Gold has been the rock star of this year’s Diggers & Dealers, Evolution Mining’s Jake Klein has said, but nickel and lithium are the surprise winners of 2016.
It’s little wonder the metal has been in focus this year, after defying all market trends and predictions from the start of this year – which forecast a thoroughly bearish market – to be one of the better performing metals.
Lithium has also been on the lips of attendees, as its prominence rises thanks to increasing demand from electric vehicle, with lithium explorers (as well as gold miners) numbering highly amongst attendees.
Nickel and zinc have also been gaining traction at the event.
Independence Group CEO Peter Bradford expects nickel to soon reach a supply deficit, pointing to two major catalysts to drive this new paradigm, continuing Philippine mine closures and increased electric vehicle battery demand.
In terms of zinc, the metal has experienced a complete turnaround, increasing 41 per cent this year, providing the best return for investors after silver. Its price has surged as mine-output cuts such as those at Glencore, actively reduced supply through mine closures and production cuts.
As has been well reported, Nick Gorgetta’s opening speech firmly stated mining is far from dead and buried, and even in the last few months has seen a strong resurgence.
“It should be noted that there has been a reasonably strong upturn in most commodity prices since 1 July, and we can hope that this continues and provides the base for another year of strong performances from investing in resources companies,” he said.
This positivity has been seen on the ground, with miners and suppliers demonstrating a renewed attitude towards the industry, with general consensus that the worst is over.
One of the more interesting aspects was Rio Tinto’s presentation, on exploration, highlighting the changing focus in the industry away from that of solely production gains to the re-emergence of exploration and early green-shoots for the next stage of the mining cycle.
Rio Tinto’s group executive for growth and innovation, Stephen McIntosh, kicked off his presentation by stating Australia is long overdue for a new Tier 1 discovery, and while brownfields exploration has proven fruitful, new greenfield discoveries must be made.
This was echoed by Gorgetta.
“On the exploration front there have been many brownfield discoveries, and with companies committing more dollars to exploration, I am sure success will continue,” he said.
However, “Greenfield exploration has suffered badly in the last few years and yet it is absolutely essential to the future of the resource sector.”
McIntosh used his presentation to call on all miners at Diggers to come forward and talk to Rio Tinto on collaborating on the next Tier 1 discovery, repeating his line from last year: “We have our exploration cheque book ready for quality projects.”
He also outlined new ways Rio Tinto is approaching exploration, and the new technologies it is trialling to ensure faster, more accurate exploration and surveying.