Diggers and Dealers 2014 kicks off with sombre tones

This morning saw the start of the 22nd Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum, undoubtedly the premier business event in Australia for resource companies, from junior miners through to our largest producers, to showcase the highlights of their strategies for asset development and production growth. 
The presentations and connections made by the 46 speakers and 123 exhibiting companies in Kalgoorlie this week will be of serious interest to competitors, shareholders, and most importantly new investors.
Around 1800 to 1850 delegates are expected to pass through the gates over the next three days, according to event organiser John Langford, which is slightly less than last year's forum
This was to be expected considering that depressed economic conditions in the resource sector have significantly reduced exploration activity, especially at the small end of the industry, although we have been seeing expenditure cutbacks with a drive towards increased efficiency throughout every level of mining.
This morning the forum was opened by Diggers and Dealers chairman Barry Eldridge, who said investment in capital expenditure in recent years means  companies that have ramped into more vigorous operations are still making excellent profits, despite the challenging climate of lower commodity prices.
"We are pleased to present so many positive and emerging investment opportunities during the next three days, and I'm sure that as usual everyone will leave here with renewed enthusiasm for this industry," he said.
Before beginning the day's proceedings, the panel and audience shared a minute of silence in respectful memory of the family members of Buxton Resources managing director Anthony Maslin, who only two weeks ago were passengers on downed flight MH17.
"Anthony Maslin has been involved in the resources sector as a broker, advisor, and director – It is therefore appropriate as an industry to show our support for Anthony, and express our condolences for the lives of Mo, Evie, Otis, and their grandfather Nick Norris."
In other major news, Eldridge announced that after seven years as chairman of Diggers and Dealers, this will be his final year in the role.
"It's been a most enjoyable and rewarding period, and a unique opportunity for me to be able to interact with some of the most inspirational leaders that work in Australia," he said.
"Involvement in the industry and gauging the success of that industry means that leadership comprises ferocious endeavor, absolute focus, and extreme sales skills to sell ideas, raise money and inspire workforces – As an industry we embrace those attributes with vigor, and we will meet many of the leaders who do this over the next three days."
Eldridge was followed by the Diggers and Dealers 2014 keynote speaker, the former Governor of the Bank of England, Lord King of Lothbury, who is well known in finance circles as one of the world's most innovative and influential central bankers, and was listed in 2013 as the 11th most influential person in global international finance centres.
Lord King provided a thorough and provoking analysis of the impact of the Global Financial Crisis, suggesting that such a sharp economic decline ought to have been followed by an equally sharp recovery, but the global economy has undergone a slow rate of recovery in the structure of demand and supply due to ongoing 
"It's going to become much more difficult for central banks to use monetary policy to maintain demand growth and recovery," King said.
"Only the real adjustment that's required to make the world move to a new equilibrium will do, and what that requires is measures to raise people's beliefs about their incomes in the future, that is supply side reform.
"There has never been a better time to try to improve productivity and realise the supply performance of economies, and indeed unless we do that it will become evident that households will demonstrate that the do not believe that they can support a high level of consumption now because they have more pessimistic views about the future."
"We need to have these changes in the world economy, supply side reforms and changes to real exchange rates in order to boost the real incomes of countries that previously had large trade surpluses, and they will need to spend that on consumption and reduce their trade surpluses."
One speaker to look out for today is Bill Beamont, the managing director of Northern Star Resources, which has made some serious plays this year with the acquisition of Plutonic, Kanowna Belle and Kundana mines, and ongoing development of the very rich Pegasus gold deposit at Kundana in WA.
Northern Star does look like a contender for the Dealer Award on Wednesday night, but it will have a hard task of getting past Gina Rhinehart's Roy Hill Holdings, which is certainly the favourite for the gong thanks to a $7 billion dollar global debt market financing deal for completion of the Roy Hill project.
Tomorrow we will have Fortescue Metals CEO Nev Power speaking on their $9.2 billion US dollar expansion, which tripled FMGs iron ore production capacity to 155 megatonnes per annum in march this year, an achievement which sees them as a strong contender for the digger award, which will be announced at the Gala Dinner on Wednesday night.
To keep up to date with everything at the show as it happens, check out our Live Diggers & Dealers page to stay informed on the latest information as it happens.

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