The annual Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum kicks off for another year in 2022. With a range of market conditions impacting the mining sector, JOSH LEWIS talked to conference Chairman Jim Walker about the focus for this year’s event.  

With the mining industry long seen as the engine room of the Australian economy, all eyes turn to the annual Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum in Western Australia for a snapshot of the state of the industry.

Diggers & Dealers is Australia’s largest annual gathering of executives from the mining and investment communities, despite being held in a remote mining town in the Australian outback. But as conference Chairman Jim Walker says, the location is one of the key attractions.

“Holding the event in Kalgoorlie ensures that delegates are fully engaged with the conference,” he explains.

“Predominantly, the delegates are away from their office, so they do not have the distraction of rushing off to complete work.

“This is the reason why the event is known for its networking opportunities and cannot be missed by serious industry participants.  Delegates are able to hear directly from CEOs on the performance of their companies and projects, as well as connecting with the decision makers in the resources industry.  While at the event, delegates are also given a unique opportunity to visit mine sites in the region.”

With so many high-level executives in one location, the annual conference always provides valuable insight on the sectors that are likely to perform well, as well as providing guidance on potential headwinds facing the mining sector.

In the lead up to next month’s conference, Jim believes the lithium and rare earth sectors are performing above expectations, with minerals that are essential to the growing electric vehicle and battery sectors likely to see the most growth over the next decade.

However, it is not all good news for the sector, with cost escalation and access to skilled labour among the storm clouds that are gathering over the mining industry.

It is also no secret that the stock market has taken a hit in recent months amid rising interest rates and lower investment appetite, however, this could set the stage for a potential increase in mergers and acquisitions as bigger players look to snap up value in a distressed market.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 saw the second largest attendance in the 30-year history of the Kalgoorlie event, and Jim says organisers are preparing for another large crowd this year.

“Last year we had 2,520 delegates at the event,” he says.

“We never know final figures until the last day of the event but at this stage our week-by-week analysis of ticket sales is tracking in line with last year’s event so there is a chance we could see a new record.”

With the conference likely to provide the largest captive audience of the year, it also gives companies the opportunity to showcase their ESG achievements and commitments, which are becoming increasingly important to investors and the community.

The forum also provides its own ESG benefits, injecting millions of dollars annually into Kalgoorlie and positively influencing the local community.

“Holding the event in Kalgoorlie also allows delegates to see the importance of investing in regional communities and supporting indigenous businesses,” Jim adds.

Another highlight of Diggers & Dealers is the keynote speakers, who are always of high calibre and provide an overview of the current global economic situation and trends affecting the mining industry.

This year is no exception, with Diggers & Dealers securing Dr Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian-born economist and bestselling author, known for her analysis of macroeconomics and global affairs.

“Dr Moyo was approached because she is a highly respected and credentialled speaker on global affairs,” Jim says.

“She holds a Doctorate in Economics from Oxford, a Masters from Harvard, and is the author of four New York Times Bestselling Books – Edge of Chaos, Winner Takes All, How the West was Lost and Dead Aid. I am particularly interested to hear Dr Moyo’s views on the global economy, capital allocation in these uncertain times, managing risk and ESG issues.”

Diggers & Dealers takes place in Kalgoorlie from 1 – 3 August.