BY ELIZABETH FABRI
MOMENTUM is building for this year’s Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum, with more than 2000 mining professionals expected to set foot on Kalgoorlie’s iconic red soil this August for another action-packed event.
The Kalgoorlie and Goldfields province has a rich mining history that dates back to September 1892, when prospectors Arthur Bayley and William Ford first discovered gold in Coolgardie.
Gold and nickel mining dominated the first half of the 20th century, and the region’s portfolio has since evolved to encompass a number of iron ore, copper, zinc, silver, and lithium projects.
“This year, gold mining in Kalgoorlie celebrated its 60th million ounce of action, which is a remarkable achievement,” Diggers and Dealer’s Forum chairman Nick Giorgetta said.
“I actually live in Kalgoorlie myself, and I’ve seen a lot of ups and down, but Kalgoorlie always comes back again, whether through gold or nickel or through other base metals.
“The history of mining continues on very successfully; it’s a very rich area.”
There is no other event that can truly match the buzz experienced at WA’s iconic Diggers and Dealers conference.
For the last 26 years, mining companies have travelled great distances to attend the annual conference founded by Geoff Stokes, and today marked in the diaries of miners, METS companies and investors from across the country.
“It started pretty small; in the first year they had about 92 people attending and as the years went on it became a much bigger conference,” Mr Giorgetta said.
“In 2012 it went up to a maximum of 2400 delegates, and now we’re consistently close to 2000, and this year we will get about 2100/2200 attending.”
WA’s unofficial gold capital Kalgoorlie has hosted the conference since its inception, and continues to remain a significant contributor to the event’s appeal; with miner’s looking forward to attending each year to celebrate with industry peers in a relaxed setting.
The event’s smart-casual dress code and generous networking drinks portion alone set the scene for an enjoyable three days filled with learning opportunities, collaboration through the many exhibitor stands, and of course, socialising.
But with operations at the event venue, Goldfields Arts Centre, up in the air, questions arise on Diggers and Dealers place in the region in future years.
In June, the State Government announced the city’s event’s hub, Goldfields Arts Centre would be forced into care and maintenance from 30 June 2017, as a result of an ongoing dispute between the City and State Government.
Existing bookings for the next 12 months would be honoured, so this had no effect on the running of the 2017 event to be held between 7-9 August.
In July, Diggers and Dealers announced the WA Minister for Training had confirmed the centre would be available for Diggers and Dealers for the 2018 conference.
“We have addressed this uncertainty with the Minister for Training with respect to the 2018 Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum as we know that people attending Diggers and Dealers in August this year will be wanting to reconfirm accommodation for the following as has been done for many years,” Mr Giorgetta said.
Mr Giorgetta hoped the Government’s would allow the conference to continue in Kalgoorlie beyond 2018, as the destination aspect was a key drawcard.
“I have been to many conferences in the city [Perth] myself and you just go there, listen to the information and come five o’clock everyone goes in different directions,” Mr Giorgetta said.
“Most people go home or to their hotels, so all the interaction following the conference doesn’t exist.
“However in Kalgoorlie everyone stays on; Diggers and Dealers puts on a couple of hours of free drinks for delegates so they can mingle and discuss things. After that they seem to make their own arrangements; go into town to the pub, or whatever they want to do.
“In a way people have to stay together because there really isn’t any other place to go, and this works wonderfully well.”
The 2017 conference program is shaping up to be one of Diggers and Dealers best yet.
Following Mr Giorgetta’s opening speech, delegates will be treated to a keynote address from Robert Zoellick, who served in President George W Bush’s cabinet as US Trade Representative between 2001 and 2005, as US Deputy Secretary of State from 2005-2006, and as World Bank Group president between 2007 and 2012.
Mr Giorgetta said Mr Zoellick was uniquely qualified to provide an educated overview of recent global political and economic changes and what they will mean for the Australian resources sector.
“We believe that this year with all the events taking place worldwide (political events such as Brexit, Trump’s election, the France election), it will be very interesting to see what Robert’s perspective is on the world we live in and we’re looking forward to his presentation,” Mr Giorgetta said.
“He [Robert] is quite outspoken which is good to see.”
The conference will also include presentations from Anglo American technical director Tony O’Neill, Fortescue Metals Group chief executive Nev Power, Roy Hill Holdings chief executive Barry Fitzgerald, Pilbara Minerals chief executive and managing director Ken Brinsden, AngloGold Ashanti vice president corporate affairs Andrea Maxey, Evolution Mining executive chairman Jake Klein, and many more.
On top of this, the conference will be complemented by an exhibitor hall filled with between 140 and 150 stands exhibiting their services and the latest technologies.
“It’s a good mix of about 60-70 per cent presenters and mining companies, and then some from the service industry; so it’s a very comprehensive exhibition, and everyone there will find somebody to talk to,” Mr Giorgetta said.
The annual Diggers and Dealers awards, presented at the WesTrac Gala dinner on 9 August recognises the outstanding players in the industry.
Last year’s recipients included Fortescue Metals Group, which was awarded the Digger award, and Evolution Mining, which took home the Dealer award.
The road ahead
The Diggers and Dealers conference will continue to be run in Kalgoorlie for as long as it’s feasible, Mr Giorgetta said.
“Kalgoorlie is the perfect location for the conference; its unique in the sense that all delegates arrive in Kalgoorlie and stay there for the full three days and meet together, communicate with each other, and most do some visits to mine sites around the Goldfields so the miners arrange for them to fly to the mine sites,” he said.
“It wouldn’t make any sense to shift the conference from Kalgoorlie, unless of course, we are forced to.
Mr Giorgetta said the conference organisers were currently awaiting confirmation whether the conference would be held at the venue beyond 2018.
“Discussions between the Council and the Department of Training are ongoing and we are confident that the long term ownership and operations of the Goldfields Art Centre will be resolved in due course,” he said.
“Honestly, we are quietly confident this will be resolved within the Government and the town of Kalgoorlie, because apart from the Diggers and Dealers, Kalgoorlie needs the arts centre or something similar to that.
“If they close it the whole population will suffer… I’m sure that between the town, the shire and the Government they will come to a resolution; at least I’m hopeful for that.”
Once the 2017 conference has finished, planning will begin shortly after for next year’s event.
“It’s a very complex conference to organise because of the logistics to get the people to Kalgoorlie, to make sure there is accommodation available, and to make sure there is flights available for people,” Mr Giorgetta said.
“It takes nearly the whole year to organise so by the time this conference is finished, two months later the management team start working on the next conference, and to make sure it was a little bit better next year than it was this year.”
Mr Giorgetta said while there had been previous years where the mining industry was not performing well, the conference remained a highly informative and positive networking experience for delegates.
“It’s a cyclic industry, so we always see the ups and downs but by large I am very encouraged,” he said.
“I’m quite optimistic I think it is continuing on very well.”
More information can be found at www.diggersndealers.com.au.