lithium, rare earths and potash companies were among the
industrial minerals companies which gathered in Toronto this
week for the Prospectors and Developers Association Canada
There was, without a doubt, an extreme shift in sentiment on
the floor. Although there were fewer attendees this
year 25,122 people attended, compared to 30,147 attendees in
2013 and less exhibitors, the mood was decidedly less
Not only were attendees more upbeat, but the level of
engagement was more serious. Developers in the industry can no
longer get away with claiming to be the biggest and the best in
the industry without backing up their claims with cold hard
So this year several companies held press conferences about
offtake agreements, joint venture partners, and agreements with
Everybody in the mining industry recognises that there
are two types of play: a paper play and a mining play,
Ricardo Campoy, managing director of minerals capital advisory
service, Headwaters MB, told IM.
And, after what has happened with the
economic downturn, you recognise people focused on the paper
play and not the mining play. They are both important
but if you favour the paper play your mine will run into
serious problems, he added.
It was the PDAC for announcement and strategic partnerships.
This kicked off at the media reception with president of PDAC
Glen Nolan introducing John Baird, the Canadian Minister of
Foreign Affairs, who gave a speech about the importance of
networking and promoting the Canadian resource sector.
Nolan emphasised that the Canadian mining and resource
industry could provide growth for the economy and strategic
links with other countries also.
This was highlighted by the strategic partnership between
the Toronto Venture Exchange and the Santiago Stock Exchange,
which was announced the following day.
And then, the announcement by Avalon Rare Metals in
which it revealed its tolling agreement with Solvay, put the
company back in the so-called rare earths race.
The presence of the Canadian Premier, Stephen Harper,
highlighted the importance of the mining event but also,
if one was to read between the lines, the need for a boost for
the mining industry.
Also announced while at PDAC was Orbite Aluminae
Inc.s cash injection from the Quebec government of
Canadian dollar (C$) 10m ($9m*).
This brings us a strong strategic partner and what was
more important is that that investment was based upon a
technical survey carried out by an independent company,
CEO, Glenn Kelly, told IM.
Elsewhere, Focus Graphite president Don Baxter spoke to
IM about the companys strategic Chinese
partner, shortly before it announced the offtake amount it had
agreed for the Lac Knife deposit was for a minimum of 200,000
tpa half its output, over ten years.
We announced an offtake agreement with a Chinese conglomerate
before Christmas and it had a very positive effect on
Focus, Baxter told IM.
It definitely puts us ahead in the graphite space,
being the only company to do that and the only one in history
to do that deal directly with an end user and the fact
its a Chinese end user for minimum half of our
production, but they could take 90% of our production. So
its had a very positive affect and spurred some of the
other we are speaking to come to the table as well as they are
concerned there wont be enough of our high quality flake
for them and having the offtake answers the question that all
people ask when having graphite can you sell it?
Absolutely, he added.
Tellingly, this year many companies were also keen to
highlight their connections with the communities they were
Avalon hosted a signing of a participation agreement with
the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, which lives on the
land which contains its Nechalacho Rare Earth Elements Project
at Thor Lake, NWT.
This saw National Chief of the Assembly of the First
Nations, Phil Fontaine, saying that Avalon was a leading
example of how a mining company should conduct itself with
regard to the aboriginal community.
One of the reasons I decided to join the board of
Avalon was because of what I knew about Avalon and the way it
positions itself with the community, he told
PDAC hosted a whole session on aboriginal affairs and there
was a television crew engaging with mining companies to enquire
as to how they comported themselves in their respective
Not all were forthcoming, however, producer Candida Paltiel,
We try to speak to everybody and mostly they have been
great, but some dont want to know at all, she
Looking to 2015
For once and refreshingly so there was little
talk of the future being bright, or expected optimism for the
This years PDAC was different because of the positive
signals from the market, such as Tesla building a Gigafactory in the US,
the Canadian Parliament meeting with rare earths industry group
CREEN to discuss a
strategy for the year ahead, and the many offtake agreements
and partnerships announced over the four day period.
This is an industry which looks like it needs to knuckle
down and prove its credentials if it is to survive and so 2015
looks like hard work, with a goal in sight.