Sparse on people, but high on hopes

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A special report on Mines and Money Conference in London 28th Nov. 2016.
By our M.D. Mike Booton

Once again we attended the annual mining conference Mines and Money in London in 2016. It was immediately obvious that yet again the high price of attending had put off many exhibitors and attendees alike. Compared to 2014, there seemed to be half the number of stands. When will the organisers realise that they are so out of kilter with other conferences? One could fly to South Africa, attend the mining Indaba there in February and enjoy three days in a 4star hotel and lovely weather, and still have change from the price of a Three Day Pass at M&M.

However, that aside, it was interesting once again to catch up with old contacts (no offence Prof. Plimer) and make new ones. Being such a central location is useful – it is convenient for networking and probably the only reason we continue to attend this event. The quality of speakers too is excellent. It was good to hear the industry greats such as Mark Bristow of Randgold, and many others, ruminate on the future of the industry – and the consensus seemed to be, despite it being in the depths of a bear market, that there was now good reason to be optimistic. Not that people were optimistic, just that there was reason to be.

There was perhaps a sense of renewal. Not so much the idea that the industry was ploughing ahead regardless, but more that the nadir of this supercycle had been reached and we are now on the upswing: The chancers, quick-buck guys, no hopers and badly run companies have long since been exposed and shaken out. What is now left is the hard core; the survivors, those with good business models, some large cash reserves, and a fair few predators looking to increase market share. These players will be lasting the distance.

It certainly accords with my own experience. We are finding more companies are requiring key staff, and using agencies again to recruit them. Whereas last year was dire, we already have a full research diary for two months ahead.
Brexit was barely mentioned, Trump certainly was.

Many share the views of Ian Hannam (of Hannam and Partners) and James Hartop (of Centreview Partners) that Commodities and related mining companies look set to become more volatile and sensitive to political action, although the proposed measures to spend on infrastructure will benefit them, although of course, this may or may not happen.

In the UK where many miners are headquartered, the exit negotiations from the EU will provide administrative uncertainty, but miners with costs in those currencies could see some improvements to their bottom lines, especially if revenue is in US dollars.

So on balance, it was worth attending to see where the people that should know consider where the market is…if only it hadn’t been so expensive just to walk through the door.

 

Posted on 23rd November 2016

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