Diggers & Dealers awards: The Winners

The Winners of the 2014 Diggers and Dealers awards were announced last night, at the Westrac Gala Dinner held at the Sponsors Marquee at the Goldfields Arts Centre.

The Award ceremony kicked off with a recorded message from the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in which he pledged his government's determination to help the resources industry to remain competitive, and reiterated several familiar lines.

"We are sending a clear message to the world that Australia is under new management and open for business," he said.

Abbott said the carbon tax had been scrapped, a $9 billion "hit on the economy" and that the government would be able to repeal the mining tax.

"A tax that raised very little, but is costing you so much," he hinted.

Abbott also said he was reinstating the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which he described as a "tough cop-on-the-beat" in the construction sector.

The PM was pleased to boast that his government had provided environmental approvals for more than $800 billion worth of projects across Australia, thanks to his "one-stop-shops" for such approvals.

Dealer of the Year

After the amount of media coverage attracted this year, it was no surprise to see Dealer of the Year won by Northern Star Resources, with a grinning managing director Bill Beament stepping up to the podium to receive the award.

Northern Star produced approximately 100,000 ounces of gold from the Paulsen's project in Western Australia.

However, it was the business side of the venture that won Northern Star Resources the title of Dealer of the Year, with strategic acquisitions of Plutonic, Kundana, and Kanowna Belle for only $100 million, and more recently the Jundee purchase for $82.5 million.

Jundee produced 63,000 ounces in the June quarter.

This incredible level of buying activity has had chins wagging throughout the industry over the past year, and managing director Bill Beament has been on a marketing warpath to make sure everyone would know about it.

With these resources Northern Star will be able to produce more than 550,000 ounces a year with an all-in sustaining cost of less than US$975.

This will make Northern Star the second largest gold producer in Australia, behind Newmont.

"In an industry that prides itself with being innovative and fearless in pursuit of new opportunities, the strategy undertaken and implemented by Northern Star is aggressive, ambitious and impressive," Diggers and Dealers chairman Barry Eldridge said.

"We congratulate the team at Northern Star for the success it has delivered in these acquisitions and we look forward to watching with interest the delivery of the expected operational performance.

Digger of the Year

The Digger of the Year award was won by the Tropicana Joint Venture, run by Anglogold Ashanti and Independence Group.

Diggers chairman Barry Eldridge said there was a record number of companies up for the award, with so many companies transitioning from asset development to successful operation.

"Despite the rhetoric that we have seen in the last year that the resources boom is over, we see it differently," he said.

"The construction phase is largely complete but the real part of our sustainable industry, operations, is alive and well with most companies focused on and delivering productivity efficiencies."

On the award winner, Tropicana, Eldridge said the project was delivering at the lowest quartile cost structure and in the highest quartile from a production profile.

Production for Tropicana commenced in September of 2013, only three years after development approval was received in 2010.

The forecast annual production at Tropicana is expected to be 500,000 ounces with a cash cost between $590 and $630 per ounce. All-in sustaining costs between the March and June quarters were $750-$777 per ounce.

The award was received by Anglogold Ashanti senior vice president Michael Erickson and Independence Group managing director Peter Bradford.

Ray Finlayson Medal for Leadership and Academic Excellence

Mining Engineering student Samson Pastor was awarded the Ray Finlayson medal for his outstanding achievement in the field of academic excellence, to recognise the high hopes that Diggers and Dealers have in his future as a leader in the mining industry.

The medal is always awarded to a student at the Western Australian School of Mines, and Pastor has made a high level of achievement in his studies since secondary school when he was awarded the Long Tan Youth Leadership and Teamwork award by the Australian Defence Force.

Pastor went to Kalgoorlie with the Kimberly Metals Cadetship in 2011, and his academic performance has been recognized by the Vice Chancellor of School of Mines as being in the top one per cent of all students in 2012.

The award is sponsored by the Kalgoorlie School of Mines Scholarship Trust, which was established by Ray Finlayson, the mayor of Kalgoolie between 1976 and 1989, then mayor of the newly amalgamated cities of Kalgoorlie-Boulder until 1992.

The award was initiated by Finlayson's daughter Leonie Hicks using her father's trust, which was intended to perpetuate opportunities to study alongside working mining operations, one of the primary advantages of the Kalgoorlie-based campus.

Emerging Companies Award

Taking top honours over eight emerging new companies was Aurelia Metals Limited, with Rimas Kairaitis receiving the award on behalf of the company.

Judging for the award was aided by Trevor Sykes and Ross Louthean, who were thanked by Barry Eldridge for their ongoing support for the promotion of explorers and their emerging producers.

"We do need to fund emerging projects and exploration or we will end up a stagnant industry," Eldridge said.

GJ Stokes Memorial Award

This year the GJ Stokes award was won by Jim Walker, former managing director of the Westrac Institute.

The GJ Stokes award is given to recognise the contribution of an industry leader to making a sustainable and positive impact on the resources sector, which in recent years has been faced with major challenges in the form of skills shortages, which made it difficult for many projects to meet expanding personnel requirements.

The award was presented by Diggers and Dealers owner Kate Stokes, who said that during his time Walker oversaw the largest employer of apprentices in Australia, with approximately 600 apprentices and trainees in WA, NSW, ACT and China.

"He ensured that the highest quality education facilities were available to deliver the best tradespeople accessible to the industry," Stokes said.

"A successful mine is only operational with competent fitters, electricians and a range of other tradespeople.

"These professionals not only ensure that the equipment, both mobile and fixed, delivers optimum operating efficiency but also contribute substantially to cost effectiveness when the services are competently delivered.

"Jim is well respected as a senior executive within the mining industry having overseen the enormous growth of Westrac since his appointment as managing Director of Westrac in 2000 until he left at the end of 2013.

"Jim, who has made an enormous contribution towards ensuring the availability of premium skills to the industry, is known as a passionate supporter of the resources sector and a most competent executive who has operated at the highest level in the business sector

Media Award

This year's winner of the Media Award, Nick Evans from the West Australian Newspaper, was hailed by Eldridge as an enthusiastic supporter of the positive contributions made by the resources sector who ensured appropriate reporting of issues, and provided pragmatic overviews of industry activities.

Eldridge said Evans uses his journalistic skills to ensure issues are highlighted "when industry participants deserve a rebuke."

"In 2013 he was rewarded for this pragmatism by winning the WA Media Award for business reporting for a series of articles he wrote highlighting issues associated with Norilsk's management of the Lake Johnson Nickel Mine.

"This approach to journalism is essential to holding our industry accountable and deserves recognition as much as Nick's proactive approach to highlighting the positive achievements of our industry."

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.