outgrew its previous venue of the city’s Royal York hotel and moved mto the nearby Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where it had been attracting over 30,000 delegates from all around the mining and mineral exploration world each year.

In an announcement on the Association’s website, the PDAC notes:  ‘Our annual PDAC Convention—the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining event—will be entirely virtual in 2021 for the first time in its 89-year history.  As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect travel and major gatherings, we recognize that staying connected is more important than ever for members, exhibitors, sponsors, attendees and numerous partners. The decision to move forward with a virtual event offers a safe and innovative solution for the industry to access our outstanding programming, investment and networking opportunities. The Convention will take place around its original dates of March 7-10 — join us from anywhere in the world. Exact dates will be confirmed in the coming weeks.’

The PDAC managers had come under some criticism for holding the 2020 event in March this year in the light of the COVID-19 virus, and certainly the Convention was seen as responsible for virus infections being incurred by a small number of delegates.  To be fair, at the time few people had realised what devastation the pandemic would have on much of the world, but even so the 2020 event was probably one of the last major meetings of any kind to be held before lockdowns and travel restrictions made such gatherings untenable.

As an indicator of the importance of the event to the Canadian, and global, mining and exploration sectors, it attracts exhibitors, investors, analysts, mining executives, geologists and government officials from across the  Americas and the world, including two sitting Canadian Prime Ministers, Justin Trudeau in 2019 and 2020 and Stephen Harper in 2014.   According to Wikipedia, it has grown into a respected institution with an international reputation for networking, deal-making and discussing the current issues, trends and technologies shaping the industry worldwide.

While full details have not yet been announced as to the actual format of the virtual event, nor its final online dates, the face-to-face element of the meeting will be sorely missed by the usual delegates and those who would have liked to attend the 2021 event for the first time.  In particular the precious metals junior miners and explorers, who normally dominate the Investor Exchange trade show section of this annual junket will find the change in format particularly disappointing, given the recent resurgence of gold and silver-related exploration activity in particular, along with the rising metals prices.  However, it will also give us some respite from some of the more dubious claims usually put forward by a seemingly ever-increasingly prevalent more dubious sector among Canadian explorers run by stock market manipulators out to make a quick buck at the expense of the unwary

We will definitely miss the ‘buzz’ generated by a booming mineral exploration sector, but that is a small price to pay for health safety given it would be impossible to police physical interactions between so many delegates from so many countries – assuming the Canadian government would even let them into the country.

For the PDAC itself, the cancellation of the face-to-face element of the Convention will be a major financial blow and how it can monetise the virtual event remains unknown at this stage.  But whatever it could possibly pull in in terms of revenue will be only a fraction of what it normally takes in for the annual event.  Obviously much of the cost of holding the Convention will fall away, but this will in no way compensate for the likely loss of registration sales revenue.  The PDAC is a major lobbying body for the Canadian mineral exploration sector, which punches hugely above its weight on the global scene, and much of this function could well fall away until business is resumed as normal – and who knows when this may be?

14 Sep 2020

About the author

Lawrence Williams

Lawrence (Lawrie) Williams is a well known London-based writer and commentator on financial and political subjects, but specialising in precious metals news and commentary. He is a qualified and experienced mining engineer having graduated in mining engineering from The Royal School of Mines, a constituent college of Imperial College, London - recently described as the World’s No. 2 University (after MIT).

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