PDAC Mining Convention, Part One: Report Back

The annual Prospectors and Developers Association (PDAC) Convention took place this past weekend in Toronto.

The PDAC convention is one of the largest, if not the largest, mining industry gathering in the world. There were over 30,000 delegates reported to have attended the event this year from every continent. One of the most important purposes of the convention is the Investors Exchange where junior exploration companies try to hook up with bigger companies, investors, and financing groups in order to develop or sell off claims or further explore areas where they hope to have claims. It’s like matchmaker for industry.

There are also a series of concurrent sessions and presentations that happen throughout the week including country presentations (where countries or regions present their resource potential to attract investment); technical workshops aimed at geologists and engineers; the Aboriginal forums that present topics like the ‘the duty to consult’, Impact Benefit Agreements, what ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ means; and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) series. 

Being only one person, your humble scribe focused on the CSR series this year. It is also important to note that the Canadian Congolese Citizen Movement spent most of Monday and Tuesday outside the North Building of the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, calling out against the investment in companies that operate and mine Coltan (used in iPhones and smart technologies) in the Congo and against the international intervention that perpetuates the violence in the region. Articles in Arthur have been written about this before, but if this is an unfamiliar topic please take the time to learn more at: www.ingeta.com

During the convention, Arthur attended four sessions: Canada in 2013: 1) A cross-country check-up of exploration and development successes and potential problems; 2) Preparing for increased anti-corruption enforcement: key steps for mining companies; 3) Maximizing environmental and social performance during exploration; and 4) The business case for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

1) Basically no matter where you live in Canada, mining is on the agenda, except for maybe P.E.I. New Brunswick has approved fracking with regulations; Quebec is pushing forward Plan Nord under a slightly different name; Ontario is working on developing the Ring of Fire in the Northern part of the province; Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta all have development plans for new mine sites in the works; the North is riddled exploration plans; and BC alone has over 52 potential new projects lined up between now and 2017.

During this presentation it was bragged that Kamloops could become the “Sudbury of the West.” If you have spent time in Kamloops, the thought of it becoming like Sudbury as it was in its industrial boom period might frighten you. Some good news is that the industry realizes that the days of building mines without consulting with communities are fading fast. Additionally, resistance movements are succeeding because it was stated that “activists” are real potential problems that industry should be worried about.

2) The second session was really a lesson in what constitutes bribery and why companies should not bribe foreign state officials. For Real.

3) Even though the extraction industry has very deep fundamental flaws, this panel drilled into the audience the importance of communicating and consulting with communities at every stage of the mine cycle from pre-exploration, to drilling for core samples, to land reclamation. Members of industry were insisting upon their peers to be upfront, transparent, and respectful in their relations with communities. Perhaps drilling in these ideas with incentives like: fail at this and you won’t get funding, or fail at this and the community will throw you out, or fail at this and your entire project will fail, are the ways to getting the message to sink in. Only time will tell.

4) This session provided a case for how to quantify nature and how to strategically plan operations while impacting the environment the least. This session was hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Society. There may be a problem with quantifying and commodifying nature so that it fits into a business model, but if this is the language the industry understands, then it may just be a start towards shifting the paradigm.

Look for Part Two of Natalie’s PDAC 2013 coverage in next week’s Arthur, as we question whether CEO’s of major mining corporations are really qualified to determine if they are contributing to sustainable development.